Just Cause 4 preview: Tornado rules

What's left for Rico Rodriguez to conquer? The answer is the elements, as Shacknews goes hands-on with the upcoming Just Cause 4.

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A major part of the joy of the Just Cause series is its devil-may-care attitude and its direction that embraces pure open-world chaos. There are few other game series that allow players to zoom by at high speeds on a wingsuit, while grappling onto moving planes and firing a rocket launcher at a watertower. Hey, there's a gas station! Can you blow it up? Of course! Why? Just Cause, that's why!

What kingdoms are possibly left for Just Cause to conquer and/or blow up? The answer in Just Cause 4 is the very elements themselves, as Rico Rodriguez heads into enemy territory to face his greatest challenge yet. Shacknews glides onto the island of Solis to get a taste of what players can expect.

Just Cause 4 sees Rico Rodriguez venturing to the Black Hand's home turf. Solis is not just a lovely tropical island, but it's also the biggest open world in the series to date. Rico arrives, guns blazing and every bit as wild as ever. But against Black Hand leader Gabriela Morales, this proves to be a liability. A master tactician and a military mastermind, Morales is able to subdue Rico in short order and completely hand him his behind. Clearly outmatched and facing down a cartoonish weather station called Project Illapa, Rico must opt for a more strategic approach with Solis' rebels, led by Gabriela's cousin, Mira Morales.

Many of Rico's tools of the trade make their return. The most prominent of these items is Rico's grappling hook, which proves to be one of the most effective traversal methods in the game. It's possible to go from place-to-place quickly by just grappling across large areas. It's even possible to go vertical quickly, as I quickly found out when I was at the bottom of a massive hole. The grappling hook was able to get me back above ground and blowing things up in no time.

The grappling hook also comes with some new abilities. Rico's tool now comes with special attachments. One allows him to place a Retractor tether between two objects, as a way to weigh down heavy objects, open large doors, or simply as a destruction method. There's an Air Lifter, which is a tether balloon. This allows for Rico to clear paths by air lifting them out of the way, but it also proves to be an effective way to deal with enemy vehicles, as well as enemy soldiers themselves, by having these helium balloon lift them into the sky. Lastly, there are Boosters, which best feed into the Just Cause brand of mayhem. These provide rocket boosts to any object they're attached to, whether they be vehicles or anything else. Using a rocket-propelled motorcycle proved to be the fanciest way to get around. At least it was until I hit a bump and spun around hundreds of times at uncontrollable speed before exploding.

The other easy way to get around is the wingsuit, making its triumphant return from Just Cause 3. The wingsuit allows for simple gliding across long distances. It combines with the grappling hook and with the parachute to cover quick distances. Of course, this doesn't replace a good old-fashioned vehicle and Rico has plenty of land, sea, and air vehicles to choose from.

As noted earlier, the biggest addition to Just Cause 4 is extreme weather. Solis has several distinct biomes, each with a different environment and each with their own extreme weather event. Those events include blizzards, tropical storms, and sandstorms. The most omnipresent terror, however, is the tornado. The tornado is often visible, regardless of where Rico is on the map, and it's constantly on the move. It is theoretically possible to fly into the eye of the storm with a helicopter or any other air vehicle. Of course, it's also possible to drive with your feet and the results of both are likely to be lethal.

A major aspect of the story sees Rico getting to the bottom of these extreme weather events and that leads into Operations. Operations are special missions tied to the extreme weather events. While Shacknews didn't have much exposure to these missions, Avalanche made sure to note that these are not short objectives and will prove to be challenging. With that in mind, Rico can pick up special weapons tied to the elements for these missions that can then be used for the rest of the game. And like every weapon in the game, these weapons have a secondary fire function. Playing around with secondary fire is another one of Just Cause 4's little joys, just because they often prove to be explosive.

Though Rico needs to work more carefully to take out the Black Hand, that doesn't mean he's forsaken carnage entirely. In fact, the best way to recruit rebels is to create as much mayhem as humanly possible. To help out with that, Supply Drops make their return from Just Cause 3. However, they're a little more refined this time around. For this game, players will encounter multiple Supply Drop pilots, some of which can drop mundane items, others that can drop vehicles, and even some that can drop massive super weapons. Destruction remains the name of the game and Just Cause 4 looks to live up to that name more than ever.

Just Cause 4 is scheduled to round out a year full of dynamite AAA releases, as Rico Rodriguez rides again on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on December 4.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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