Square Enix and Avalanche Studios, Just Cause 3 (2015), was developed to be another addition to an oversaturated marketplace of 3rd person action shooting games. Little did everyone involved know its emphasis on physics-defying tools and expendables level of action ushered in a new genre; the highlight reel game. After being inspired by thousands of replay hours on Twitch and YouTube from some of the most popular content creators, Avalanche is bringing Rico Rodriguez back in Just Cause 4 and this time he’s fighting nature itself.
At a recent media and streamer event, we got a few quality hours with Just Cause 4‘s new tools and dynamic weather system. What we came away with was the realization that the game of the year race might not be over until the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Just Cause 4 is raising the bar on the subculture of streaming clips and highlight gaming it previously helped create. While you’ll once again play as the almost too calm and suave agent Rico Rodriguez in a familiar South American island setting, there are several noticeable differences. Our hero finds himself in a much more non-linear sandbox environment. This island is under the thumb of the ruthless Black Hand militia, led by the dangerous Gabriella. These mercenaries even come correct with their own Cobra-like weather dominator. It’ll be up to Rico to liberate another island paradise. As a refreshing change for Just Cause, the game’s antagonist Gabriella and her army are a far cry from the mustache-twirling villains you’ve previously fought. In the few cinematics we observed, she’s written as ruthless yet stubborn in her belief that her way is what’s best for the people of the island.
As the game’s developers pointed out areas of interest on the map, including a snow-covered mountain region that serves as the stage for the game’s final boss fight, they mentioned players could go into that fight to take down the weather machine early on but you’d stand little chance without completing critical operations along the island. Completing those ops weakens the enemy army and makes the final fight more manageable. As you can guess the degree of difficulty is ramped up for this fourth installment and strategy as much as junk food action recklessness will be pivotal.
As we played through a few story missions, it became quickly apparent that while the narrative is definitely serviceable; there’s a likelihood of it being overshadowed by the pure physics based playground built by Avalanche Studios. Just as in the previous game, you’ll have a grappling hook that allows you to tether virtually any object to another in this world. Even making a return is the ability to double-sided tape rocket boosters to anything as well. While the possible combinations of rocket-propelled motorcycles swinging around objects like a tetherball is enough to make you want to watch more, your tools are being joined by lift kits this time around. As part of the grappling hook arsenal, players can attach extraction balloons to virtually anything. I watched a tank be lifted into the air by the balloons and then steered through the combination of rocket boosters and firing the cannon in mid-air like in the A-Team movie.
The game’s most wildcard feature this time around is nature itself…sort of. As you fight to liberate the island of Solis, you’ll notice giant tornados, sandstorms, lightning, and zero visibility blizzards throughout the different regions. Though these phenomena behave as extreme as nature can get, they’re byproducts of the army’s weather dominator Rico needs to stop. While your mission is to bring peace to the island, you’ll definitely want to take nature for a ride along the way. I spent a solid hour just playing with the twister Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton couldn’t tame in whatever that movie was called. Rico’s base jumping wingsuit was the perfect way to cyclone up the funnel of the beast and experience just how much work went into creating this system of the game that wrecks everything in sight. The clouds it spawned from had volumetric qualities of their own and as you flew things through them, it felt much like going through an actual layer of the troposphere in an airplane.
These forces of nature will be what give the mass culture of video game streamers fuel to exploit the unbelievable physics engine that runs Just Cause 4. Reviewing games doesn’t always leave you time to have mindless fun with the titles in a race to make embargo dates, but I couldn’t help look at my surroundings and wonder what I could insert into the massive tornado. I drove several sports cars, fuel tankers, and even stole a passenger jet from an airport to see what would happen. Every vehicle had its own disastrous results but damn did it feel awesome to climb out of the plane and ride it through the tornado. It was every bit as uncomfortable as my last American Airlines flight.
Just Cause 4 and all its Michael Bay daydream action will be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on December 4, 2018.