There was definitely something about an ultranationalist. And oil...there was definitely oil. A government conspiracy, maybe? Frankly, while I'm sure Just Cause 2 had a plot, I'm not so sure it was one really worth remembering. Not that it made much of a difference when I spent most of the time attempting to grapple onto a moving helicopter and surf it to the ground in an ill-advised attempt to grab fifteen minutes of YouTube fame. That's the thing with Just Cause: it's never really been about the story, or any of its characters. If the game had just said "hey, you're this super-strong muscly guy with wildly improbable grappling hook skills, and here's a bunch of awesome stuff to blow up", I'd have been just as happy.
Which brings me neatly onto Just Cause 3. Yes, Rico is back, but this time around there's an understanding that perhaps the game should focus more on the lolz, and less on the psychotic dictators. To that end--while there's still an as yet unrevealed story attached to its idyllic Mediterranean setting--the shackles are off when it comes to creating YouTube-worthy chaos. Or, in the case of watching GameSpot's Cameron Robinson play the game, creating moments of suicidal lunacy with a multi-shot, auto-targeting rocket launcher, and plummeting head-first down a cliff in a seemingly never-ending ragdoll. With great power comes great responsibility.
Just Cause 3's great power is that there's no longer any need to hunt around for weapons when all you want to do is figure out the most exotic way to blow up a building. Let's say you're considering taking out one of Just Cause 3's many bases and missile silos, complete with their new-found levels of height (or "verticality", as it's known in cringe-worthy games industry buzz speak). What you'd like to do is grab a tank, drive it into the base's supporting struts (leaping out before it does so), grapple to a nearby building, drop a few grenades onto the now furious militia forces, and then unleash a barrage of auto-targeting rockets at whatever's left. No problem.
Whenever you need a new gun, or a vehicle, or some explosives, you can just airdrop them straight in, greatly increasing the scope for creating madcap stunts. That is, of course, if you've got the chops to pull them off. As Cam found in his playthrough, the tools don't necessarily make the man. There's also the obvious worry that, without the lure of gaining some sweet new weapons, the incentives for completing actual missions are few and far between. Without knowing the ins and outs of the story, it's hard to say whether that's going to be what drives progression, although the series hasn't exactly fared well in that department so far.
What I do know is that there are going to be more challenges this time around, all linked in to your friends list, and complete with leaderboards and the like. Don't get me wrong: A game chucking in some leaderboards and goading you with your friend's high-scores isn't exactly breaking new ground. But it's hard not to see the appeal when those challenges involve leaping out of a helicopter and parachuting down to earth in blaze of machine gun fire, or blowing things up in the most extravagant ways possible. There's even the option to display a ghost of a friend's playthrough in certain challenges, should you want to see exactly how that mystifyingly high score was achieved.
Aside from the instant airdrops, there are a few other additions that'll help see you on your way to stardom. The parachute, which was once a finicky thing to control, is much more stable this time around, making it easier to pick out punks from the air, or sweep in around a building--the tradeoff is that you're more vulnerable to gunfire when you're on foot. Then there's all new wing suit, which is faster way of getting around while in the air. Unlike the parachute, you can't wield a weapon while using it, but you can switch between the two very quickly. With a combination of well-timed pulls on the grapple hook, and sharp parachute deployments, you can quickly gain height to scout out a base, and then zoom back down to earth with a bang using the wing suit.
Speaking of the grapple hook, the most appealing tweak to Just Cause 3 has been made to its most iconic tool. Yes, rejoice, for you can now tether three items together at once, and do so with a much simplified control system. This may seem like a small thing at first glance, but, when coupled with the game's highly exaggerated Havok physics, the tethering system is pure comic gold. There are all manner of objects you can tether together, many of which are destructible, that you can then pull together just by squeezing the trigger. You can tether the head of statue to a car, for example, watching the impromptu tug of war take place. Or, if you tether the car to the more far more solid base of the statue, watch as it hopelessly spins around in the air after feeling the tether's tug.
You can also do things like tether the legs of a character to its own torso, and watch as it attempts to run away, only to writhe around on the floor, flailing its remaining unrestrained limbs. And there's no denying the simple joys of tethering militia together and reeling them in towards the side of a building, where they'll stay comically stuck while you go about causing more chaos. Expect plenty of YouTubers to make the most out of that one. Other little tweaks showcase a real awareness of what players want from a Just Cause game, including a front menu screen that's directly overlaid on the in-game action, so you can jump in without any loading at all, auto-targeting grenades, and the removal of quick-time events for breaking into cars, which have instead been replaced with a time delay to maintain balance.
Naturally, the move to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (yes, there's a PC version too) means Just Cause 3 looks sharper and more colourful than its predecessors. But it's the huge draw distances and sense of scale that have benefited most from the shiny new tech. Avalanche Studios seemed particularly proud of its huge cave creations--some of which will hide destructible bases--which apparently weren't possible to create on the last-generation of consoles.
While it's funny to think that it's taken new tech to bring us the grand advancement of accurately modelled 3D caves, I've no doubt that they'll be a hell a lot of fun to exploit. Maybe I'll be able to parachute onto a moving jet fighter, pilot it down to the caves entrance, leap out and glide onto a waiting speedboat, aim it straight at the side of a building, drive the conveniently placed motorbike off the boat before it explodes, tether to the cave walls, deploy my parachute, and then finish the whole lot off with a flurry of rockets and a blast of thug life. I can see the YouTube video title now: "Insane Just Cause 3 helicopter speedboat stunt with epic motorbike rocket explosion fail!!!" Thanks to Just Cause 3, fame and fortune finally awaits.