Riding the winds of change
Avalanche Studios’ Just Cause games are chaos incarnate. The open-world action series packs more explosions and high-speed stunts in a single hour than most titles manage during their entire runtime. Rico Rodriguez always felt more like a heavily-armored stuntman than a proper hero, and in Just Cause 4, the series’ long-running protagonist takes a back seat to the game’s real main character: a massive, roaming tornado.
During a hands-off presentation at E3, members of Avalanche Studios demoed Just Cause 4‘s open-world environments and high-tech gadgets. It was an impressive technological showcase; every object in the game is a potential weapon thanks to Rico’s grappling hook and a bevy of explosive tools. Players can switch between three different loadouts on the fly, mixing abilities like rocket boosters and balloons alongside the standard tethering options the series is known for at a moment’s notice.
Basically, Avalanche is working to ensure that virtually everything is an instrument of destruction. In illustrating the point, the person controlling Rico tethered shipping containers together and attached balloons and boosters to them, creating an impromptu airship in a matter of seconds. If you can think it of a crazy combination, there’s a good chance Just Cause 4 will allow you to make it a reality.
For as impressive as Rico’s grappling hook is, Just Cause 4‘s tornado stole the show. It’s a character unto itself; a fully-simulated cone of deadly wind capable of sucking up almost anything in its path. According to Avalanche Studios, the tornado is connected to the game’s skybox, allowing it to whirl across the map dynamically. It will also feature prominently in main story missions, like one highlighted in the demo that had Rico chasing the twister down and harnessing its power to dismantle an enemy airport.
The mission began with Rico trailing behind the tornado in a heavy vehicle designed to withstand the storm’s strong winds. It lumbered forward as the tornado lifted everything that wasn’t bolted down into the air. Cars, buildings, and non-playable characters were swallowed up by the swirling storm. It cut through bridges — which will collapse in a wealth of different ways, an Avalanche employee added — and outposts alike before nearing an airport controlled by the Black Hand, Just Cause 4‘s enemy faction.
The Black Hand has wind cannons capable of keeping the tornado at bay, but Rico’s uncanny ability to cause destruction ensured that he was able to put them out of commission. Players can use the wind cannons to guide the storm across the map too, because, well, it’s a Just Cause game. If turning a tornado into Rico’s personal siege weapon sounds silly, that’s because it is. But after witnessing the twister suck entire planes, control towers, and thousands of other lesser objects into its eye, there’s little doubt that it’s an effective — if not devastating — tool.
Just Cause 4 looks to be a massive, open-ended physics sandbox. Rico can surf on wind currents, engage enemy forces alongside his rebel troops at an ever-shifting frontline (explained as a diegetic indicator of mission progress, the frontline moves according to player-driven actions), and cause all sorts of trouble at any given time. There’s beauty in its built-in chaos, and all signs point to Just Cause 4 being one of 2018’s most explosive, dynamic games.