I was only a few minutes into my preview session with Just Cause 4 when I realised that I was in for some trouble.
Whilst 2006’s Just Cause laid the groundwork for Rico Rodriguez’s misadventures, it was Just Cause 2 that refined the series’ physics-based sandbox gameplay. The huge open-world invited players to cut a path of ad-hoc destruction to overthrown the nation of Panau’s ruthless dictator, Pandek Panay.
With tongue firmly in cheek Rico granted players licence to blow up what they could, making full use of a unique, and scientifically improbable, grapple. I spent hours tethering aeroplanes together in mid-flight and roof-surfing them as they performed a beautiful, yet fateful, pirouette in the sky.
Using the grapple with a parachute could propel Rico into the air and also into the driving seat of any nearby vehicle, be it an ice-cream van or a helicopter. Before long, you found yourself experimenting: tying the enemy to the back of a passing car, or a lit gas cylinder. You could even jump on a gas cylinder yourself and fire yourself, like a rocket, skywards.
The chaotic gameplay was further refined in 2015’s Just Cause 3, adding a wingsuit into the mix for some more breathtaking fun. One of the DLC expansions added a rocket-pack allowing Iron Man-style flight. As if further distraction was necessary.
You seem in amongst all this physics-based mayhem, you are supposed to be completing missions.
And that’s where I found myself at the Namco Bandai offices in Sydney, playing the demo of Just Cause 4. The problem is, this fourth outing takes all that emergent gameplay from the previous Just Cause games and turns it up to twelve.
The PR rep advised me that I should complete X, Y and Z missions in order to unlock some more equipment. This was all very well, until I realised just how much fun it was attaching balloons to things. If I thought tethering enemies together in Just Cause 4 was funny, dispatching a platoon of bad guys as they hung, suspended by their feet attached to balloons, above me was another level entirely.
Avalanche’s physics sandbox is a devil when it comes to providing fun and, sometimes, hilarious distractions. I let out an audible guffaw as I got down to business attaching balloons to hapless bad guys, only to turn around and see the truck that I’d tethered to balloons earlier just float past me, the cab running itself across the rooftops, on its way to who knows were.
The amount of self-control that players are going to need in order to get through the Just Cause 4 campaign is going to need to be off the chart. As a reviewer, and one with zero will-power when it comes to experimenting with gaming sand-boxes, I’m going to be in trouble.
The level of customisation that you can employ to make Rico’s tethers work exactly as you want is astounding. Whilst it is easy to get some pretty good balloons and booster action going on, the tweak that you can make boarders on visual script coding in itself.
The awesome customisable destruction and mirth offered by Just Cause 4 is going to make for some legendary YouTube videos.
The South American island of Solís is huge, featuring five different biomes. I only got to play in one, not because I only had the one to play in, it was all the time I had given the massive amount of distractions on offer. In particular, the dirty-great-big tornado carving its way across the landscape. An absolutely irresistible distraction if ever there was one.
Flying a jumbo jet right into the storm is a must, as is attaching a balloon and a booster to an enemy and sending them into the eye. Follow it up with a few cars, daisy-chained together, and the aforementioned balloon floated truck with driver swinging below, screaming as the lot disappeared into the swirling maelstrom.
To say that I’m looking forward to Just Cause 4 is an understatement. The level of incidental mayhem is going to appeal to anyone that like messing up games and experimenting. PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners can play in Rico Rodriguez’s sandbox from 4th December.