GAMES PAVAN SHAMDASANI

Game reviews: Just Cause 3 and Rainbow Six Siege

Just Cause is one of the best sandbox games out there, and Rainbow Six is now on its 18th outing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 10:21am

Just Cause 3

Square Enix

Where did they come up with the term “sandbox”? It’s not like any open-world game has ever truly lived up to the label – to the idea that players are completely set free in a grand enclosure where the only limit is their imagination on millions of possibilities.

Just Cause might come the closest. Here’s a series that celebrates the sheer ridiculousness of video games, not only acknowledging but also embracing a virtual existence without any consequences. Available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, the long-awaited third entry has already come under fire over what are seen as setbacks: weak story, bad aiming, long loading times. They’re mostly true, and for most other tent-pole games, they’d certainly affect our judgment.

But this is Just Cause, dammit; this isn’t some clichéd plot about a dictator seeking world domination or whatever. It’s about doing your own thing: breaking free, stealing an off-road bike, barrelling down a steep mountain, breaking out your trusty wingsuit, leaping off a perilous cliff, cruising through the skies, grappling onto a moving helicopter, throwing the pilot overboard, killing the troops inside, free-falling out, pulling a 180 with bazooka in hand and giving that chopper one last goodbye right before you jerk the parachute cord.

That’s where the fun of Just Cause 3 is at – and those are just the missions. But if you ever do get tired of that same-old super-spy structure, there are plenty of opportunities to take the road less travelled and blow a stupid amount of stuff up. Cars, planes, soldiers, buildings – nearly everything is destructible, and the true side-quest thrills are in discovering a seemingly endless multitude of explosive ways.

Sure, Just Cause 3 has its fair share of problems – which open-world game doesn’t? (Shut up, GTA V). But like a summer blockbuster instead of an art-house epic, or choosing an ice-cold beer over a fine single malt, sometimes you forgive the minor misgivings and embrace that sweet, sweet flavour. Why? Just ’cause.

Rainbow Six Siege

Ubisoft

In the same way that bestsellers can sometimes become classic movies (The Godfather, for example), Tom Clancy’s hyperpatriotic airport-trash novels have often made for surprisingly great gaming. It’s the wide range of genres that particularly appeals: Splinter Cell for sneaky spies, EndWar for futuristic fighters, Ghost Recon for open-world war hounds, and Rainbow Six for fans of small-scale combat.

The latter has proved particularly resilient in a saturated first-person-shooter market, and the latest, Siege, is the impressive 18th entry in the franchise. Available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, it’s a reboot of sorts, paring down the concept to a simple five-on-five multiplayer-only format where one team attacks and the other defends. On paper, that sounds like your standard shooter, but once you’re thrown into its firefight-filled world, Siege stands out as a tensely effective action game that blends the best of old and new FPS.

Realism has always been key to the series’ success, and teamwork here is essential. Communication, cooperation and plenty of planning take precedence over firing away until bodies start to fall. When you’re trapped in a bedroom with AK-toting enemies banging at the door, that’ll mean the right words before your teammates rappel their way down a blasted ceiling to save you from a quick execution.

And often, it happens exactly like that: much has been made about the mass destruction of the game, with nearly every surface from doors and windows to entire walls fit for obliteration. That endless sense of demolition serves the cramped, confined maps only too well – banks, houses, consulates, pretty much any clichéd place that a battle might take place. There are only 11 locations to start with, but developer Ubisoft promises plenty more available as DLC and apparently all will be free.

But it also brings us to back to the incredibly frustrating modern trend of online-only – there’s no single-player campaign in Siege, so you’ll need a constant internet connection to play. We’re not saying they offer better multiplayer options, but when compared to rivals such as Call of Duty, the game ends up feeling a little half-baked, especially at its price of HK$400.