Just Cause 3
Open-sandbox adventures seem to be the genre du jour. These days you can't drop an Xbox controller or a crumpled potato chip bag in the average gaming area without hitting one or two such games. Of course, with each new pick-your-path contest, the gamemakers' challenge is to make sure theirs stands out from the pack.
Some do so by focusing on extreme sword-and-sandal fantasy. Others specialize in inner-city grit. But when it comes to the Just Cause franchise, its designers have sought to make their roving digital adventures pop by making their games, well, pop.
Which means making sure players can blow up … everything.
Save the Homeland …
Just Cause 3's protagonist is one Rico Rodriguez, a guy who's really good at giving power-hungry dictators a case of despot dyspepsia. In this go-round, Rico's thump-a-tyrant mission is personal: Malevolent General Di Ravello has amassed military might and grabbed Rico's homeland of Medici with an iron fist. It's up to ever-resourceful Rico to return home, connect with his bumbling boyhood bud, Mario, and aid rebel forces in toppling the General's ill-gotten annexed empire.
That doesn't mean, however, that this is a game about the good guys winning the day. It's more a game about people who'll do whatever it takes to overthrow a dictator … while joking about the mass destruction and chaotic carnage they leave in their smoking, smoldering wake.
Rico calls upon the resources and abilities of a quirky cast of destructive helpmates. There's an ethically oblivious scientist named Dimah; a hard-hitting female mercenary/smuggler named Annika; and Tom Sheldon, a conscience-free former military mentor.
This motley crew isn't a group you'd want teaching your Sunday school class, as they're not the sort of folks who quibble much over the niceties of right and wrong.
… Or Destroy It. Whatever.
In fact, these characters' collective amoral shoulder-shrug gives gamers permission to take advantage of the above-mentioned fact that everything and nearly everyone here can be reduced to cinders. With a variety of stolen military vehicles, a wristband grappling hook mechanism and some heavy weaponry—including RPGs, explosives, assault rifles, pistols and tank cannons—Rico can ramrod into any town square or military base and start a domino-like chain reaction of conflagration so massive that a napalm drop would look like a campfire in comparison.
And after setting the world on fire, gamers can use Rico's grappling technology to slingshot out of the flaming turmoil. That gives them the chance to soar above it all with a parachute or wingsuit where they can "admire" the devastation they've wrought. (That same tech also helps with other pseudo-superhuman feats, too, such as hijacking planes and helicopters and zipping past mountain ranges with ease.)
But the game's mortal mayhem isn't always meted out at a distance. Hardly. Gamers can always pull out a pistol and pull the trigger at point-blank range, which makes the death-dealing in those situations an up-close-and-personal affair. They can also brutally murder captives and civilians with everything from machine guns to grenades.
Meanwhile, chief baddie General Di Ravello is more than happy to off those who displease him. His credo is: "Every action must incur a terrible reaction." Which, of course, opens the door to carpet bombing hundreds of innocents and execution-style bullets to faces.
It's All in … Fun?
The overall result is a game in which every bloody splash and splatter, every bomb-detonated pedestrian, every firebombed city block, becomes part of a fluid, frenetic, cliff-leaping, wingsuit-swooping ballet of death. Paired with all that realistic, cinematic obliteration, the game also packs in more foulness in the form of f-words and other crudities and profanities.
And it's all delivered with an "isn't mayhem fun?" smirk.
So perhaps the best way to think of this game might be as something akin to Grand Theft Auto … only with tanks, weapons of mass destruction and innumerable chances to light the fuse on epic annihilation.