In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil's blown away by JC2's best weapon.
I was disappointed with Just Cause 3 for many of the same reasons that Andy outlined our 67% review. It’s an incredibly repetitive, grindy experience that turns chaotic action into a chore. Overthrowing evil dictators should only feel like a job if it’s your actual job. But worse than the failings of JC3’s progression systems is how unimaginative its tools are.
There are a few exceptions. There’s the wingsuit, which is brilliant. There are the tethers, which are ridiculous. There’s the opportunity to upgrade your infinite C4 into a rocket-powered physics toy, which is an idea of unparalleled genius. Elsewhere, though, it’s all pretty standard. In the context of an absurd action sandbox, the game’s many assault rifles feel painfully dull. Putting a stream of bullets into endless waves of people wasn’t fun to watch in Rambo IV, and it isn’t much fun to do here.
Fortunately, I don’t think JC3 is beyond saving. All you need to do is look at its predecessor. Much like its sequel, Just Cause 2 is surprisingly short on ways to push against the outer limits of creativity. The tools that do exist are even more basic and restrictive. You have a single, weak tether, and a finite amount of regular, non-rocket-powered C4. Its structure is more suited to improvisational violence, but you have only a limited set of options with which to create it. Two things expand that sandbox in delightful ways: mods and DLC.
It feels strange to praise Just Cause 2’s DLC, because much of it isn’t noteworthy. Rather than large content packs, all of the game’s optional extras are small, seemingly insignificant microtransactions. Much of them are pure filler, but one small addition—available as part of the preposterously named Black Market Boom Pack—changed how I interacted with that world.
It’s called the Air Propulsion Gun, and, as the name suggest, it shoots air instead of bullets. It’s a high-powered short-range burst of force that results in some of the best physics-based mayhem since Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun. It’s not quite on a par—Rico still doesn’t have much small-scale agency beyond making things explode—but sending a soldier spiralling into the air with a propulsion blast is funny in a way that doesn’t get old.
The problem with guns and explosions is they remove things from play. An enemy helicopter is an interesting problem to tackle, but shooting it down simply takes it out of the equation. That’s why the more interesting option is to grapple up and hijack it. The problem has been flipped into a solution, thus forcing the enemy to respond.
That’s also the genius of the air propulsion gun. It doesn’t remove things outright. A soldier is sent flying backwards, but the impact won’t necessarily kill him. A vehicle can be flung into a group of soldiers, possibly exploding, but maybe not. It’s a weapon in form and function, but one that doesn’t do direct damage. By shifting the kill to the moment of impact, you’re no longer instantly removing the threat. Even if your enemy only exists for a few extra seconds, those lengthened interactions feel more dynamic, surprising and enjoyable.
It’s even better when combined with the community’s BOLOPatch trainer—a tool offering invincibility, and infinite ammo and unbreakable tethers. Avalanche has never quite perfected the balance of the Just Cause series, and so I’ve always found it better to forego the difficulty for pure, unrestrained action. Military bases are cleared through a constant stream of powerful propulsion. Tens of soldiers dance and flip helplessly through the air in a mass juggling act performed by a petty, unkillable god. It’s one of the silliest power fantasies you can play.
I’d hoped Just Cause 3 would build on this amazing DLC gun. So much effort has gone into improving its physics and effects but there’s precious little that makes use of such enhancements. Like Just Cause 2, the majority of JC3’s weapons are designed simply to remove aspects of play. I find it really frustrating that the game can be so creative in some aspects, and so tediously restrained in so many others.
My hope is, just like with JC2, Avalanche is saving its best tools for DLC. If that’s the case, it’s a shitty business model, but I’d still happily pay a few extra pounds for weapons that manipulated the world in more interesting ways. Just Cause 3 falls short of its reputation as a cartoonish action playground. With some more imaginative weapons, it would be instantly, immeasurably more fun.