'Destruction makes freedom': how modding shaped Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3

It's no secret that Just Cause's story missions are thinly veiled excuses to blow stuff up, but Just Cause 3 is a whole lot more blatant about it than its predecessor. When Square Enix released the game's story trailer last week it seemed like an afterthought: most of the publisher's marketing material has focused on the spectacular action setpieces we'll be able to improvise on the fly, and in a chat with Roland Lesterlin at PAX last week, he was very forthright about the game's real intentions, and how its open-ended chaos was inspired by Just Cause 2 mods.

"In Just Cause 3 we’re trying to get out of the way of the player," Lesterlin said. "Our difficulty curve isn’t about defeating a particular enemy, it’s about destroying stuff. Destruction makes freedom. The soldiers are there and they can kill you, and they can overwhelm you, but that’s not really the point. You can put two grapples on a guy and slingshot him into something else and it’ll blow up. It’s more about your creativity."

That ethos feeds into the new gear mod systems in Just Cause 3. Unlocked linearly, these allow users to tinker with weapons, gadgets and vehicles to an extent usually seen only in user-generated mods. Lesterlin said this new toolset was designed to bring the 'anything goes' atmosphere of the JC2 modding scene to consoles, and while the mods provide small changes – like adding nitrous boosts to a vehicle, or making grenades explode on impact, to name two examples – you can turn several on at once, and you can even use them in the campaign.

Lesterlin said a lot of the features in Just Cause 3 were inspired by the JC2 modding community. "Things like the Superman mod, where you could fly around the world, we thought was cool. You don’t want to fly forever because Rico isn't Superman, but if we could figure out how to make the wingsuit feel fast and move around like that [all the better]," he said. "The grappling hook [in JC3] was inspired by a mod where you had heaps of grappling lines and we thought, yeah that’s cool, we just need to figure out the physics."

"The modding community did something that was more of an emotional touchpoint," he continued. "They were modding things that made the game more ridiculous, like removing cash so you could just spawn whatever you want whenever you want. So we were like, maybe our rebel drop system will allow people to get all the weapons they want and the vehicles they want."

So if the base Just Cause 3 game is allowing players the type of freedom usually reserved for PC mods, how much freedom will actual modders have? Lesterlin didn't know for sure ("we haven’t really done any specific announcements about modding support for modders"), but the community has his blessing – especially anyone who wants to add multiplayer, as one dedicated modding team did for Just Cause 2.

"I think its amazing," Lesterlin said of the multiplayer mod. "That’s an insane technical achievement they pulled off and we were impressed by it. We even got in touch with some of the guys who made it, and we played with them on a private server, laughing around.

"I really hope that people do that for Just Cause 3. If you’re going to spend your personal time to mod a game, to me that is the greatest form of flattery, it means we’ve made a game worthy of modding. To me that’s awesome. I really hope that modders get excited and send us feedback and we’ll do whatever we can to make sure that what they need is there."

Just Cause 3 launches in December.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.