When you step on to the show floor of PAX, having a balanced game plan is critical. Meandering means you will see everything and do nothing, while having a single focus means you will be queuing and playing games at the cost of your overall PAX experience. Because we are really important (or really incompetent), the media are given the hour before PAX officially opens, to find the right balance.
I like to imagine that during this hour, the GameCloud team of Nick, Paddy, Harry and I are like a squad from the scripted gameplay trailer of a Tom Clancy game.
“Smash Ultimate 10 o’clock from the Just Dance Floor” – “Copy” – “South of the PlayStation booth is Kingdom Hearts 3. Scored an interview with a D-E-V.”
But the reality was Harry playing Sekiro, Paddy lining up at the merchandise booth, Nick cooing over Sony games, and me desperately searching for the Just Cause 4 demo. Unsuccessfully. Just Cause 3 was my pick for best game of 2015, and it is still my go-to when I want to relax or escape into another world. The game is not without its faults, though, and I have eagerly anticipated a sequel.
Fortunately, as I was expressing my utter disappointment to a friend, a developer from Avalanche Studios (technical sound designer on Just Cause 4 – Ronny Mraz) magically appeared to console me and promise a look at the game and an interview. Seriously. That actually happened. Maybe I wasn’t too far off with my scripted gameplay fantasy.
Before the interview, I sat alongside hundreds of PAX attendees and watched Mraz run through 30 minutes of Just Cause 4 gameplay. Mraz showed off the new grappling hook technology, an extreme weather condition (tornado), and made mention of changes to movement and vehicles. The showcase answered some of my questions, but plenty more rose. Luckily, Mraz was willing to answer them all.
If someone had never heard of the Just Cause franchise, how would you describe it to them? And how would you describe Just Cause 4?
The Just Cause franchise is a series of open-world action-adventure sandbox games. The crux of Just Cause gameplay is that the player can use a multitude of systems to effectively do whatever they want. We give the players a toolset and they come back and surprise us with everything they do. Another point of the Just Cause franchise is the over the top destruction. With each new instalment of the game we try to really ramp it up to the next level. In Just Cause 4, we have the addition of extreme weather. This is a combination of both pushing our physics systems to the limits and the new wind system, which interacts with the player throughout the world – whether they are flying or interacting with wind objects like the wind cannon.
In the gameplay during the showcase, we saw tornadoes. Are the extreme weather conditions limited to tornadoes or are there different extreme weather conditions based on your location in the game?
Just Cause 4 takes place in the fictional location of Solis. It’s a singular landmass with four distinct biomes – grasslands, alpine regions, deserts, and rainforests. Each of these distinct biomes has its own gameplay characteristics as well as its own extreme weather event. The grasslands have the tornadoes, the rainforest has the tropical storm, the desert has the sandstorm and the alpine region has the blizzard.
How are these weather conditions different? Are they essentially the same thing, but reskinned?
No. The way that the player and objects interact with the extreme weather events varies with each event. The tornado is wind-based. The tropical storm introduces rain and lightning. Lightning will strike the highest object in the sky and the player can use that in combination with the customizable grappling hook to their advantage. You could airlift an enemy while you are fighting in a base, and have lightning strike them.
The sandstorm will visually impair the player, but also the player’s enemies. So you might be playing through a strike gameplay mission and you’re struggling against a lot of enemies. If a sandstorm blows through, you might be saved because the sandstorm blinds everyone.
That sounds like the closest you’re going to get to stealth in Just Cause.
Sure, yeah, it’s almost like chaotic stealth.
In the showcase, you mentioned that the movement system has been refined. How so? And how does it interact with the new weather events?
The wing suit and the parachute from Just Cause 3 are back. We have really finetuned them to make them feel as cohesive and natural as possible for the player. Players can more naturally pick up speed as they fly closer to the terrain, become propelled by a gust of wind or feel the wind move against them.
People always talk about how the creative destruction and explosions are the best part of Just Cause 3, but I always felt the movement system was the best feature.
Yeah, I agree. I could get lost flying around the entire world in the wing suit… and I often do at work.
Rico returns for this adventure. Where does Just Cause 4 sit on the Just Cause timeline?
The events of Just Cause 4 take place three years after the events of Just Cause 3. Rico is no longer with the agency. He comes to Solis because he has received information that his father was contributing to a weapon research project. When Rico arrives, he finds that the people of Solis are under the rule of Gabriella and her Black Hand. To combat them, Rico and a cast of characters create the Army of Chaos. There is a visual representation of the players progress in the game – similar to World of War in Just Cause 3. As you cause more chaos, you get more squads for your frontline which gives you more pilots and unlocks for your supply drops, which gives you more challenges, which gives you more ways to unlock features for your grappling hook.
It appears that the grappling hook has also returned… with new features. Can you tell me about those?
We’ve made some major upgrades to the grappling hook. In the showcase, you saw the Force Pulse – a forced explosion when two tether points connect. And you also saw the balloon feature, which allows you to airlift enemies.
We have also added a feature called the Power of Yank. This allows you to alter the force with which you initially pull the object. It can fire objects back at a higher velocity than the stock grappling hook. When you start the game you have the basic functionality of the customizable grappling hook. These upgrades all need to be unlocked.
[Now I decide to ask Ronny questions related to my three biggest issues with Just Cause 3, to determine whether they have been addressed in Just Cause 4 – the uselessness and lack of enemies, the lack of differentiation of vehicles in terms of handling, and the redundant alpine region.]
There didn’t seem to be many enemies to fight in the gameplay segment in the showcase. What are the enemies like in Just Cause 4?
We saw the Black Hand in previous Just Cause games, well, Solis is actually their birthplace. We wanted to use this as a driver to deepen the combat element of the game. So, there are a large variety of enemies for the player to fight- there are large titans that shoot drones into the air, ghosts that can camouflage themselves and flank the player, and we have super elite enemies that have a couple of weak points but are also super evasive. So we really wanted to make a more dynamic combat experience for the player.
Have any changes been made to the vehicles in the game?
We have added a massive amount of vehicles to the game, as well as having completely overhauled the vehicle handling system. We took a lot of time to tune specific vehicle types and make them all feel very unique.
I saw a snowmobile in the trailer. That’s new… and awesome. I always felt that the snow-capped mountains in Just Cause 3 were beautiful, but there wasn’t much to do there other than find collectibles.
Hahaha. Yes. There will definitely be lots of things to do in the alpine region this time.
I would like to thank Ronny Mraz for taking the time to chat with my about Just Cause 4! Keep an eye out for more Just Cause 4 trailers and gameplay as we edge closer to the December 4threlease date. I’ll be wingsuiting straight into my nearest store to pick it up.