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