just cause 3
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Just Cause 3 is a long day of kicking over sand castles

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Heres a really enjoyable thing you can do in Avalanche StudiosJust Cause 3: fly a fighter plane over the rolling green hills, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters of Medici. Spot a military base and strafe it with chaingun and missiles until the enemy scrambles helicopters. Jump out of the plane, skydive level with the helicopter, grapple over to it, and hijack it in mid air. Steer it on a course toward the center of the base and jump out just before it hits the ground. Within minutes, player character Rico Rodriguez will have acrobatically annihilated a sprawling facility. The explosions, its important to mention, will look fantastic.

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Theres a purity to Just Cause 3 that comes, in large part, from its unwillingness to fully characterize its protagonist. The game begins with a credits sequence, Torre Florims mellow psych-rock cover of The Prodigys Firestarter playing over clips of Rico (sporting the thick beard and denim-on-denim of a rural Ontarian) surfing warheads and cracking wise with the rebel leaders hell meet when the story begins. Over the next few hours, the player is introduced to their missionremove dictator General Di Ravello from the fictional Mediterranean nation of Medici. They learn how to use a combination of grappling hook, instantly-deployable parachute, and wingsuit to zip across the landscape. Theyre taught how to set waypoints on the map that point out the next Di Ravello base to blow up or occupied town to liberate. But, they will not learn much of anything about Ricoaside from how to fling his body across the landscape or how well he can shoot rockets at fuel canisters.

There’s a purity to Just Cause 3 that comes from its unwillingness to characterize its protagonist

For a while, this is fine. Just Cause 3 is largely disinterested in being anything more than an excuse to destroy things. Its plot seems almost purposefully thin, a light action comedy stretched like saran wrap over dozens of hours. Its characters are archetypes (The Best Friend; The Scientist; The Tech-Savvy Mercenary; The Bloodthirsty Mercenary; The Evil Dictator). Its hero is a vessel for action defined solely by his love of contextual one-liners and unflagging determination to reduce every piece of military architecture or technology he comes across into scrap. Every narrative element is made as simple as possible in order to minimize distractions from what the game is most interested in offering: destruction.

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Heres another really enjoyable thing you can do in Just Cause 3: fly a fighter plane just above the forested mountains of Medici. Spot a military base and strafe it with chaingun and missiles until the enemy scrambles helicopters. Jump out of the plane, skydive level with the helicopter, grapple over to it, and hijack it mid air. Steer it on a course toward the center of the base and jump out just before it hits the ground. Within minutes, Rico will have acrobatically annihilated a sprawling facility. The explosions, its important to mention, will look fantastic.

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Breaking apart the infrastructure dotting Medicis landscape is as satisfying as wiping a completed 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle off a table or flicking a center piece out from a Jenga tower. Planting plastic explosives on a series of towers and flying away to watch them detonate in a lovingly rendered chain of fireballs and screaming steel scratches the same itch as unmaking any carefully-made object. The games developer understands the common, primal urge we all have to wreck things. They couple this with the knowledge that human beings love to watch fire do its workthat, as much pride as we take in building beautiful structures and complicated machines, we get a simpler and more immediate joy out of seeing careful work obliterated in moments.

In Just Cause 3, since the story isnt enough to keep the player going, the urge to destroy has to pick up the slack. Luckily, Medici is absolutely lousy with things to annihilate. Di Ravellos propaganda speakers, satellite dishes, and military bric-à-brac are always painted red and grey and, with time, this color combination attracts the eye like a magnet. The islands of Medici are rendered in great detail: the nations weather patterns and varied landscape encouraging the player to set down the controller to drink in the setting. But the players attention is solely focused on the garish industrial drab of destroyable objects. Its almost impossible to travel from one mission marker to another without encountering airfield tarmacs bordered with electrical generators (when they blow up, sparks strike out of the wreckage like snakes), outposts with big water towers (great torrents of water splash downward, turning the flames to black smoke), or coastal towns marred by Di Ravello statues (which, if C4 is placed along the knees, buckle into beautiful clouds of stone and dust).

The player’s attention is solely focused on the garish industrial drab of destroyable objects

The player quickly learns that the story missions rarely offer anything more novel than the free-form destruction found in these townstheyre as perfunctory as going into a base to wreck a power relay or driving a character down a road while they talkso it isnt long before more time is spent experimenting with Ricos aerial acrobatics and leveling optional bases than actually moving the plot forward. The id-fulfilling pursuit of explosions is gripping for quite a while. Its testament to Avalanche Studiostalent that something as pedestrian (in videogame terms) as shooting a bullet into an oil drum remains exciting for more than a few minutes. Just the same, and like everything, the simplest satisfactions quickly turn into chores if novelty isnt introduced.

 

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Yet another really enjoyable thing you can do in Just Cause 3: fly a fighter plane over the snowy fields and pine-covered peaks of Medicis volcanic ranges. Spot a military base and strafe it with chaingun and missiles until the enemy scrambles helicopters. Jump out of the plane, skydive level with the helicopter, grapple over to it, and hijack it mid air. Steer it on a course toward the center of the base and jump out just before it hits the ground. Within minutes, Rico will have acrobatically annihilated a sprawling facility. The explosions, its important to mention, will still look fantastic.

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After a few hundred times, even the most fantastic version of blowing something up gets tiring. Its an appealing action because it isnt complicated, but the least complicated thrills become banal far more quickly than complex ones. Just Cause 3 is engaging because it gets the first half of this so fully. Its developers have obviously poured an enormous amount of artistry and attention into making little moments of chaos impressive enough that the player seeks them out so compulsively. The larger scope of Just Cause 3s design doesnt do justice to this work, though. Without compelling characters or inventive story missions, all thats left to keep the audience entertained is destruction, repeated ad nauseum. Theres value in the small-scale satisfaction each explosion creates, but an empty feeling lingers after every plume of smoke has cleared.

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