None of us are under any illusions about what Just Cause is and that includes the game’s developers. They know that it is ridiculous, silly and over-the-top. They know that people don’t come to Just Cause for an engrossing, meditative story, or reflective thematics. They come to it to attach a sports car to a jet plane, to blow stuff up with C4 and to fly about in a wing suit. That’s precisely why Avalanche Studios says that it is maintaining its focus on giving players a sandbox to mess about in, and thus, providing them with a variety of systems that they can combine to create spectacular and explosive moments. Yes, there will be a story, but Avalanche says that the it is going to strike the right tone, reflecting the ostentatious, B-movie feel of the action that you’ll be partaking in. In any case, story is not the priority for Just Cause 3. The priority is to ensure it lets players loose and lets them get on with playing.
The fact that Avalanche is focusing its energy on the things that made the series appealing in the first place is good news for Just Cause 3, because the studio is making the right noises about dialling up its best mechanics and removing barriers to fun. For one, there is the famous tethering mechanic that lets you connect vehicles, buildings, enemies, explosive barrels and whatever else you fancy. Where as before you could only have one tether active, Just Cause 3 is now allowing you to have up to three active tethers (though the studio has indicated that it is considering the possibility of four or five). The idea is to further foster that creativity that makes sandbox games so enjoyable, to open up the potential of the kinds of chaos you can create by tethering objects, vehicles and enemies together in different combinations.
Then there’s C4. Avalanche is well aware that people spend a lot of time using C4 to blow stuff up in Just Cause games. In the series’ previous entry, you had to actively search for C4 when you ran out. Why, the logic goes, make players have to jump through that hoop if blowing stuff up is something they enjoy? In Just Cause 3, you will always have C4, meaning you will never be at a loss when it comes to that quint essential Just Cause compulsion to make things explode. It will be balanced, in some fashion, probably by only allowing you to have so much C4 planted at once, but still, the thinking is sound. Making people search for C4 was making it difficult to for them to do what they want, so Just Cause 3 does away with that.
The same goes for vehicle spawning. You could spawn vehicles in Just Cause 2, but you had to pay significant amounts of in-game cash to get them. If you wanted to play around with some cars and copters, tethering them, crashing them, or whatever else you fancied, you might find your fun interrupted by running out of cash. Just Cause 3 is removing that barrier, making it far easier and quicker to get what you want. Again, there will be some kind of alternative balancing, but Just Cause 3 is trying to remove the barriers in the name of fun, allowing players to do what they want in the game.
It’s great to see that Avalanche hasn’t lost sight of what it is that won the Just Cause series its fans, because it’s that sense of fun, that desire to let us ‘play’ in the traditional sense, that makes it stand out. Plenty of our favourite games take a serious tone and deal with weighty subjects, but sometimes it’s nice to play a game that gives you the tools to piss about and have a laugh. The indications are that Just Cause 3 will be the game to scratch that itch when it hits PS4 at the end of this year. (Play Issue 255)