Ever since Doom Guy, video game characters have been capable of taking much more of a beating than their puny human counterparts. Whether they’re soaking up bullets, healing improbably fast, or simply ragdolling down a cliff-edge, the tendency for your heroes to take damage that would killer lesser mortals, but then get up and dust themselves off is pretty well-established.
There are exceptions to this, often found reasonably fragile members of present-day open-world games. The central trio of GTAV, like the normal human beings that they are, don’t offer much resistance to sustained gunfire. Nor, in a similar vein, does Watch Dogs 2‘s Marcus. These characters are simple flesh and blood, and when someone turns a gun on them, they tend to act as though they are exactly that.
On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of games in which your protagonist can take some significant punishment but still come out fighting. Crucially though, these games provide some context for these beatings. The Witcher 3‘s Geralt is a mutant, enhanced to improve his strength, speed and reflexes. Gears of War’s Marcus Fenix and co are encased in enormous suits of armour. Skyrim’s Dovahkiin is the stuff of legend, with the ability to tap into ancient magic almost beyond his world’s understanding. While these characters are all, at least on the surface, kind of human (apologies to those of you who play as Argonians or Khajiit), there’s a reason they can take the kind of beatings that get dished out to them.
But then we have Just Cause’s Rico Rodriguez. A man whose ability to survive everything a physics-based sandbox can throw in him would have lesser men cowering in fear. According to the games, he is just as human as the rest of us, but it doesn’t take much investigation to realise that this is a shallow lie. He is far, far more.
Before we even get started on his physicality, it’s worth noting that Rico has the uncanny ability to change his appearance at will. He has looked and sounded entirely different in every Just Cause game thus far, something even his closest friends appear not to realise. Whether this is the result of extensive plastic surgery or something more supernatural is unclear, but it’s an undeniably useful skill.
Then we approach the physical aspects of Rico’s super-humanity. Our hero seems to be modelled after Marvel’s Luke Cage, as he is able to ignore substantial blast trauma, has skin immune to fire and all but the most immediate blast damage, and can absorb a worrying amount of gunfire. On top of that, his regenerative powers are such that he requires only a brief rest before charging back into the fray. But this is small-time compared to the rest of his powers.
Rico’s most famous asset is his ability to entirely disobey commonly-held laws of physics, often manifesting itself in his rank dissatisfaction with G-forces, and, in fact, the law of Gravity in general. Not only is he often able to land comfortably on his feet, no matter the speed, direction or angle of his fall, but his body is capable of withstanding forces that would shatter the body of a normal man.
Ancient capital punishment often utilised ‘quartering’ – dividing a human being into 4. A common way of doing this involved using four horses, each attached to the victim’s separate limbs, and getting them to run off in different directions, tearing the man into 4. Exactly how effective this was is uncertain, but it gives us a decent benchmark to work from – 4 horsepower*. This roughly implies that a speed of somewhere in the region of 6-7 mph in different directions is enough to rip a man’s arm off, as long as the force is applied suddenly.
There is a moment in JC3 where Rico, from a standing start, is attached, by his forearm, to a cruising fighter jet, without warning. Make and model obviously differ, but lets say, for the sake of argument, that this was an F20, going at 80% of its top speed. This comes out to near enough 1,200mph, roughly 200 times faster than the ancients would have us believe was necessary. Even if Rico’s arm had remained in its socket, the whiplash should have shattered his spine. Travelling at that speed unprotected would have torn the skin from his body. By all commonly-held beliefs, there should have been nothing left of Rico by the time that jet came back in to land. And yet the next time we see him he’s standing tall, looking out ominously from the top of a mountain, almost as if nothing has happened.
Rico Rodriguez is no man. He is something far greater. A thing to be feared, for he laughs in the face of the forces that govern the stars themselves.
*Maths in this post is going to be questionable at best – I tried to find some more exact figures, but got nowhere. This was the most commonly quoted figure, although I’m pretty sure it’s wrong.