In Avalanche Studios’ newest entry of the Just Cause series, Rico Rodriguez brings his grappling hook home to the lush and colorful Mediterranean island nation of Medici, inspired visually by Monaco. This fresh setting has distinctly more Greek flavor than its geographic neighbor Assassin’s Creed, and has the luxurious vibe of a cruise destination. Of course, Rico is not on vacation, as his work has followed him home. A brutal dictator has taken over, so before Rico can relax, he must explosively free the people of his homeland from Di Ravello’s despotic rule.
Explosively is certainly the key word! You are free to find the most creative and spectacular ways to destroy the enemies’ resources to allow your paisanos to hold down friendly territory while you shrink the dictator’s influence. The sound and fury of your revolution has been lovingly crafted for the optimum satisfaction of your senses. Satisfaction is another appropriate word, as the name of the game indicates that all the mayhem is righteous and the evils you must burn are conveniently bedecked in red for guilt-free demolition.
In a world of grey areas and differing perspectives, video games often give us relief from having to discern motives or mince words. As with great books and movies, there are great games that challenge us with the ambiguity of morality. Fallout 4 offers you all the consequences to go with your choice, while GTA V allows you to revel in decidedly more consequence-free catharsis. What sets Just Cause 3 apart from Fallout 4 and GTA V is the additional satisfaction that comes from justification.
If you can imagine an Iraqi James Bond single-handedly leading a revolution against Saddam Hussein, complete with toppling statues, then you have an image of the sort of righteous fantasy this game allows you to have. Our world is complicated and stressful. We’re never allowed the full pleasure of justice, because here it takes time, patience, and often reams of paperwork. But through media, we can project ourselves onto Liam Neeson as he takes out a whole construction site to find his daughter. The freedom from consequences is all the more pleasurable against those who deserve it.
In practice, it does play out a lot like the movie “Taken” as it pertains to infiltration of compounds and executing with extreme prejudice. Of course the game isn’t so limiting. You could also be a heavily armed Spider-Man or even the entire A-Team all by yourself. Blow stuff up, and feel good doing it. Your friend Mario even tells you outright “Whatever you destroy, we will rebuild!” Luckily, whatever you destroy also happens to serve the minimalist narrative. The game does not pressure you to keep the story moving, and yet you never feel like you’re ignoring it either. Your countrymen and women trust you to get the job done on your own time, and Rico certainly makes himself right at home.
For the competitive player, there are constant updates about statistical minutiae that you have accomplished, and who has accomplished it better than you within the last few minutes. If it doesn’t strike you as a challenge, then it may give you a small sense of community, not unlike the people of your homeland themselves. There are also many opportunities to test your own limits with specific challenges in driving, flying, boating, and gliding with the new wingsuit.
Just getting around is pretty fun and makes you wish you could traverse your own world with such agility. Maybe you could parachute into work, or request a helicopter to Vegas from a rebel drop. The verticality of the game adds some challenge to determining the fastest or most convenient way to the next location. It can be easy to get lost in the amount of target distance markers, but luckily it’s plenty of fun along the way. Hunting for all the right things to destroy can be a bit of hide-and-seek in the more sprawling enemy outposts.
If you wish you could go out into the world to right wrongs and save the oppressed without the burden of the law, this game will definitely scratch that itch. If you like blowing things up artistically, or even just cathartically, Avalanche Studios has got you covered too. In the grand tradition of video game escapism, you can kill all the bad guys with impunity, or go for the high score, and everyone will cheer you on.