Storm chasers have not been particularly well catered for in games. Weather systems have been a feature in games for at least 20 years, with 1994’s Donkey Kong Country coming to mind.
Past implementations leave a lot to be desired, with most genres focusing on the visual effect more than any gameplay changes a weather system could bring. Technology moving forward at such a rapid pace has allowed certain genres to bring in gameplay changes, with racing games being at the forefront of weather-based physics. Just Cause 4 looks to change that, expanding on the Havok physics engine present in Just Cause 3. This time out, tornadoes and tropical storms are heavily tied into the physics, allowing for some stunning scenes rarely seen in games.
Two more open world games have released this year with lots spoken of their differences in style. Red Dead Redemption 2 uses a version of the Rockstar Rage Engine which incorporates Euphoria animation techniques. The implementations in Red Dead have led to countless YouTube clips and gifs of horse crashes, accidental deaths and even failed mission encounters. There is a split in the community on whether this level of realism is needed, and if it enhances the game or not.
Assassins Creed Odyssey is a game that doesn’t focus on realistic physics, especially when they have the capability to cause player frustration. Quick loot animations, snappy character physics and a horse that doesn’t fight back; Odyssey’s open world feels vastly different.
Living, breathing worlds akin to Rockstar’s releases are less common than the style seen in Odyssey. Ubisoft’s formula for an open world is one that works, and one that requires a lot less attention to detail than the eight-years-in-the-making Red Dead 2. Other examples like Sunset Overdrive, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Saints Row use a similar, streamlined approach to physics and realism. We haven’t all got eight years Rockstar…
Gears of War 4’s weather is the closest a game has come in recent memory to Just Cause 4. During the single player campaign, (and later in multiplayer) some levels featured a “wind-flare” mechanic, a strong wind similar to a tornado, which affects a number of things in the game world including cover, bullet spread and character movement. Scripted, yes, but convincing nonetheless and a showcase of what Unreal Engine 4 can do with its weather and physics systems. Just Cause 4 may be utilising a different engine and philosophy for its game world, but the physics effect is remarkably similar.
A more free-form approach to game-altering physics is the “gravity gun” in Half Life 2. Back in 2003, the game’s marketing was heavily dependent on state-of-the-art physics for the time, with a tech demo being released at E3 that year. It showed how, using the gravity gun, the player can alter much of the world and the materials within. Flying barrels, breakable materials and realistic corpse physics, all movable with the gravity gun, 2007’s Half Life 2 had it all for the time. Graphically speaking we have moved on, but much of the game’s physics system is still impressive to this day. We’ll not speak of the lack of a sequel…
In 2015, Just Cause 3 struggled to run efficiently, with massive performance issues across PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Being further into this console cycle, along with the additional grunt the Pro and X provide, Just Cause 4’s performance will hopefully be a lot more stable. This year, all eyes are on whether Just Cause 4 can live up to its potential regarding physics simulation and game-altering weather effects. Grappling into the eye of a tornado? Check. An exotic open world in a fictional South America? Check. Just chaos? Absolutely.
Just cause 4 releases December 4, 2018 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.