Here's how it went: I tied three cars to the helicopter, took off and smashed them into a building like a trio of wrecking balls before firing infinite missiles at every car I saw in a long trail the whole way to the top of the island's highest mountain, whereupon I leapt out and saw my chopper plummet to the ground just as I opened my wingsuit and glided the whole 8km back to the seaside where I opened my parachute, landed on a rusty old fishing boat, threw the captain overboard and piloted it calmly back to shore only to beach the old rust bucket and begin shooting all the billboards in port with a machine gun the size of my whole body. I did not complete any mission objectives in Just Cause 3 [official site] by doing any of this, but I did set the record for longest wingsuit flight, and also: who the hell cares?
This latest rampage of developers Avalanche sees the hero, Rico, heading back to his home of Medici - a set of islands now under the rule of a ruthless dictator called Di Ravello, who is mining a mineral called Bavarium to use as a limitless source of fuel. But I imagine lovers of the franchise will care less about the plot of the game than the fact it gives you 400 square miles of lush Mediterranean landscape to fly about in fighter jets and blow up giant bridges.
Rico's grappling hook obviously makes a return, with some improvements. You can now attach multiple items together with several ropes. This allows you to trap lots of objects and people in one long chain. At one point I stuck four cars to each other as quickly as I could, then retracted the rope. The cars jammed together like four crazy magnets and instantly exploded. On another occasion, I attached three men to the bonnet of a jeep, covered it in explosives and drove it around like one of the war boys of Mad Max, corpses hanging from the front of my car. When I spotted a lorry owned by the baddies I revved up then dived out and detonated the bombs as it crashed into the truck. I don't know where the bodies went.
I'm told the multiple grappling ropes were inspired by modders who patched the second game and rightly discovered that it made the game even more ludicrous. These modders clearly had even more influence, as the game also has a built-in "mod" menu that allows you to change properties and effects of different weapons, vehicles and tools. For cars, you can get nitro boosters and the ability to jump. For sticky bombs, you can unlock a mod that grants them a jet propellant, turning your explosives into mini engines shortly before they blow up. I attached several of these booster bombs to enemy soldiers and delighted as they span off against the ground, like doomed breakdancers. Another fun item are the homing grenades, which magically track and fly toward soldiers like terrifying round birds before detonating.
Obviously, it wouldn't be Just Cause if the environment wasn't also heavily destructible. Not everything can be destroyed but anything belonging to the Di Ravello regime is made to be blown to smithereens. Huge centrepieces of architecture on the island are also fair game, like a large motorway bridge that can be brought down by taking out the struts, or the propellers on the countryside's giant white windmills. These big structures will rebuild themselves out of sight while the player is away, a design decision that was made for no other reason than "people liked blowing them up" and the sooner they regenerate, the better.
One of the best new toys, however, is the wingsuit, another mod-inspired addition. This abides by the world's typically liberal physics, allowing you to fly huge distances in short time. Using a combination of the grappling hook, the parachute and the wingsuit, you can essentially fly non-stop. And even if you pitch yourself head-first into the ground, all Rico will suffer is a short headache and a bit of a wonky red screen. You can hit the ground at terminal velocity, with the meatiest thud, and get back up to do it again. I did this a lot because it was exceptionally funny.
The bread and butter of the game appears to be indulging the plot and going on one supercharged mission after another, or coasting around liberating the country's towns by casually blowing everything up, like an ultraviolent cartoon adaptation of Venom Snake. Take out billboards, statues, police barracks and propaganda speakers to take control of a town and liberate each area from the regime. It's the same old shtick we've seen for years now: treating the map like a big colouring book, changing everything from red to blue. But even if this formula is becoming old, at least here you can suspend enemy cars over the town square and catapult bad guys into the air like beach balls.
It also seems like new toys unlock very fast and generously often. I played from the start of the game and it wasted no time in letting me go anywhere and anyhow. By the fourth or fifth mission I had already been awarded an attack helicopter with unlimited ammo. You can ask for these vehicles by dropping a supply beacon, which calls in a container packed with your chosen ride, along with a side order of guns. More than anything I enjoyed watching these containers slam down from the sky and 'pop' open with a blast of confetti, revealing a huge fighter jet, itself three times larger than the container it arrived in.
My only disappointment came when I drove said jet into a building before even leaving the ground and discovered that all the items I had ordered in my drop were now on a cool-down timer. I would have to wait 30 minutes to order the plane again, for example, and 15 minutes before I could request my twin submachine guns. I'm guessing this is to encourage you to mix it up and not to overpower you too much. But it just seems a bit of a nuisance constraint in an otherwise laughably free flowing explodathon.
I'm also not sure how truly different it is from Rico's last outing. The tone is definitely the same. Daft, over-the-top action with no motive aside from a loose 'good versus evil' plot. But then again, more of the same is going to be absolutely fine for anyone simply looking to top up their gung-ho come Christmas time. And I can think of worse ways to do it than coasting down the side of a mountain in a wingsuit, flying through a tunnel at 100mph and firing a rocket that splits up into six smaller rockets at a single lonely henchman. Boom.
Just Cause 3 will be released on December 1st.