Having attached a grappling hook from my military helicopter to a tractor, I’m about to try to take off. In my head, this will be, at worst, mildly entertaining. A tractor dangling in mid-air while I fly around Just Cause 3’s pretty and massive mediterranean world. Maybe I’ll drop it on some of the game’s extremely fragile explosive canisters in a military base—a tractor bomb!
It doesn’t quite work out that way.
I take off and spin in the air for about 20 seconds, anchored to the ground by the heavy tractor. Rather than lifting the thing, I accidentally drag it off a cliff and it tumbles into the ocean, dragging me down with it. The helicopter blows up on contact with the water, the wreckage continues its journey to the depths. Oh well. I swim ashore. Minutes later, I’ve daisy-chained a helicopter to a blue car to a reactor unit that explodes when the helicopter lifts it high enough off the ground.
This has always been Just Cause for me: a box of tricks. As a player, you throw every component together and see what kind of amusement you can create from the chaos. The story is window-dressing; you can go anywhere in the world within about 20 minutes of booting up. I played Just Cause 1 and 2 for around 10-15 hours each. They were both fun for as long as the tricks in the box felt fresh and exciting. Just Cause 3 just needed more of those tricks. So Avalanche decided to let you become Superman.
Well, let me qualify that. It’s really more like Batman via Superman. Just Cause’s protagonist Rico Rodriguez, for whom I’ve never had any affection or feeling outside of his ability to retract and redeploy parachutes almost instantly, comes packed with a wingsuit in Just Cause 3. We looked at this in our cover feature a few months back, and from Andy Kelly’s write-up I sort of assumed it would be a somewhat breezier version of Batman: Arkham’s gliding ability. It isn’t. It’s a lot harder to get the hang of. For one thing, if you meet the ground face-first, you don’t coolly segue into a perfect landing like Batman does. You faceplant across the road like a particularly stupid flying squirrel.
“I get the same feedback from journalists,” producer Omar Shakir tells me. “They always say ‘I saw what you did and thought it was too easy—but then I started doing it myself and realised there’s actually a difficulty curve to this’. That’s definitely something that’s important to us. We want to give you the tools to feel good.”
What’s exciting is the element of risk-reward the wingsuit promises to bring to the existing flight pattern of grappling hook and parachute. Those two gadgets got you to where you needed to be, working in tandem with the game’s planes and cars, but now you can theoretically get around without a vehicle at all—if you want to risk it.
It’s also nice to have a new mode of transport to learn. By the end of the demo and a couple of hours of play, I’ve got a basic handle on the wingsuit. I pull off a nice manoeuvre where I skim carefully past some cliffs using the grappling hook to pull myself along. Do it right, and it feels great. I’d love to take it to the next level and glide to another zone of the world altogether, having first jumped out of a helicopter at some insane height, but I’m not allowed to stray out of the opening area. I can see an enormous snowy mountain in the distance, as well as an oil rig out in the ocean.