We got a first look at Avalanche Studios' Just Cause 4 at E3 this summer, and at Gamescom in Cologne we were given a deeper look at the systems that have been put in place to make Solis not just the biggest Just Cause sandbox to date, but also the most diverse, varied, and dynamic. If there's been one thing you could criticise the Just Cause series for it's that unless you're really creative with the various tools and vehicles at Rico's disposal, the actual world, mission types, and objectives start to feel a bit samey as you progress through the games.
How do you combat that then? Well, the world is naturally a great place to start. Not only does Just Cause 4 come with more diverse biomes, including deserts, jungles, icy mountains, and grasslands, but these, in turn, have sub-biomes that diversify them further. One example of this was a huge quarry set in the desert biome. Then there are the rivers, which come with actual physics simulation running. These smaller areas will serve to break up the landscape further.
Another thing that cannot be understated, something that was originally shown back at E3, is the new frontlines. Instead of working to amass enough chaos to take over regions, chaos now feeds into squads that will work to move an actual frontline across the map. There's an actual armed conflict taking place here, and this time around the fighting isn't just waiting for Rico to show up before it kicks off, which should been a world that feels more alive than before.
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The main star of the behind closed doors presentation at Gamescom was the lightning storm, much like how the tornado was the focus at E3. These environmental happenings don't just represent an element of danger, they're also an opportunity. You're given a warning when the lightning is about to hit and at that point, you want to find yourself closer to the ground than other nearby objects, enemies, or let's say helicopters. As with the tornado you won't be killed instantly, but it will throw you to the ground with a desperately low amount of health. The visual effects are great, and Avalanche was keen to point out that these extreme weather conditions are not just tied to specific missions as seemed the case at E3, here they're part of the open-world sandbox mix you'll experience as you explore. In addition to lightning storms and tornados, there are also sandstorms and blizzards, naturally tied to their respective biomes.
We were also given a look at the impressive arsenal of weapons that Rico has at his disposal, as well as a vehicle pool that includes just about anything you can think of. One rather fun gun we got to see was the windgun, which works pretty much as you'd expect, sending enemies flying with powerful gusts of wind, often with deadly consequences if they're near ledges.
While new weapons are always fun, it's clear that both when it comes to weapons and vehicles, it's not just a case of adding something that's useful in a traditional manner, Avalanche also wants to add things that combine well with Rico's other gadgets and abilities. One example of this was the ramp car, and given that you can, of course, airdrop in anything at any time, you've got a mobile ramp on call for the various activities you may want to engage in. Just think of the possibilities...
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We've already talk about the massively overhauled, expanded, and customisable grappling hook. Boosters, airlifts, with a huge number of options and tweaks. According to the developers, the combinations available can be measured in the millions and any two players would find themselves with very different settings were they to compare builds after just a few hours. Naturally, some fun experiments were had during the demo, including a DIY gas-powered jetpack made using airlifts and a street kitchen, and there was a levitating tank that served as something of an air fortress.
At Gamescom, we also got the opportunity to play the mission first shown at E3 for ourselves. The one with the air cannons keeping the tornado out of the airbase (don't think too much about realism, okay?). The game plays well and it's interesting to see just how differently you can approach any given situation. We imagine that things will get more entertaining once we're back in the groove of switching between the parachute and wingsuit while at the same time using Rico's bag of tricks in impromptu ways. The demonstrations we've seen so far have, at the very least, shown that a capable pair of hands can do some very clever stuff with the systems that have been put in place.
We caught up with game director Francesco Antolini outside of the Cologne theatre where the presentation was held, and he was quite happy that everything had gone according to plan. Showcasing a game like Just Cause 4 live in front of a large audience is certainly not without a certain amount of pressure. He also told us that the team was working very hard at the moment with the December 4 release date coming up; after all this is definitely the shortest time we've had to wait for a sequel in the series [Just Cause (2006), Just Cause 2 (2010), Just Cause 3 (2015)], but from what we've seen and played it seems Avalanche are set to deliver once again...