Despite it releasing late in the year, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about Just Cause 4. The highly anticipated sequel hits shelves on December 4, and in a gaming landscape full of spider-men, oiled-up Greeks, and horseriding bandits, a massive sandbox game like this is a welcome addition to the holiday line up.
Just Cause 4 continues the adventure of Rico Rodriguez, this time putting him smack dab in the middle of a civil war between the residents of the island of Solis and a PMC called Black Hand, run by the mysterious and cold-blooded Gabriela Morales. We weren’t given too much time with the story of Just Cause 4, and the two chapters we did play were lacked any meaningful context. The preview event we attended was more to highlight some of the franchise’s new mechanics, which have been built upon since Just Cause 3, and to provide an opportunity to really jump into the maelstrom of fun this game is — literally.
The biggest crowd pleaser from this year’s E3’s reveal was the addition of weather elements, including some impressive lightning, thunder, and a massive tornado that plagues the map. Avalanche did an amazing job capturing the physics of a tornado, and playing in and around it is both exhilarating and frustrating. Exhilarating in the sense that the tornado can be used in various ways when coupled with Rico’s wingsuit and parachute abilities.
During my four hours with the game, I was able to steal a small airplane and direct it right into the massive twister. As I got close, I lost all control of the craft, as it got swept up in the forceful winds, so I exited the plane and deployed my chute. The caused me to rotate with the storm, but I was able to climb high into the atmosphere due to the upward winds. After getting a hang of using the weather to my advantage, I traveled alongside the tornado as it ravaged the area below, and when I got close to a base I wanted to infiltrate, I disengaged my chute and used the wingsuit to glide right into the heart of enemy territory. It was a weather-assisted HALO jump, and it was insane.
Playing directly into the series’ over-the-top nature, Black Hand has developed massive devices called wind cannons that help them control or redirect the tornado. Needless to say, you can imagine what happened when I was able to disable the wind cannons or redirect them myself. I didn’t expect to be able to weaponize a tornado, so you can imagine my surprise when I rained down terror from the skies. Essentially, I was able to accomplish what Cobra Commander and Destro have been trying to do for decades. And it was glorious.
The frustration comes from trying to do anything around the massive cyclone, as the physics cause anything not tied down to be sucked up, spun around, and discarded — including poor Rico. You can’t simply hide in a vehicle, as it too can get ripped up in the circling winds. Even buildings and structures are at risk, so planning how to tackle missions involving the tornado is the key to success.
The map in Just Cause 4 is massive, and Solis has four unique regions to explore with four different biomes — a lush jungle, an arid desert, a snowy mountain region, and a wide open grassland. Luckily, Rico comes equipped with the tools and the talents to overcome all obstacles. A fully customizable grapple hook leads the charge in new tech. Previous games allowed the grapple hook to be used in some unique ways, but Just Cause 4 adds not only tools to the grapple, but also different levels of usage for those tools.
There’s the standard grapple, of course, but players will also have the ability to attach self-inflating balloons to just about anything. There’s also a way to attach boosters, so when used in combination with each other, players can attach a series of balloons to, a car, for example, then attach boosters to it. They can then get into the car and inflate the balloons with a quick button tap, and then activate the boosters with another. The end result: a flying car. Or a tank. Or even a motorcycle. And the upgrades allow the player to adjust each tool to fit their needs.
I was having a ton of fun linking dead bodies to tanks or other large vehicles with the standard grapple, then switching to the balloons to attach a few, then adding a few boosters, activating them all to create this “dirigible of death” that I floated over a heavily guarded area. Then I deflated all the balloons and watched my creation crash to the ground killing all the guards below. Just Cause 4 gives the player an incredible amount of freedom to be creative, and nothing feels too linear.
Rico also has a few “experimental” weapons at his disposal, and we’ll cover those more in our full review of the game, which will go up closer to the launch date. For now, after playing four hours of Just Cause 4, I can say that Avalanche has created a hit. Those four hours were the absolute most fun I’ve had playing a video game this calendar year. Just Cause 4 is set to release on December 4, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
This preview is based on time spent playing at a preview event in Los Angeles. Transportation and lodging were provided by Square Enix.