E3 2018: Weather Takes Center Stage in Just Cause 4

Just Cause has always been a special franchise. While other open world games focused on delivering a serious story set in a realistic world, Just Cause focused on being goofy and giving players gravity-defying tools. Just Cause 3, technical problems aside, was an insanely fun game that let players destroy its work with RPGs, explosive tanks and a highly-useful grappling hook. With the previous game offering players so much bang per rocket, what could a sequel possibly do to one-up it? Avalanche Studios has an idea and it involves weather.

Just Cause 4 follows the events of Just Cause 3. The Black Hand has moved its operations to the remote island of Solis, a fictional South American country. Led by the ruthless Gabriela, the Black Hand is determined to snuff out all resistance and claim dominance over the island nation. As Rico Rodriguez, players must utilize all the tools at their disposal to prevent this.

Just Cause has always been defined by the tools of destruction the developers give the players. Chief among them is the grappling hook, which serves as both a traversal tool and weapon. It returns in Just Cause 4 and is now fully customizable. Players can outfit it with gadgets like the pulse force to create mini-explosions, boosters to propel forward any object in the environment or airlifters to send any object into the air. Avalanche demonstrated the power of their new grappling hook by using airlifters to get a crate of explosives in the air, boosters to follow Rico and then the pulse force to send the explosives to the ground. If you want to make your own bombing run, Just Cause 4 has you covered.

What differentiates Just Cause 4 from its immediate predecessor, however, are its weather effects. Powered by an updated Apex Engine, Just Cause 4 features vast landscapes, realistic weather simulations and real-time physics. Avalanche confirmed that all weather effects are real-time simulations and not scripted.

To showcase the weather in action, the studio took us to the grasslands where a giant tornado was wreaking havoc. The Black Hand currently held an airbase nearby and the tornado seemed like the perfect asset to help Rico out. There was only one teensy problem: the enemy forces had set up wind turrets to push the tornado away. Using a variety of gadgets, including the new railgun, Rico was able to infiltrate the base and find fun ways to take out the turrets. He used a combination of the pulse force and boosters to send one turret spinning wildly into the air before blowing it up. Once the turrets were clear, the awesome power of the tornado was unleashed, sucking up crates, cars, trucks, airplanes and anything not tethered to the ground.

Weather conditions won’t be limited to tornadoes. The developer confirmed that each of Solis’ different biomes would have its own unique severe weather effect. Players can look forward to experiencing sandstorms in the desert, blizzards in the tundra and lightning storms in the mountains. They also made it clear that all weather and the effects they have on the environment are non-scripted.

For all the fun that Just Cause 3 provided, its Achilles heel was no doubt its technical performance. While the game ended up fine on PC, the game never ran well on PS4 or Xbox One. Even with the introduction of the more powerful Pro and X models, the game still can’t maintain a consistent framerate. Unfortunately, it’s too early to judge how well Just Cause 4 performs. The demo was shown to us on PC where it did run smoothly. Avalanche did say attaining a suitable framerate on all consoles is a priority, but we’ll have to wait and see what we end up getting.

Just Cause 3 and its sandbox of destruction was insanely fun back in 2015, albeit a bit unpolished, particularly on consoles. Though early, it appears that Just Cause 4 is prepared to deliver the same level of fun with a few exciting twists. The introduction of real-time weather simulations adds a fun new element to play around with and the customizable grappling hook provides an exciting new way to play with all your old gadgets. While we wait to see how the game performs on PS4 and Xbox One, there’s no denying that Just Cause 4 looks like a lot of fun.

Just Cause 4 is out December 4 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.