OXM braves the ex­treme weather to get hands-on with Avalanche’s lat­est de­struc­tive sand­box ac­tion game, Just Cause 4

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Austin Tay­lor

These days it feels like you can’t move for open worlds, each larger and more com­plex than the last. But few go about it with such aplomb as

Just Cause. Fea­tur­ing sand­boxes in the truest sense, it’s a se­ries about ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, wreak­ing havoc, play­ing with physics, and most im­por­tantly caus­ing Chaos.

Ac­crue more Chaos (sort of a cur­rency-slash-no­to­ri­ety) and more peo­ple will be con­vinced to join Rico’s army, pro­gress­ing the front­line. This tracks your progress through the game. No more lib­er­at­ing one area at a time, that be­comes a thing of the past. Now it’s all-out war as you sweep your army in real terms across the South Amer­i­can is­land of So­lis. Not only is the game world com­mu­ni­cat­ing your progress, but also the sta­tus of the game world it­self. Quite sim­ply, cross over the front­line be­hind en­emy lines and So­lis is much more dan­ger­ous, whereas your lib­er­ated zones are rel­a­tively safe.

Friend of the earth

That’s what JustCause4 is all about. With Rico Ro­driguez’s toolset al­ready be­ing pretty well es­tab­lished – the com­bi­na­tion of para­chute, wing­suit and grap­pling hook (which has changed the most, and we’ll get to later) has al­lowed him to mas­ter zip­ping all over the coun­tries he’s helped lib­er­ate, and run rings around his en­e­mies. The nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for JustCause4’ s de­vel­op­ment has been to get stuck into the world it­self, dig in, and see what can be un­earthed for the world to be­gin to speak more for it­self.

“Play­ers loved play­ing with that and mas­ter­ing it, but we didn’t want to change the way the play­ers played the game,” ex­plains Omar Shakir, the game’s nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor. “One of the analo­gies that Francesco An­tolini, our game di­rec­tor, of­ten uses is ‘when you build a sand­box it’s not nec­es­sar­ily about cre­at­ing more wa­ter, for a surfer, it’s about cre­at­ing bet­ter waves that a surfer can ride’.”

Just as stormy winds can cause some killer waves, so too can they cre­ate the waves of game de­sign needed to build on the sand­box world of JustCause4. “Be­cause of the Apex En­gine, we were able to bring in things like river cur­rents, and wind tech,” says Shakir. “[When play­ers mas­ter a sys­tem] you want to present them with a chal­lenge so that they can then bring that mastery into a more chal­leng­ing sce­nario. And that’s kind of where the in­cep­tion came from, of like, well, what’s an ex­treme form of wind? A tor­nado.”

It cer­tainly is chal­leng­ing. After we’re let loose on the world we quite quickly end up play­ing through a mis­sion where we need to herd a

tor­nado into a city, past the en­emy Black Hand army who are us­ing wind can­nons to keep it at bay. At first we fol­low along, safe in our ul­tra-sturdy Storm­chaser truck, but be­fore long we need to aban­don it to wreak havoc on the air­base where the wind can­nons are sta­tioned. At first we’re cau­tious of the nearby whirling winds – they suck in en­e­mies, ve­hi­cles, and Chaos ob­jects that ex­plode. But then we be­gin to learn how to ride the nearby winds, play­ing into it where needed, know­ing when to edge away.

Spin doc­tor

This is where the new cus­tomis­able grap­pling hook comes in. Now all of Rico’s abil­i­ties to mess with the world’s physics are just a claw­grip away. This new ver­sion can not only pull Rico to where he wants to go, but tether and pull ob­jects to­gether, at­tach boost­ers to them, or air lift bal­loons. Or all three at once. Each mode in your three quick load­outs can be mod­i­fied to give you fine con­trol over how and when they ac­ti­vate, giv­ing you around four mil­lion pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions, which is just ridicu­lous.

With the tor­nado of death throw­ing ev­ery­thing around be­hind us we grap­ple onto the wind guns. One we take out us­ing our rail gun to blast its weak points, us­ing se­condary fire (all guns have their own unique fires) to send a drone out to as­sist us. The next we throw boost­ers onto, rock­et­ing it round and round on its swivel un­til it pops off, de­stroyed. Mean­while, we’re whack­ing boost­ers on en­e­mies, or throw­ing air lifts on them, to let the tor­nado’s winds do most of the dirty work for us. The ex­treme weather isn’t to be an­noy­ing or to get in the way, it’s just a new as­pect of the world, and a new way for Rico to utilise his sur­round­ings – pro­vid­ing you’re skilled enough to know how to use them, of course.

“And then things start to fall into place, it’s like, oh, okay, so the tor­na­does can change the way the player plays the game,” Shakir tells us. “And then we didn’t just stop at the tor­nado, we were like, hey, what about a light­ning storm, what about a sand­storm, what about a bl­iz­zard? How can all these things change the way the player plays the game?” Each of the four biomes con­stantly has ex­treme weather hap­pen­ing in them, all oc­cur­ring in hard to pre­dict yet en­tirely pre­dictable ways. The tor­nado, for in­stance, al­ways fol­lows cer­tain tor­nado al­leys – if you know where those are. We also get a look at a mis­sion that takes place in a light­ning storm, where Rico will be­gin to spark and crackle if he’s too high and about to get zapped. Air lift other ob­jects above him, though, and he’ll have a clear path. You can also air lift en­e­mies, rais­ing them as a sac­ri­fice to Mother Na­ture above. Weather can be dan­ger­ous, yes, but that just means you make sure your foes are less pre­pared to get swept away by it than you are.

So­lis en­ergy

Of course, the game’s not all about weather. It could be a has­sle to con­stantly have to worry about get­ting caught out in the cold, so you can learn to nav­i­gate around them as you get used to how the weather works.

“We didn’t just stop at the tor­nado, we were like, hey, what about a bl­iz­zard?”

“You can even­tu­ally un­lock most ve­hi­cles as drops, as well as things like ex­plo­sive bar­rels”

Across the board, the Apex En­gine has bumped up the feel­ing of nav­i­gat­ing the world. Rid­ing through the air has never felt eas­ier, and the ve­hi­cles give you a wealth of op­tions to travel quickly – not that the wing­suit is ex­actly slow when you make use of the winds. “We have never used the full po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­ogy un­til this ver­sion of the en­gine,” Avalanche’s founder and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer Christofer Sund­berg tell us. “It’s easy to just throw stuff into the tech­nol­ogy, but then to make use of it in game­play is what makes it hard.” Ev­ery­thing that makes up the world of So­lis feels like it’s there for a pur­pose. The ex­treme weather isn’t there for the sake of it, but to add new lay­ers to play around with.

While gain­ing Chaos and ad­vanc­ing the rev­o­lu­tion is one thing, at its heart

JustCause4 just wants you to have fun at your own pace – to put bal­loons on tanks, or rocket boost­ers on fer­ris wheels. And that sort of play is where the se­ries still shines. At one point we sup­ply-drop in a trac­tor. Not a game to shy away from let­ting you play around, there’s al­ways plenty to call in at your fin­ger­tips – you can even­tu­ally un­lock most ve­hi­cles as drops, as well as things like ex­plo­sive bar­rels, be­cause why not? The trac­tor is a com­i­cally slow thing. But whack a bunch of bal­loons and boost­ers on it, and not so much. We end up fly­ing up into the air wildly, hav­ing been too lib­eral with our mods. Parachut­ing out, we spot a Black Hand ‘copter, next to our still boost­ing bal­loon trac­tor. Tether them to­gether and chop­per meets trac­tor. A nasty end for all in­volved. There’s so much to play with, and most of it – thank­fully – ex­plo­sive. Just Cause 4 will be re­leased on 4 De­cem­ber.

above Rico’s not afraid of ex­plo­sions, or mis­siles, or fighter jets.right Rico’s not afraid of be­ing struck by light­ning. He’s got rub­ber pants on.

above Rico’s not afraid of be­ing on fire. Well, maybe he is just a bit.

above Rico’s not afraid of tooled up mer­ce­nar­ies. Although we hear he is afraid of spoons.

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