Just Cause 3 is the newest instalment in the Just Cause franchise. I will be honest and say I played the first title and felt Rico Rodríguezes was one of the blandest, least interesting protagonists to ever walk the polygons, the gameplay was fiddley and the combat didn’t speak to me at all. It put me off the franchise, to the extent that I never even picked up Just Cause 2 when it was released back in 2010. I am happy to go on record now and say that Just Cause 3 has not only repaired the damage that the first game did to my opinion of the series, but has made me want to go back and revisit the second one.

Just Cause 3 follows the story of Rico Rodríguezes’ continued fight against tyranny and drops us right into the action. The first playable moment in Just Cause 3 had me stand on top of a light aircraft while flying through enough anti air fire to convince me it was the Battle of Britain, while using the ever so subtle RPG to destroy enemy anti air weapons. There is starting as you mean to go on, and then there is Just Cause 3. The entire game is summed up in the first few minutes of play: get yourself a fast or heavily armoured vehicle, get something that goes boom, and blow the living hell out of everything that you see.

There is no recap for those who missed the previous games so if this is your first foray into Medici then you will be missing a lot of back story into the characters, the world and the overall story. It isn’t that important to the gameplay if I’m honest, but it would have been nice to have a “previously on Just Cause”. To my delight, Rico Rodríguezes is now a likeable and incredibly charismatic character that I bonded with instantly. He isn’t over-the-top, he isn’t like a muscled up beefcake from Gears of War or a voiceless blank slate. I would say he may be the most charismatic character I have had the pleasure to play with since I stepped into the shoes of Ezio Auditore in Assassin’s Creed 2. There is a supporting cast of unique and interesting characters too, we have the well-meaning Mario, the quirky Dima and the ever present, shady CIA agent Sheldon. All of these characters have excellent personalities and the voice acting is fantastic. The writing and performances really made Just Cause 3 feel like it was something I wanted to get involved in, something worthwhile.

Just Cause 3 takes the “”open world” concept and implements it into the actual story. In the small island chain of Medici, there are regions that must be liberated, this is accomplished by finding settlements, bases and outposts, and destroying certain objects. The quantity and combinations of these soon-to-be destroyed locales vary depending on the area. Flying up to a heavily fortified enemy base with an attack helicopter is my preferred method of achieving the goal, unleashing a wave of never ending explosions as I pepper the outpost with rockets and missiles, but there is more than one way to undermine a dictator. As long as these objectives are destroyed (Fuel Tanks, Power Transmitters, Communication Relays, Narcissistic Statues of Di Ravello and so much more) then the settlement will be Liberated, meaning friendly troops will occupy the area instead of the trigger happy enemies that so recently occupied the area.

The feel of the combat changes depending on how you are fighting, Fighting with your own weapon with both feet on the ground feels like a scramble most of the time and the enemy forces will try to overwhelm you as soon as they are sufficiently annoyed with your constant blowing up of things. Using the series stable Grapple, allows fast movement either from cover to cover, or to what you need to destroy. Once it has been upgraded you can use your grapple to attack enemies and can now tether any two objects together. This means that using the often excellent physics in the game, it is possible to destroy a base using nothing but your grapple hook. If fighting on foot isn’t your forte then you have any number of heavily armoured and lethal vehicles to choose from. Tanks and Navy ships are incredible instruments of destruction that can take a real pounding from enemy fire, or if you are like me, the helicopters and aircraft are brilliant, but watch out for SAM’s.

There is a fantastic level of destruction available in Just Cause 3 but not everything will blow up. Civilian villages and other buildings will be impervious to even the most powerful of explosions, but there is no shortage of things to destroy. Spectacular explosions can blot out the sky and leave everyone nearby either a burning husk, or blown off their feet. I can’t stress how fun the gameplay is when just milling around the map liberating territories.

The one thing preventing Just Cause 3 from living up to its full bombastic potential is the sheer number of technical issues with the game. In the space of a four hour session the game crashed on me three times and audio of Rico’s gunfire will occasionally disappear completely with no apparent cause or explanation. At times using the grapple will see Rico attach to the underside of an overhang or simply miss his mark entirely. These issues are compounded by the horrifically long loading times Just Cause 3 has on the Xbox One. It is an added frustration that leave an unmistakable black mark on an otherwise excellent game.

The plot of the game will see Rico and his band of freedom fighters battle against the tyrannical dictator General Di Ravello and his endless army of generic bullet catchers. Just because the enemies are generic doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat. The further north you progress the harder the enemies will become. Super Tanks will charge your position, attack helicopters and ships will bombard your location and makes fighting off the wave of infantry a very difficult prospect. Missions are unlocked by liberating territories and all have a real sense of a struggle to them as Rico fights off horrendous odds in order to liberate his countrymen.

Outside of the main storyline there are plenty of side missions to keep the player engaged. These missions range from helping someone tow their boat into the water to assassinations. These offer some diversion and grant Rico flares to use to call in supply drops.

The progression system is tied into the various challenges that unlock once an area has been liberated. From gun control to upgrading your grapple, inventory, vehicles abilities and your wingsuit, everything is unlocked through these challenges. In turn, the challenges work to fine tune and hone your abilities, working almost like a tutorial at the beginning of the game.

Just Cause 3 has reinvigorated me to the franchise. The graphical design is pretty good for an open world game, a good story, likeable characters, fun exploration and a largely destructible environment all work to overcome the games technical shortcomings. The choice that the player has is immense and should be applauded. Just Cause 3 is a game you can play exactly how you want to, be that from land, air or sea.