- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

In recent years, video games such as “Dragon Age: Inquisition” and “Far Cry 4” have successfully blended action with emotion to chronicle rebellion tales set amid fantastical open worlds.

Despite the similarities, creators of the muddled “Just Cause 3” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, $59.99) weren’t motivated by any of those interactive experiences. The third installment of the zany blow-‘em-up series finds parachute-equipped hero Rico Rodriguez back in his Mediterranean homeland after overthrowing dictators in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. The well-armed operative has returned to the fictional Medici to - all together now - overthrow an evil dictator.

Rodriguez’s personal connection to the plot should have made for more meaningful material. Unfortunately, “Just Cause 3” is overstuffed with cornball writing and acting. (“Oh, sorry about that,” Rodriguez will nonchalantly note after killing a bunch of civilians.) It’s unforgiveable for a modern game of this ilk to blatantly dismiss storytelling.

“Just Cause 3” mostly involves escorting vehicles, blowing up bases and liberating towns. The latter involves completing tasks like destroying propaganda-spewing speakers, demolishing statues of the nefarious General Di Ravello and wreaking havoc at police stations. It’s amusing at first, but fighting for liberty becomes very repetitive.

The lush fictional archipelago of Medici is a beautiful land ripe to explore utilizing Rodriguez’s snappy grappling hook, parachute and wing suit. After an initial learning curve, the grip-and-glide method works well as Rodriguez scales mountains, sails across seas, ascends buildings and tails bad guys.

The developers have upgraded Rodriguez’s signature grappling hook with an innovative tethering system that allows him to attach objects. For instance, why waste rockets on enemy helicopters when Rodriguez can snap choppers together and watch them go boom? Such outlandish possibilities are the game’s most compelling aspect.

“Just Cause 3” is masterful as a virtual playground for chaos, but the game falls on its face when compared with the litany of other open-world titles released this year - and in the five years since Square Enix published “Just Cause 2.”

Oh, and “Just Cause 3” is beset with glitches. There are some frame-rate and loading screen problems that can bring the game’s explosive momentum to a grinding halt. But it’s still fun to fly around Medici and blow up stuff. Two stars.

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Online:

http://www.justcause.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang

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