The Just Cause series has long been the Fast and Furious of gaming. With the over-the-top action as a staple.
Just Cause 4 is coming out next month and is the next entrant in the successful series.
We got to sit down with Avalanche Studios Technical Sound Director Ronny Mraz at PAX Australia 2018 and learned a few exciting things.
Just Cause 4 continues the story of the veteran man of action, Rico Rodriguez. No longer working for the Agency, Rico is a battle worn with a wealth of experience and tools for the player to use.
Severe weather warning!
Avalanche Studios set out to make this entry bigger, badder and more insane than ever before. Nothing says this more than the new real-time extreme weather events in the game world.
With Just Cause 4, wanted to create the largest scale destruction that the series has ever seen. And to do that, we developed the new proprietary engine known as the apex engine.
We said, “Well what if we took our physics system and pushed it to its absolute limits, past what we’ve already done with destruction?“ We took wind and pushed it as far as we possibly could, and we landed on these over-the-top, extreme weather effects.
The game has four extreme weather events; Tornado, Sandstorm, Blizzard and Tropical storm. Each of these is real-time and totally unscripted, causing mayhem in the game world. And of course, Rico can use these to his advantage.
Ronny took us through a demo of a mission involving the Tornado to show off the powerful new Apex Engine. In this mission, Rico and a colleague have to collect data on the tornado as it goes on its path of destruction.
To do this, Rico uses a specially built vehicle, The Stormchaser which players unlock during the course of play.
According to Ronny, “The Storm Chaser is a vehicle specifically built by Rico in the game, to sort of be unaffected by extreme weather.
“So while you are controlling this vehicle, we can get as close as we want to the tornado and we’ll be completely unaffected.”
Unscripted environmental mayhem
As we follow the tornado, Ronny points out that all of the incredible destruction and debris is being generated real-time and he’s never seen this play out this way before.
“… all the debris flying that you see is happening in real time- so I don’t know what’s gonna fall on me, every time I play through this mission it could have a potentially different outcome”
The interaction of objects, wind and physics is astounding. As we progress in our storm chase, the tornado suddenly comes to a complete halt; simply spinning in place.
Ronny continues to demonstrate the dynamic effects of the Apex Engine by repurposing one of the wind canons and show the destructive effect it has on nearby cars, buildings and people.
“Real quick, he says excitedly. “If we were to set up some boosters right here … strap these on the end, right. Have it go flying. And you’ll notice as the wind cannon turns, it’s interacting with all of the other objects.”
4 million ways to daisy chain your way
Now with all the amazing possibilities of world interactions and events, how does the player, through Rico, make use of them?
It comes down to Rico’s new and improved Grappling hook.
A pillar of the Just Cause franchise is, as you’ve seen, interaction with the environment. That’s what the customizable grappling hook in this instalment of the franchise really allows the player to do.
The grappling hook is to Rico what webs are to Spider-man. They allow the player to do an insane amount of things within the game world. From rappelling up structures to tying objects together, there are tons of applications.
This is thanks to the all-new customizations. Avalanche has taken the grappling hook and added modifiers including the fan favourites airlifted and boosters. Boosters give you the ability to propel literally any object in the game for often hilarious results.
“Boosters were part of the player’s toolkit in Just Cause 3,” Ronny explains. “But in Just Cause 4, as you see, what we’ve added it to the grappling hook and allowed for deeper customization.”
In one example, Ronny showed how the player could attach boosters to a merry go round, forcing it to spin out of control or tether a balloon to a car and turn it into a jet-propelled vehicle with the boosters.
According to Ronny, “There’s actually four million different possibilities that you can use with the re-tooler vehicle combinations and everything. You can just set up the most ridiculous daisy chains and just cause mayhem in the world as you put it before.”
Yes, you read that right. 4 Million!
Open Sandbox, do what you want but more
So how does Avalanche control the narrative if there’s such a huge number of ways of doing anything the game throws at the player? The answer it seems is in a modular campaign that the player can tackle in any order at any time.
To enable this modularity, Just Cause 4 is set in the fictional country of Solis. Solis is separated into four distinct biomes; Rainforest, Desert, Grasslands and the Alpine. Each of these biomes has their own unique extreme weather event.
The player is free to access any of these biomes right from the beginning of the game. In terms of story, there is an overarching narrative that holds all the biomes together. Solis is also the home of the infamous Black Hand organisation, led by their fearless leader Gabriela. The Black Hand has home court advantage.
Because you’re fighting The Black Hand on their home turf, they have access to significantly more resources than they may have had in the past.
And with that, we’ve expanded on the enemy types that we have in the game.
We’ll have giant titans that can shoot drones into the air. We’ll have heavily armoured, super elite enemies that are incredibly agile and only have a couple of weak points for the players to shoot.
We’ll have enemies known as “ghosts”, which are also very agile enemies but they can camouflage themselves and sort of flank the player from other angles.”
Players will need to be a lot more strategic about how they play. Ammunition won’t be as plentiful and Rico won’t have the resources previously supplied by the Agency. Players will have to rely a lot more on environmental methods of destruction to take on the more heavily armed and resourced Black Hand.
And Just Cause 4 rewards the player for the more chaos they cause.
Agent of mayhem
The Chaos meter returns from Just Cause 2 and essentially fills up the more you cause chaos in the world. As the bar fills, more squads are added to Rico’s Army of Chaos; allies who join in the fight against the Black Hand. With those squads come more weapons and supply drops.
Players will also get access to more open world challenges that allow them to build out the customisations for the grappling hook. The challenges include Strikes.
Strikes are specific missions where players must destroy or disrupt Black hand control areas in the game. These are not strict by design allowing the player to achieve certain goals in order to accomplish the mission. Essentially, the player can use any combination of methods to complete the mission.
“Destruction is very deeply rooted in Just Cause,” Ronny tells me. “We know that if the player destroys these two things, this will happen, and they will move on in the mission.
“We don’t know how they’re going to destroy those two things, but those are there for them to destroy.”
He adds that players are predictable in some ways, but not others. “We know the player has to escort this person from point A to point B. All that matters is they get from point A to point B.. they can jump in the passenger seat of the car. They can call in a helicopter. They could literally grapple the escort all the way over if they don’t kill him.”
Not a telenovela, but there’s a story behind the chaos
But Just Cause 4 isn’t simply wanton chaos without reason. Rico has very specific reasons for being in Solis and going up against the Black Hand even though he’s no longer with the Agency.
The story kicks off about three years after Just Cause 3. Rico has come to Solis looking for his father who apparently contributed to research project of a superweapon.
He’s come to find his missing father and unravel the mysterious superweapon. Perhaps it’s the cause of these extreme weather events?
That’s a little bit deeper into the narrative than we’re willing to go at this time, but basically a rich entrepreneur in Solis, Oscar Espinoza, has been basically investing money into extreme weather research on Solis.
When Rico comes to Solis he finds these extreme weather events throughout the island, and as you progress through the game Rico becomes increasingly more interested in their impact on the world.
One thing for sure is that Just Cause 4 is going to be a hell of a ride. Expect Rico to wage an over-the-top War of Chaos to find his father, solve the mystery of the extreme weather and liberate Solis from the oppression of Gabriela and the Black Hand.
Just Cause 4 releases December 4th 2018 on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Until then feast your eyes on this chaotic trailer that says it all.
Special thanks to Ronny Mraz, Technical Sound Director at Avalanche Studios for graciously taking the time to talk with us.