The Just Cause series is unique. From the beginning, the developer's intentions were pretty clear. Every iteration has driven players closer and closer to that ideal explosion simulator. While Just Cause 3 may have flown under the radar due to design issues and technical hiccups, that may just serve to amplify the impact of this fourth entry. After all, when you introduce mechs, a wingsuit, and machine gun toting parachutes, where do you go from there? Try knocking on Mother Nature's door, I've heard she's got a few ideas.
Taking place in the fictional South American territory of Solis, this is the biggest map in Just Cause history. It features four distinct types of environments, all powered by the Avalanche's new Apex engine. Solis is enemy territory, with Rico Rodriguez bringing the fight to the Black Hand. Enemies are more hardened than in past games, with cloaked soldiers and shielded tanks being added to the fray. Still, it shouldn't be too much trouble to blow them up with an RPG.
Tthe big hook of Just Cause 4 is extreme weather. During my demonstration, I got to see just what adding a gigantic cyclone can do. A bridge crumbled like paper as the tornado marched down the road, but this is no setpiece. Weather is just another part of the simulation, another tool to play with. So, if you want to make a soldier have a really bad day, you can anchor him to debris and then sit back and watch him swing wildly at high speeds. As I saw Rico fly into the madness, it reminded me a lot of Mad Max and its signature sandstorms. Thankfully, direct sandstorm analogs join the roster of weather events alongside massive lightning blasts and blinding snowstorms.
Although I only got to see the cyclone in action directly, the inspiration from Avalanche's earlier work is definitely there. In the mission I saw, our friendly freedom fighter Rico had to disable a wall of "wind cannons" that was keeping the huge cyclone out of enemy territory. Over the course of a few minutes, I saw cluster grenades, laser sighted snipers and a friendly drone utilized to do the deed. As the storm demolished the base to mark Rico's victory, I considered how much fun trying to survive these random occurrences was in Mad Max. It is evident what Just Cause 4's significantly upgraded box of toys brings to that experience, and that's exciting.
Another mechanic imported from elsewhere is the additions to the grapple system. The attachable jet bombs are back, although their explosiveness is now optional. Want to see a car jump from a good vantage point? These boosters will do the trick. Now, combine them with new Fulton balloons that can suspend items and people in the air. Famously introduced to players everywhere in Metal Gear Solid 5, this system lets you chain together strings of items to fly alongside you. Attach your boosters and balloons correctly and you have a conga line of explosives. Then, float them over a priority target and then drop them with pinpoint accuracy. In the right hands, the possibilities are endless.
Combined in with the expanded number of connections you can make with your grapple, this all seems like a sensible expansion of the Just Cause formula. However, what I didn't get during my demo was assurance that the world of Just Cause 4 will suit the tools at Rico's disposal. Will we once again be asked to fly through hoops and complete racing challenges to unlock upgrades? Will missions interrupt the flow of destruction or provide you with explosion-friendly scenarios? Only time will tell. However, one can hope that Avalanche has learned to lean into what brought them to the dance.
Just Cause 4 was demoed at E3 2018 behind closed doors via a guided demonstration. The full game is releasing on December 4th 2018 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. For more thoughts and news from the show of shows, be sure to hit up TechRaptor's E3 Coverage Hub!