The third instalment in the physics-defying Just Cause franchise is floating down to us from the highest mountain the world and I saw that as an excuse to celebrate what I call the f**king around genre: sandboxy games that encourage wanton mayhem and destruction with little concern for balance or narrative. In no particular order, here are some of the finest games that just don’t give a damn.
Saints Row IV (image rights: Deep Silver)
Finally giving up any pretence of the gangland warfare that the series originally revolved around, Saints Row IV makes the leap to full-fledged superhero game by letting the player fly around and shoot fireballs, along with the usual assortment of dildo bats and dubstep guns. The writing is also above-average with some lovably unguarded spoofs of gaming tropes, but the sheer lunacy that the powers enable is the clear star. You can even co-op the entire game, and trust me when I say that you haven’t lived until you’ve seen an anime girl doing a Michael Jackson dance on a dubstep-riddled alien corpse.
Red Faction: Guerrilla (image rights: Nordic Games)
If you have fantasies of being locked in a Ming vase warehouse with just a crossbow and a knowing grin, then Guerrilla will be a downright spiritual experience for you. Employing an astounding physics engine that I’m baffled nobody’s tried to copy in the years since, the game lets you smash buildings into dynamic chunks that react in satisfyingly plausible ways. So a rocket might blow out a tower’s middle, causing the upper half to keel sideways and bore a hole into the garage next door. Granted, many other elements of Guerilla are rather underwhelming in comparison, but it’s hard to care too much about the repetitive missions or boring scenery when at any moment you can drive off the beaten path and straight through a field of lovingly rendered wind turbines.
Destroy All Humans! (image rights: THQ)
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their anal probes against us. Destroy All Humans! is a series whose name alone pretty much makes it clear what to expect, and the second one in particular embraces 1960s camp to provide a weird and wonderful romp through America, London, Japan and Soviet Russia. Crushing cars with your brain never gets old, but you can also hop into your flying saucer to cause a few incidents even Scully would have a hard time rolling her eyes at, and even the jokes that fall flat have a loveable earnestness to them. Definitely a franchise worth thawing your PS2 out of carbonite for.
Just Cause 2 (image rights: Square Enix)
Finally comes the game whose impending sequel made this article spring to mind twenty minutes before the weekly deadline. A veritable orgy of chaos that improves on the wonky original in every way, Just Cause 2 lets you soar across the beautiful island paradise of Panau with a magical grappling hook and parachute that turns the whole experience into an unspoken contest of finding the highest peaks to throw yourself off and the biggest vehicles to drag behind a plane before sending it careening into an enemy base. Then throw in the unspeakable madness of the PC multiplayer mod that lets literally hundreds of players loose in the same world and it’s no wonder expectations for Just Cause 3 are quite literally sky-high.
If any of the above games tickled your innate lust for destruction, be sure to hunt down a copy for yourself. And hell, might as well treat all your similarly bloodthirsty friends while you’re at it.
Featured image rights: Square Enix