Freeform Chaos: Hands-On With Just Cause 3

by Ben Reeves on Nov 19, 2014 at 08:00 AM

Some games craft a tight narrative experience and then usher players through the story like it was a ride at Disneyland. Avalanche Studios' Just Cause series, on the other hand, opts to drop players into tropical islands without artificial borders and then hands players the tools to start blowing things up. Games like this have to be experienced before they can be judged. Fortunately, two GI editors had the opportunity to jump into Just Cause 3’s open world and cause some havoc. Here is their tale.

Ben: Bryan, we both just got back from a trip to New York, where we sat down with the Avalanche staff and got to play their game. I don’t know about you, but I had a blast. The first thing I did was grapple a member of the militia to a flagpole and watch him fly into the air using the new tension feature that pulls two grappled objects together. Less than a minute after getting my hands on the controller, I was using passing cars to parasail through the air and dodging gunfire from a grumpy police force.

Bryan: I made sure to fire up a bunch of Just Cause 2 before we went on the trip to refamiliarize myself with the series and was surprised by how rough the controls were. It came out in 2010, and there have been a lot of advances since then. When I picked up Just Cause 3 for the first time, the leap ahead was readily apparent. I was also drawn to the cars and grappled on top of one. Instead of being stuck in the center of the roof you can now walk around on the tops of vehicles freely. They also cut the ability to hang off the sides of the car, which I never thought worked very well anyway.

Ben: I agree, it feels like a more modern shooter now. I was also impressed with how intuitive it is to switch between the wingsuit and the parachute. If you grapple onto a passing car, you can launch yourself into the air and then deploy your wingsuit to soar through the air, then switch over to the parachute to get some extra stability while aiming, and then grapple onto the side of a building to gain speed before launching into the wingsuit again and repeating the whole process. During the trip, the guys kept saying that you’re weaker when you’re on the ground. I found that to be true, because Rico is so light and agile in the air, and it’s actually pretty easy to keep that grapple/wingsuit/parachute combo going so you can stay in the air indefinitely.

Bryan: The parachute controls much more naturally now so it’s easier to circle around a base and shoot and chuck grenades on all the chumps below. Another big change is the infinite supply of C4. You’re never stuck shooting at a fuel tank with your crappy pistol when you’re out of everything else. You can set up to five of these explosives at a time and detonate an entire base. Did you get to see the big spherical fuel tank? It’s like an enormous EPCOT globe, and when you blow it up it makes a huge flaming mushroom cloud.

Next up: We dive into the grappling system, talk about vehicle handling, and blow up a military base.

Ben: I don’t think I saw that, but I did run around a town and blow up several militia landmarks. I planted some C4 on a giant statue of a dictator and then used a couple grapples to bring it down on top of some enemies. I also used the grapple to fling myself toward an enemy, but I opened fire on him before I got there, which felt like a cool John Woo moment. You can even used the grapple to tag guys before attaching the other half to the top of a building, and then send them hurtling into space. I bet if you were fast enough, you could grapple an enemy onto a moving car and watch them get dragged down the road like a bunch of tin cans after a wedding. Suckers! Did you drive any of the vehicles? I didn’t spend much time with them because it was so easy to travel across the world with the grapple and wingsuit.

Bryan: I was in the same boat, spending most of my time in the air. But I did try some of the racing missions to get a feel for vehicle handling. It’s your standard drive through gates as quickly as possible to make it to the finish line. I tried a sports car and a truck, and while they obviously handled differently they were quite responsive. Avalanche hired two people from Criterion’s Burnout team to work on the vehicles so you know it’s going to feel right. The demo ended with a raid on a huge radar base. I sniped an enemy manning a minigun turret, ran over and grabbed it, and then blew away the rest of the guys at the outer checkpoint. What was your approach to this place?

Ben: I initially had a bit of trouble with that base. I tried to sneak in, but you don’t really need to be stealthy in Just Cause. However, I was able to hack some land-to-air missile turrets, and bring down several helicopters before I was killed. For my second attempt, I grappled up to the top of the base’s giant satellite dish and tried to make the thing collapse on itself using grapple cords. I wasn’t able to pull that off, I think because I didn’t have enough grapple cords. However, the Avalanche guys did say that it was theoretically possible. In the end, I finished that mission using a good old-fashion rocket launcher, but I’m sure that there are a lot of other ways to do it. What about you?

Bryan: I tried hijacking one of the many helicopters that was flying around, but got immediately shot down by the SAM sites. I wingsuited down to one of the SAMs on a dock and hacked that one to blow up a helicopter, but then a bunch of guys drove up and killed me. The next time I went straight to the radar and cleared out a bunch of troops. I saw a flak turret and used the tether to drag it into position. I aimed it up at the dish and blasted chunks off until the whole thing came crashing down on me. I grappled out of the way before huge pieces of rubble crushed the turret I was in. All in all, I had a great time and can’t wait to play it again.


Just Cause 3 looks like an exciting playground that will offer up plenty of opportunities for free-form entertainment. Unfortunately, most players will have to wait until 2015 to get their hands on the game, but if you want more Just Cause 3 details, be sure to check out our cover hub, which is filled with exclusive content such as a screenshot gallery and a video tour of the studio.