In an ideal world it wouldn’t be the case, but the fact is that the vagaries of fashion do encroach on the world of video games. Some games simply aren’t fashionable, and if you’re looking for an example, we would point you towards Just Cause 3. Little attention was paid to the latest instalment of the third-person action-adventure when it arrived at the end of 2015, but it proved to be one of the year’s most fun games to play. And, to their credit, developer Avalanche Studios and publisher Square Enix have decided to give their cult-gem a new lease of life with a programme of three items of downloadable content (DLC) – the first of which arrived on March 8, with the other two following at roughly two-month intervals.
Just Cause 3’s appeal
That DLC programme is called the Air, Land and Sea Expansion, and we managed to get our hands on Sky Fortress, the first instalment. Before describing that experience, it’s worth recalling what made Just Cause 3 so appealing in the first place – particularly since Sky Fortress cleverly expands on the game’s strengths. Essentially, Just Cause 3 is perhaps the best game ever for people who like blowing shit up. It makes no pretence at being thought-provoking, nuanced or particularly original. It’s like a Michael Bay movie, only enjoyable. Deeply, thrillingly so.
You play Rico Rodriguez, who is basically a one-man army – he starts the game with a rocket-launcher in hand, standing on top of a plane, and has an incredible arsenal of toys that play fast and loose with real-world physics, including a grapple that can be used to tether enemies to exploding barrels, a wing-suit and a parachute. It’s Rico’s job to overthrow General di Ravello, tinpot dictator of Medici, the fictional Mediterranean island where the game is set.
Hands-on with Sky Fortress
Just Cause 3’s open-world nature lends itself to DLC: it makes it easy to add new islands to the archipelago that is Medici, for example. But Sky Fortress’s extra action takes place in the skies above Medici, where a hovering, heavily armed and defended, platform, operated by the shadowy Eden Corporation, has mysteriously appeared, acting as a source of attack-drones, among other things. As ever, it’s up to Rico to take it out.
Luckily, Rico has a new toy which helps him achieve that aim: an upgraded wing-suit which adds a rocket-motor plus a machine-gun and homing missiles that he can unleash when using it. So essentially, it turns Rico into Iron Man. The rocket-powered wingsuit takes a bit of mastering: in terms of its physics, it operates as it did previously, and the rocket only fires in the direction in which Rico faces. Plus you can only trigger it in bursts: fuel is unlimited, but it has a cool-down period which kicks in after a short while.
In practice, this fosters a new technique: when you’re liberating an area of Medici held by di Ravello, which involves blowing up its generators, radar dishes and the like, it lets you make airborne strafing passes, at the end of which you’ll turn around and seek out the targets you missed last time around. It’s a good idea to practice that technique on the ground before heading up to the Sky Fortress: you can play through the whole game again with the rocket-wingsuit if you buy Sky Fortress (it magically appears after the first hour or so of the story).
The Sky Fortress itself is quite difficult to reach, even with the rocket-wingsuit: it’s a long way up and is heavily defended. As you approach it, the flak starts flying and you come under attack from drones. When you’re hit, it triggers a tumble, but you can get out of those by swiftly stabbing the Y button (we played Sky Fortress on PC, but with an Xbox One gamepad). When you do reach the Sky Fortress, you discover it is split into fore and aft sections, which must be liberated by blowing up familiar Just Cause 3 objects (some of which are underneath the Sky Fortress, and therefore quite tricky to reach). When you liberate one section, though, you get a great bonus: an attack-drone of your own, which can be added to the game’s Rebel Drops, so that you can summon it any time.
Rico’s pet drone proved pretty fun, too: it follows him around, drawing fire and shooting at enemies, and Rico can grapple to it and ride it. Up on the Sky Fortress, we found another new toy that the DLC adds: an assault rifle powered by Bavarium, the fictional, super-destructive element that is central to the game. It turned out to be as over-the-top as you would expect.
Although we didn’t manage to get our hands on the two further items of DLC that will come out after Sky Fortress, we had a sneak peek of the next one, entitled Land Mech Assault. It features a particularly fine new toy, in the form of a crab-like mech which, in archetypal Just Cause 3 fashion, laughs in the face of the conventions to which mechs invariably adhere. That’s because it is incredibly manoeuvrable. Plus, it packs some major fire-power. But its piece de resistance is a Half-Life-style gravity gun, scaled up to such ridiculous proportions that it can grab hold of incoming helicopters and chuck them at enemies. Causing – it goes without saying – some insanely spectacular explosions. Land Mech Assault will add new story missions, but as yet, Avalanche Studios hasn’t released any precise details of how those will be integrated into the game.
The third and final item of DLC, entitled Bavarium Sea Heist, is currently shrouded in secrecy, but it’s a fair bet that it will have an underwater element, and will be as over-the-top as Sky Fortress and Land Mech Assault. If you missed out on Just Cause’s uncomplicated but irresistible pleasures the first time around, then the three forthcoming add-ons should provide the perfect excuse to rectify that situation.
• Just Cause 3: Air, Land & Sea Expansion is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC