Grappling with the chaos of Just Cause 3

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“This makes attacking bases more fun. Maybe you’ll wingsuit into a base and use your guns, then grapple up to an enemy helicopter and suddenly you’re in an air battle. The more varied the game is, the more fun it is.”

Looking at the snow falling outside, I wonder if the Avalanche team have ever thought about trying a setting that wasn’t quite so sunny and idyllic for Just Cause 3. “We had a lot of ideas about where to set the game, but one of the things that makes Just Cause feel like Just Cause is that it’s set on an archipelago. You can fly away from the map and it’s all ocean, for miles. That gives us a natural boundary for the world.”

Sparkling, azure water has always been a big part of the magic too. “We love water. Water is beautiful, and we’re working on some really nice rendering where you can see underneath it. When you see that crystal clear ocean, you just want to hang out there. It’s the middle of winter, I’m in Sweden, and it’s cold outside, so it’s nice to be in a vacation spot!” Water physics will make boats more fun to use, and Avalanche is working closely with Nvidia to make it look super pretty at the same time.

“We picked the Mediterranean, and when we were looking for inspiration in other games we realised there just weren’t that many set there. It’s difficult to build, which may explain this. There are towns on cliffs and curvy roads. There’s a reason why a lot of open worlds are grids. Everything’s at right angles. Now we’re dealing with curves and cliffs, but the art team have been doing some amazing things to get the vibe right.”

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“The new setting also has a sense of history previous games didn’t. Some of the earliest recorded history has been found in the Mediterranean.” This is something I’ve noticed while flying around the map. As well as modern towns, I spot ancient Roman-style ruins jutting out of the landscape. There’s also a huge snow-capped mountain in the distance. The developers acknowledge there aren’t any of these in the Mediterranean, but decided to take artistic licence in the interests of fun. You can, of course, climb to the top.

“The first region you start in is going to be pretty dense,” Lesterlin says. “There’s lots of towns, outposts, military bases, challenges, side activities and random events. If a rebel spawns near the military, they’re going to fight each other. This gives you a sense of the conflict going on in this region. But there’s a lot of open space, particularly towards the north of the map. When you reach that part of the game, you’re going to be using jets. We want density where we need it, but we also need a big world too.”

The PC was incremental in the success and continued popularity of Just Cause 2, and Avalanche knows it. “For PC gamers with really big rigs, the game is going to look pretty spectacular. But it’ll still look OK on a mid-range machine too. We love PC games. I play a lot of them. So we won’t ignore the fact that there’s such a big modding community out there. We want to give back to them as much as we can.”

Just Cause 3 is shaping up to be pretty special. Everything feels slicker and more polished than in the last game—even at the early stage I played it at. Combining that varied, vertiginous world with the new wingsuit and destruction physics could make this the most thrilling open-world sandbox on PC. And if the modders get their hands on it, it should have longer shelf life than most, as well.