Just Cause 3: No man is an island

Rico’s coming home, and he’s not happy. After toppling the fascist regime in the fictional Cuban analogue of Panau in Just Cause 2 and liberating the Caribbean island of San Esperito in Just Cause, you’d have thought the Agency’s top operative would deserve a bit of a rest (you know, aside from the five years his IP has been resting over at Square Enix).

There’s no such luck for the half-American operative, though; while he’s been gallivanting around the islands of the world, toppling the regimes of various dictators, General Di Ravello has established a brutal and oppressive reign of his own on Rico’s home island of Medici. The Mediterranean archipelago isa lush haven, packed with natural resources; fertile farmlands, caverns packed with minerals, scenic spots of overwhelming natural  beauty, a loyal local population. It’s a veritable goldmine, and it’s clear why Di Ravello wants to call it his own. There’s a huge snowy mountain sticking up and out of the middle of Medici, too something that seems a bit out of place in a Mediterranean archipelago but we’re willing to forgive the topological oversight if it means we’ve got a better place to base jump from.

In Rico’s absence, the once peaceful island has been overrun with troops loyal to the dictator, and they’re slapping up propaganda posters on any blank surface. Rico is vexed. This was (is) his home. How dare these loyalists stick their proverbial flag in the soil and declare it as their own? Details are fairly scarce about exactly how the plot is going to play out (we hope it’s going to be deeper than the Far Cry model: wander in, execute some underlings, liberate country).

By giving Rico a personal hook in the story, we’re hoping the over-arching objectives will be a little more compelling… Just Cause has always been fun, but’s it’s lacked in the narrative department. When you’ve got stablemates like Far Cry, or Grand Theft Auto, or even Saints Row, despite a lack of believability in their stories, they’re all doing open-world experiences to a blockbuster level. It’s no good just having a lush and detailed world.
“This is the culmination of a decade’s worth of open-world evolution and innovation”
That’s where the staple Just Cause elements come in the game has always prided itself on its absurd physics and the toolbox it gives you to experiment with. The Just Cause staples the grappling hook and the parachute make a welcome return, keeping the gameplay elements of their last iterations and scaling them up to even more ludicrous levels. Forget the days of being able to use only one boring grappling hook now you can use up to three at once, and a simple press of your pad will tauten the tethers.

This opens up a whole ton of options for dealing with pesky military pursuers you’ll be able to take out choppers like AT-ATs in Star Wars, you’ll be able to tie soldiers to the back of your convertible and take them for a ride on the heat-cracked asphalt of Medici’s roads. You’ll be able to rig an enemy chopper with explosives it flies up, takes three barrels with it and becomes a hyper-mobile bomb, unbeknownst to the pilots. The new grappling hooks alone multiply the potential for mischief tenfold.

Then there’s Rico’s newest toy the wingsuit. This is by far one of the most exciting additions. Far Cry 4 and Grand Theft Auto V have individually proved that open-world games released now must have a fun way of navigating the air above the open world below. Open world games can’t risk expanding horizontally any more what would they add, really? More towns, more fields, more oceans? No, developers are looking to the verticality of their open worlds to show us what else can be done when the player is given full autonomy and a toolbox to go out and play with.

Enter the wingsuit. Combined with the grappling hook, you’ve got the means to launch yourself into the air off just about anything. You can do it from ground level, you can do it from height, you can even grapple up and launch yourself into a momentum-based rise. When you deploy the suit, the controls are light and airy, difficult to gauge at first, but eventually you get the hang of it and experience the best mechanic Just Cause 3 has to offer: floating.

You can just float around, like a paper bag caught in an updraft. Where Far Cry 4’s wingsuit was rigid and punishing (dip too quickly and you will die), Just Cause 3 is more forgiving; the wingsuit is designed as a means of traversal from any one place to another, not like the obstacle course mentality of Far Cry’s. The isle of Medici has cavernous hollows you can explore from the air, mountainous regions for you to fling yourself off, and (inevitably) high-rise buildings that’ll satiate all your base-jumping desires. In the age of commentary culture, the memeification of the Internet and with the rampant popularity of gaming gifs, there’s a lot to be said for a feature like this.
“With over 400 square miles of complete freedom from sky to seabed… prepare to unleash chaos in the most creative ways you can imagine”
But navigation and exploration is only one facet of the Just Cause experience there’s also the combat. Just because the narrative is hitting a little closer to home (literally), it doesn’t mean Avalanche is going to tone down the chaos. Case in point: the ‘Fire Leech’ a missile launcher that can churn out up to eight incendiary rockets at a time. It’s insanely overpowered, and ridiculously fun to use. It’s got an auto lock-on feature that’ll target any enemy soldiers or destructible environmental elements, which suggests to us that Avalanche is going to have us taking on some pretty vast hoards of enemies.

It’s worth noting that the ‘Fire Leech’ targets destructible scenery, since the developers are keen to point out that Just Cause 3 will feature ‘cascading destruction’. You know how Battlefield and DICE love to throw that awful ‘levolution’ portmanteau out there? Well, ‘cascading destruction’ is basically that, but more humble (and accurate). If you decide to, say, lace an entire warehouse with C4 because you want to disrupt a cocaine cartel’s output, then your detonation won’t just blow up the warehouse… a piece of corrugated roof or a burning chunk of timber might knock a wall down, toppling a lamppost, smashing another building. There are a lot of in-game assets that can be affected by the destruction physics (thanks to the new and improved, and aptly named, Avalanche Engine) the whole setup might not be as item-heavy as the Red Faction games, but it works within the context of Just Cause, for sure.

With this increased destructibility comes increased responsibility though; perhaps because Rico has such a violent effect on the island’s economy, or perhaps because he’s so ingrained in the Agency now he can request whatever he wants, all currency has been removed from the game’s system. Instead of earning and saving up for new guns, vehicles, explosives or upgrades, you’re going to have to rely on supply drops custom packages you can set up from predetermined locations and get sent
(almost) at will.

This comes with an advantage and a disadvantage want to take down that small outpost that’s stopping the villagers getting their imports? Request a tank! ‘Why not?’ you think, ‘I have access to it, after all!’ Thing is, Rico is facing the terror of the dictator’s army, and anything he does will get matched by the opposing forces one tank for Rico might mean three tanks for the loyalists. You’ve got to pick your fights well, and choose to scale them responsibly.

To offset what could become a fairly unbalanced supply system, you’re given infinite C4. Considering we spent the majority of Just Cause 3 running around blowing stuff up and guffawing like idiots, this is big news. The C4 packs a punch, too; it’s not just some arbitrary infinite and weak attack you can use. It comes back down to the core tenet of design Avalanche seems to be adopting with this game; that it needs to be fun.

One of the first enemy encampments you'll be tasked with ‘liberating’ is a multi-story oil rig that’s been drilled into the side of a cliff, for example. Sneaking in underneath the whole thing, planting C4 on each of the rig’s legs, retreating to a safe distance and blowing the whole thing sky high… That sounds amazing, right? Well, that’s only one route you could take. You could go in from the air, rain death with the ‘Fire Leech’ and scarper. You could lace a tanker with explosives, ram it straight in through the front gates and bail at the last minute… Creating your own narratives in a world that only really puts physics against you is what Just Cause is about, and it’s nice to see that Avalanche hasn’t forgotten that over these past five years.

One thing that’s struck us more than anything so far is how pretty Just Cause 3 is. While we’re sure the game is going to look pretty on console, we were pleased to hear that Avalanche is working with Nvidia directly on the PC version which means we can expect some of the most impressive graphics and textures in the sandbox genre from Avalanche.

Rumours abound that Just Cause 3 began as a free-to-play game on PC, while the console ports would be paid for, but full of microtransactions. While we now know the game will see a regular retail release, some of the game’s original elements are creeping into the systems.

There have been reports that Supply Drops can be paid for through a Black Market menu, and the recharge times can be reduced by using real-world money. These claims are totally unsubstantiated, but how acceptable is it to include paid shortcuts in a triple-A release?

We don’t mind, so long as transactions don’t infringe on the resting economy. It would be easy for Square Enix to fall into the same trap it did with Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, which had the most cynical take on the F2P model we’ve seen on mobile.

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