Wreaking havoc in Just Cause 3's playground of explosions

03 Wingsuit

I have to say, on first glance, I’m not as overwhelmingly positive about Just Cause 3’s world as I thought I would be. The promise of a more lived-in locale sounded great, but I was hoping for more individuality to the settings than I got a hint of here. You get caves, more of a sense of verticality, and older-looking architecture, but I’m not sure it makes any of these places feel that specific. It’s all very majestic-looking, however, aided by a significant upgrade in visual effects. It is to Just Cause 2 what that game was to the forgotten first.

The more realistic water is gorgeous—it’s nice just to have a swim, albeit after a failed attempt to glide across the ocean and onto a yacht—and the draw distance is extraordinary. You can see vehicles from miles out, and explosions look just as good from afar as they do close-up. Really impressive stuff, even if the details don’t feel like a huge step up from Just Cause 2. One touch I particularly liked was the fields of long grass that I could drive through and flatten; less than ten seconds after the game unlocks on Steam, I guarantee someone will have drawn a penis with a tractor, taken a screenshot from the sky and put it on imgur. And good luck to them.

But this is just one part of the world I’ve dicked about in, and there’s a whole bunch of places I’m not allowed to visit yet. “You’ve only seen a small portion of the environments we have in Just Cause,” Shakir tells me. “There are a number of biomes, there’s definitely a number of surprise biomes, biomes you probably weren’t expecting.” I can’t imagine what these could be without getting super silly—a robot city? A glass palace populated by monkeys? “Just Cause 2 had the snow and desert biome, the tropical beach, the forest. We have all that and then we have a few surprises.”

04 Tether

Something I find simultaneously cool and not hugely impressive is the destruction system. It’s great to look at, but feels prescriptive—some buildings blow up, usually marked with red and grey as in previous Just Cause games, but none of the civilian ones do. I don’t mind that too much, but I was hoping for destruction that felt a little more procedural when you do blow up a building. Replicating the physics-based destruction of Red Faction: Guerrilla would be too big an ask in a game like this, and I don’t expect that, but if you’re going to get mostly identical results to razing a base in Just Cause 2, it’s hard to see what the draw is to raze the same base again.

I ask Shakir about how Just Cause 3 handles destruction. What looks like canned animation to me is apparently the interaction of a couple of different systems working below the surface. “You have the dynamic destruction and effects tied to what you’re destroying, say a fuel tank or a statue, and then you have what you’re using to destroy it with. It’s the perfect medley of those things tying together and interacting and showing you an explosion you’ve never really seen before.”

it’s an impressive sight when the bridge falls apart, but it’s more or less the same destruction each time.

I’m not entirely convinced. There are giant white bridges in Just Cause 3 that respawn after you’ve blown them up, so you’ve got more opportunities to watch them collapse. I messed with them a few times, and it’s a really impressive sight when the thing falls apart, but it’s more or less the same destruction each time—you take out a pillar with an explosive and it all falls down.

I’m possibly an ungrateful bastard, going “wah, that bridge didn’t blow up the way I wanted it to!” Well, don’t get me wrong, it feels really cool to blow up a bridge with a rocket launcher and the animation as it collapses is exactly as I’d hoped it would be—I’m just wondering if it’ll still feel that way the 40th time I do that. It’s that toybox thing again that I had with Just Cause 2: how many times can you throw these components together before you burn out on them?

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.