Looks like Just Cause 3 is happening then. Of course, we’d suspected that may be the case since December of last year, when developer Avalanche Studios released a rather conspicuous video of the team scouting locations in Costa Rica for “future games”. With Costa Rica comprising the lush, sun-drenched, beach-and-rainforest environments that the JC series is known for (and certainly not, say, the deserts on show in Avalanche’s other current project, Mad Max), it was a fairly safe bet that part 3 was at least being considered. But now that publisher Square-Enix has registered the justcause3.com domain name, a few months before E3, that’s a new bout of tropical, open-world carnage basically confirmed.
Obviously this is good news on an immediate, surface level. The Just Cause series, particularly the second game, is pretty damn brilliant. Sporting rather unique and immensely evocative environments, packed with some of the most extravagant, creative, player-lead action in the open-world genre, Just Cause might never have attained the megaton status of a Grand Theft Auto or a Saints Row, but it has provided some of the most exciting games of its type ever since it first appeared last-last gen.
But there’s a deeper reason to celebrate here, and it rather hinges upon that latter sentiment above. First of all, the advent of a series like Just Cause getting a big budget, triple-A (presumably) next-gen sequel is a great symbol of health for the industry as we move into a new generation of hardware. Last-gen, particularly over the last few years of the outgoing platforms’ life, there was a choking sense that gaming’s roster was rapidly consolidating into two disparate camps: Big, safe-bets, and cheap, small-scale offerings.
For a great but arguably second-tier franchise like Just Cause to get a vote of confidence like this--when many other much-loved single and double-A series have fallen by the wayside since the days of the PS2--is a great sign that there’s still faith in expensive games without the absolute top-level brand value of the industry’s bigger boys.
Beyond that, it absolutely should not be forgotten that Avalanche remains a resolutely independent, self-owned, triple-A studio. Those are a depressing rarity these days. Gaming used to be rife with large scale indies making big games for big publishers on their own terms, but, much like the franchises they used to make, we’ve seen far too many of them disappear over recent years, either folding or being absorbed into publishers, losing their identity along with their creative control.
Bizarre Creations, Free Radical Design, Pandemic… the list is far, far too long by now. And I had worried that Avalanche might be going the same way. The studio’s 2015 Mad Max tie-in looks excellent, but it is an official film license being made on behalf of a vast multimedia empire, in the shape of Warner Bros. That’s often the sort of game that acts as a stepping stone to a buy-out and absorption, but it seems that Avalanche has defiantly avoided that path.
Mad Max is being made by WB, Just Cause 3 (assuming it definitely exists, because it almost certainly does) is being made for Square-Enix. And in the middle, separate from both, is Avalanche, still doing its own thing, and still getting the massive funding and support it needs to keep doing its own thing. In Europe, of all places. Not even the mighty IO Interactive has managed that heady feat, having been bought by Eidos in 2004 and swallowed by S-E in 2009. Strong work, Avalanche, strong work indeed. Keep it up guys, and bring us some more of that high-flying, pararachute-packing lunacy as soon as you possibly can.