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Just Cause 4 protects creative players from death

A safeguard encourages experimental, dangerous play

Just Cause 4 - Rico riding a motorcycle across a bridge away from an explosion while a fighter jet trails him overhead Avalanche Studios/Square Enix

Most of what you’ll hear about Just Cause 4 will sound familiar. You once again take on the role of Rico Rodriguez, the death-defying black ops agent who just can’t help but unseat South American dictators with explosions. While the fourth entry in the franchise plays off the foundations of previous entries, it also adds new features like extreme weather to create a wilder experience. But there’s a much smaller, less obvious addition that I can’t stop thinking about, and it may be my favorite aspect of the game.

I recently got to sit down with the game and members of its developer, Avalanche Studios, at a pre-release preview event. I learned a lot about how the new weather system works and how they’ve made tweaks to the formula to make the destruction more creative this time around. As I was flying around a demo stage meant to show off how lightning strikes work dynamically, I accidentally made myself the target of the lightning, not my enemies or nearby towers.

I should have died, of course. Instead, I made it through the whole demo in one piece, which felt great.

But how come I didn’t die once?

I was told by the developers that the game won’t feature any “insta-kill events,” in order to encourage players to be more experimental with their chaos. So regardless if you happen to get zapped by lighting or accidentally explode a red barrel in your face, Rico won’t instantly die from the damage. He will, of course, be severely hurt, but as long as you don’t take any additional immediate damage, Rico can recover and keep going.

The concept of a game saving its players from death isn’t new. But there have been times in other action games where temporary immunity still wasn’t enough to prevent my random, accidental deaths. Sometimes, these are the fault of human error, like shooting a rocket launcher too close to another enemy in Destiny 2. Other deaths feel just random, or even unfair, like all the sneak attacks in the Dark Souls series.

Thankfully, neither of these will halt your progress in Just Cause 4.

Keeping Rico alive despite the massive damage he sustains is a smart inclusion in a game as over-the-top as Just Cause 4. Knowing that I could dodge my demise encouraged me to be more daring. I was more willing to dive headfirst into tornadoes, shoot grenades into crowds of enemies while riding on the roof of a truck, or strap rocket boosters onto a shipping container to fly into battle.

Feeling untouchable, even for a brief moment, I was able to pull off stunts that felt more cinematic than I would have thought possible otherwise. It’s s nice knowing that there’s some padding behind-the-scenes that will let everyone push the limits.

Just Cause 4 will come out on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, on December 4.

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