Just Cause 3 is looking... well... it's looking pretty Just Cause-y to be honest, if these rumoured screenshots of the Xbox One debug build are anything to go by. They don't reveal a huge amount apart from mountains, expansive landscapes, Rico shooting at traffic, and the purchasing of cars.
Eurogamer have managed to verify at least one of the images, more on that in a bit, but have your pinches of salt at the ready anyway.
I'm still yet to 100% Just Cause 2 -- I doubt now that I ever will -- but that hasn't stopped it being one of my favourite games in recent years, nor has it prevented us here at Dealspwn Towers craving a third instalment. Avalanche are being very coy, and no doubt focusing most of their efforts on Mad Max, but the return of Rico Rodriguez must surely be a priority for them.
We need him back, badly.
Ubisoft's open world offerings have become hackneyed to the point of parody, with every single one of their expansive properties, including a sodding driving game, basically following the same formula. It remains to be seen whether or not Assassin's Creed: Unity or Far Cry 4 can hope to buck that trend, but it looks unlikely. That's not to say that they'll be bad games, and it would be churlish and wrong to lay down pre-emptive value judgements, but I'm not anticipating them particularly surprising me, either.
GTA V, for all of its impressive storytelling and window dressing, never really gave us the keys to the world or an opportunity to really mark our marks, and the same can be said of less ambitious, open-world titles such as the recent Infamous games. Saints Row IV gave us plenty of toys, too, but precious few ways to dynamically interact with the world around us beyond prescribed missions.
Now it's important to note that none of the games described above are bad, they each have their own strengths, and cater to different action-oriented (I'm going to leave RPGs aside for this conversation) open-world experiences, but Just Cause 3 would be a real breath of fresh air.
For starters, the map would be huge. Just think how expansive Panau was, and imagine what Avalanche would be able to tap into now, thanks to significantly more powerful PCs, and a crop of consoles that's a big step up too. Panau had it all -- from bustling urban settlements to dreamy beaches, tropical jungles, and snow-capped mountains. Better still, thanks to Rico's daredevil exploits, traversal was fantastic. Base jumping off of a mountain, only to land on a car, surf it for several miles (or throw the driver a way and leap behind the wheel, and then grapple onto a passing helicopter never got old. Just Cause 2 was the ultimate playground, and the mind boggles considering how Avalanche could expand upon that for a sequel.
Of course, the ebb and flow of resistance fighters vs government militia was a massive part of the game. Territory counted for so much, and that's certainly a part of the game that could be built upon. Consider for a moment the advances we've seen over the past few years in terms of dynamic gameplay. Territorial action on the part of the government could be something really special. Panau was stuffed with outposts and silos and other places of interest to infiltrate and destroy in a bid to take over more territory for the revolution. What if, thanks to improved AI, you had an enemy that now rolled with the punches -- a foe who would regroup and strike back at you harder if you failed to finish the job completely? Sounds appetising, right?
One obvious area for improvement would be the gun-based combat. Combat in the previous game was awful. In fact, back in my review of Just Cause 2, I wondered aloud if Avalanche had purposefully made the gunplay rubbish to encourage the stuntman acrobatics:
There is a downside to all of this updated Tarzan action: it distracts completely from the combat. You see Avalanche were always going to encounter the old question of ‘Why don’t you just shoot your enemies with the gun that you have?’, and they’ve come up with a relatively simple way of skirting the issue. Their solution has been to make the third-person shooter aspect of the game extremely mediocre. The gunplay feels lighter than an Aero bubble and lacks feedback, a flaw all the more noticeable because the game succeeds in giving the player all of the explosive action they could possibly want in other areas. It’s almost as if you’re Spider-man, armed with a spud gun.
Expanding Rico's arsenal and abilities, and paying heed to the way in which they work together could be great. As fun as it was to grapple hook and paraglide all over the place, Rico had precious few armaments to use in tandem with his acrobatic skills, more interplay is required, but that's certainly not beyond a studio of Avalanche's talents.
I'm less keen on this black market/microtransactions idea, though. Here's what Eurogamer had to say regarding the matter:
A source close to the project who asked not to be named verified the first image, saying it showed off Just Cause 3's Black Market. This lets players drop items into the game world at will.
There was once a plan to have the PC version of Just Cause 3 free-to-play, with the console versions paid-for titles with optional micro-transactions, but we understand the plan changed and this may no longer be the case.
It's important not to jump to conclusions, but in my opinion F2P Just Cause would have been a horrible idea. They would have had to fundamentally change the nature of the game to accommodate the pricing model. I'd like to say I'd have given Avalanche the benefit of the doubt, and there are solid F2P games out there, but very few with the scope of a Just Cause game. As for a black market, well that could certainly work. But balance will be the key. Square and Avalanche are keeping incredibly tight-lipped about all of this, though, so we'll wait until we know what we're dealing with before we go off on one regarding specifics.
We've seen how important tone and atmosphere can be for a game, and Just Cause is a series that's never taken itself too seriously, but has always provided meaty content, plenty of things to do, and a vast array of diverse gameplay opportunities, many of which affect the world in a meaningful fashion, all the while delighting in stuntastic OOT action. In this world of highlight clips, YouTube vids, and sharing those brilliant and bonkers moments, Just Cause deserves centre stage, more suited to this sort of limelight, arguably, than current favourite GTA. Moreover, unlike so many games made for YouTube, it seems, Just Cause brought insane highlight reels time and time again, but there was real substance to the games.
We need you back, Rico.