Published on November 15th, 2023 | by Nathan Misa
Jagged Alliance 3 Console Port PS5 Review
Summary: 2023's must-play turn-based tactics game makes it to current-gen consoles with great gamepad support and visual options.
Not a scuzzwad
When Jagged Alliance 3 launched on PC, I found it to be one of the best games of 2023, thanks to its deep turn-based tactical gameplay and role-playing game (RPG) elements, bombastic characters and story, and slick visuals – a perfect re-introduction to a beloved series.
Now, the official console port is available on current and last gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles with full controller support – however, the PC version actually launched with gamepad support, so I already got to play with both mouse and controller whenever I felt like it – best of both worlds!
Being a console gamer at heart, though, playing more Jagged Alliance 3 on the big TV screen with trophy support is not a bad proposition at all. So, is this port worth its weight in diamonds? Or is the PC version with native gamepad support the best option for console gamers interested in JA3?
In short, yes, Jagged Alliance 3 on PlayStation 5 is a great port of the original Jagged Alliance 3 (read my PC review). It brings the full content package (and all the tweaks and bug fixes from post-launch updates to-date) over to current and last generation home consoles intact, which is no small feat, given this is, at its heart, a PC-centric franchise (aside from the first game’s obscure Nintendo DS port, the core series games have never been ported to modern home consoles before). JA3, then, balances a lot on its shoulders in order to win a new audience.
For those unfamiliar or who haven’t read my original review yet, Jagged Alliance 3 is a complex strategy game played via a isometric perspective, with lots of clicking required to move multiple units across levels, explore interactable 3D environments in real-time and engage enemies in turn-based tactical shootouts across both a overworld and battlefield map. There’s typically a lot of information put on-screen for the player to analyze at their own pace, so translating this to a home console played on a bigger TV screen needs to feel just as intuitive and easy-to-understand, especially when navigating menus and selecting actions with the more limited inputs and control sticks of a gamepad. In my experience, the PlayStation port succeeds in this objective, using the strong foundation of the gamepad support already built into the original PC launch version.
Using the controller, the left and right thumbsticks are used to move, pan and rotate the camera, and zoom in and out of the map, highlighting which area you want your units to move to with the click of a button. You can hover over each mercenary in your squad to select them, rotate through each individual merc with the top buttons, and select all mercs with another button press. The D-pad is used to change stance (stand, crouch, prone) and stealth, while the triggers open up an additional set of inputs, such as switching from Overview Mode to Sat View (the overworld map), inspecting mercs stats on-the-fly, or delving into the character screen for more detailed information about your squad, their inventories and their XP progress. The command menu, which continues some of these options in addition to the A.I.M. Browser, Email, Help Center, and Squad Management screens are also a button press away to navigate, and for players who like to issue orders for units to carry out simultaneously, the Active Pause option can be toggled with the D-pad to allow all units to complete actions when unpaused.
Everything in general felt very quick and snappy as I tested out my new squad, consisting this time of more professional do-gooders Raven and Raider, and series mainstay rookie MD. For any console gamers disillusioned by other PC-to-console ports that feel like afterthoughts, be comforted – Jagged Alliance 3 is very polished and intuitive in this regard (though, of course, a mouse always does feel better when you’re on Mission Impossible difficulty with no saving). Which is great, because this PC-centric genre is finally becoming more accessible to home console gamers without a PC rig to experience them.
On the visual side of things, the Jagged Alliance 3 console port follows in the footsteps of other modern titles and offers two graphics modes for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series owners: Quality and Performance. Quality mode outputs at a higher resolution with greater detail in textures, character models and lighting but at 30FPS, while Performance mode tones the detail down to play at a smoother 60FPS. In my experience, Performance is always my go-to graphics mode when it’s offered on console, but unfortunately JA3 frequently drops frames whenever I explore interior locations with lots of interactable objects or any area of the map with more than two or three NPCs wandering about (Port Cacao, the Refugee camp, the Sanatorium). The occasional drops in performance are not a total deal-breaker, given this is a slower-paced game that does not require fast inputs to both succeed and/or enjoy the overall experience. However, if you are the type of gamer that is sensitive to frame-rate drops, the JA3 current-gen console port unfortunately might not be the perfect fit (future patches may iron performance out, hopefully). My recommendation to anyone who is interested in Jagged Alliance 3 that prefers using a controller but also has a PC is to opt for the PC port. You get, as I put earlier, the best of both worlds.
That also includes better graphical detail, too. The developers did a good job with translating the game’s 1980’s action cinema aesthetic and impressive visuals to the port on PlayStation 5, but even on Quality mode, I didn’t feel like the lush jungles and colourful urban landscapes of Grand Chien came close to the fidelity possible on the original PC version. Comparing both versions side-by-side feels like Quality mode is managing around medium settings to the PC version, while Performance lowers those sliders further. There’s also occasional artifacting of environmental detail, such as puddles or trees, when playing on Performance mode (perhaps due to the upscaler used), but it’s rare enough not to be too bad.
Last but not least is the UI scaling, which is always a big deal for PC-to-console game ports. The option is available in the console versions, but I found the maximum UI sizing available (which is also the default setting) to be still a tad too small for my preferences while playing on a 77-inch TV. It’s not an unreadable disaster like other PC-to-console ports have been, but I hope that the developers will be able to add additional scaling in a future port should other gamers find this accessibility option lacking.
The Final Verdict
As I said in my original review of the PC version, Jagged Alliance 3 is an incredibly fun turn-based strategy game and a must play title this year. The current-gen console port (I reviewed the PlayStation 5 version) is an admirable effort, with the controls and dense menus of the game nicely tailored for gamepad users, while the ambitious world of Grand Chien is brought over to our bigger TV screens with two graphics modes and not too much loss in visual fidelity.
If you’re a console-only gamer interested in JA3, now is the best time to jump into the game. If you’re a console gamer that also has a PC, I still recommend the PC version as you can enjoy the gamepad support that version has offered since launch, in addition to the PC version’s perks (mods and better graphics options). With a post-launch patch roadmap still currently underway (introducing several new quality-of-life features and new gameplay options), however, both PC and console owners will enjoy the best version of the game together, moving forward.
If you’re a lover of turn-based tactical games with RPG elements, try and suppress the noise of all the triple-AAA titles and make some room in your gaming schedule for one of the best games released this year.
Primary Format – Games – Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One
Game Genre – Turn-based strategy
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – Haemimont Games
Game Publisher – THQ Nordic