The Just Cause series has earned its reputation for being over-the-top, action-packed, and stuffed with an insanely large volume of explosions. Just Cause 4, for better or worse, is no different. That’s to say that if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, this is the Christmas treat you’ve been waiting for. However, if, like many, you’ve always been on the fence, there’s not a great deal here to persuade you to fall to its favor. Sure, it’s a cracking game for the most part, but huge, frequent bangs and dizzying firefights will indeed only get you so far.
Furthermore, this year has seen no shortage of open-world games. Rockstar recently redefined the foundation of that concept through their release of Red Dead Redemption 2; a game that’s deep, meaningful and utterly diverse. Whilst Just Cause 4 doesn’t even begin to compare with the quality found in the Western adventure, it serves as an eye opener that developers really need to get on-par and up their game. Nevertheless, I’ll halt any more comparisons right there, because in fairness, there’s a lot to like about this game overall.
Main man Rico Rodriguez is back, only this time, he’s looking for answers that are more personal than ever before. The game is set in the fictional South American country, Solis. Here, nothing is as it seems. I mean, for starters, the weather is all over the freaking place; serving as a deadly, devastating enemy in itself. Project Illapa is the name of the new threat, and it falls to Rico to put an end to this nefarious machine and bring down the Black Hand, run by Gabriela Morales, once and for all. Here, however, Rico has some close ties within.
Evidence shows that Rico’s late father was working with the Black Hand, and so, he makes haste in search of the truth. You’re initially dropped into the world to locate the head of the Black Hand, but before long, a freak storm sees you being sent off-course. Your iconic hook, along with all of your other materials are now broken, forcing you to regain what’s been lost and take to the fight head-on. Just Cause 4 mercifully begins with a decent tutorial introduction that nicely bridges the gap between this game and its immediate predecessor.
Here, you”ll learn the ins and outs of play, from shooting and grappling, right up to deploying your parachute and wreaking mild havoc. For newcomers, this is a worthy addition, though for everyone else, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Once the premise is out of the way, you’re thrown head-first into the story, proper. Sadly, this is where my first gripe comes into view. The game has one hell of a slow start about it, so much so that I almost felt bored and fed up for the first hours of play. Less break ups between segments would have been nice.
Regardless, you’ll meet a selection of new characters that will serve you with your missions. The game wastes no time at making you understand that you’re now a part of an uprising in these hostile lands. The locals will (basically) fight on your side against the Black Hand as progress is made, eventually opening up new opportunities and tasks along the way. I had a blast, pun intended, watching hell unfold throughout. It’s done in a dynamic way that goes far beyond that of a bunch of NPCs slugging it out in the streets as they chase dominance.
There’s gunfire, that’s a given, but picture helicopters, tanks, and all forms of destruction, just lining the game with more action. These groups will fight for strong points, which in a sense, is how the map is broken up. The game’s world is broken into different locations, with area free to explore at risk of leisure. Despite the fact that you can patrol the world in your own time, the areas that it encompasses are lightly locked down. You see, in order to unlock and area’s missions, side missions and everything else, you’ll need to liberate it.
There’s some added leeway later in, but for the most part, you’ll be kicking ass before taking names. To do liberate, you’ll need to complete one mission on each location to unlock it (so to speak), however, there’s an added layer of depth thrown in. Certain locations require two points to unlock, whereas you’ll only earn one point when you complete one area. This is where my second gripe pops up; the damn grind. It takes quite a lot of time and effort to slowly uncover and unlock map sections, feeding into the game’s repetition as a result.
On the plus side, you are indeed afforded more powerful goods per-new area, but a grind is still a grind. The game’s world is gigantic, multi-tiered and gorgeously created. It takes quite a number of hours before you’re even scratching the surface, but once the world truly opens up, it’s hard not to appreciate the blood and sweat that’s clearly been poured in. I daresay that the world within is the game’s greatest asset, which naturally sits well with the series’ core personality of doing whatever you want to do with the tools at your disposal.
Throw in the fact that extreme weather conditions can pop up anywhere without notice, and it lends Just Cause 4 some respectable edge. I oftentimes found that I would spend time just experimenting with the game’s physics and opportunities, and believe me, there’s no shortage of fun to be had doing this. The point I’m trying to make is that Just Cause has always offered nicely sized playgrounds for players to tear up. Just Cause 4 takes this concept miles further through its sheer level of freedom and potential. It’s truly striking.
Whereas previous games had slightly been held back by some limitation, here, thanks to the game’s accessibility and refined mechanics, the possibilities to behave how you like and toy around with its set pieces, are quite literally near-endless. Though, it absolutely goes without saying that the world itself caters for this even further via its diverse, deeply structured design. There’s a lot to see here, and thanks to how distinct many areas are, it rarely feels old starting out. It’s a shame, then, that the game suffers from a slightly grainy presentation.
This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that it became distracting for me before too long. On top of this, some of the game’s character models look a bit awkward. Regardless, this is easy to overlook in the face of everything that the game gets right, but still, it hits home when immersion is infrequently broken. In Just Cause 4, supply drops works much like rebel drops did, only here, you’ll have up to seven planes dropping your goods off for you in a timely fashion; quad bikes, and useful tidbits.
Just be sure to check that the sky above you is clear. Trust me, I made that mistake more times than I cared to count. Speaking of traversal, this brings me to Rico’s gear. We all know and love Rico, his wingsuit, and his infamous set of tools, though here, many of them have been completely redesigned. Rico’s grappling hook is the most powerful version to-date. Not only can you now tether ten different items and objects at once, but the upgrades on offer make for a massively compelling – and wildly entertaining – affair, from start to end.
The last game offered some pretty damn interesting launchers, but here, the concept has been taken to all new heights. First and foremost, you can fire your hook at a range rather than needing to be next to anything, which by itself throws heaps of fun experimentation into the mix. Though, perhaps my favorite mechanic is the ability to use mini-balloons to make anything fly into the sky… anything. Think on that for a moment, and then tie that to vast amount of tools that Rico can utilize – together with the game’s sandbox/physics depth.
Much like any given open-world game worth its sale, you’re free to be as wild as you want to and cause as much mayhem as you like. If I haven’t made it clear enough already, on this front alone, Just Cause 4 is wonderful. The game’s AI are a step-up in comparison to its predecessors. These folks mean business and will pull all forms of punches to stop you in your tracks. There’s a wide selection of weaponry and vehicles on offer to aid you along your journey, but that doesn’t mean that you’re in for a walk in the park, far from it, actually.
Vehicles and weaponry have also been re-worked, as well as terrain structure, giving Just Cause 4 an edge over the games before it. There’s a nice level of fluidity and consistency here, enabling players to build up high speeds and pull off some insanely impressive action segments. The game’s outlandish personality takes many liberties; helicopters with giant magnets on them, car trailers that act like ramps, and even a bulldozer with a shovel. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and it certainly looks that way, but it’s as fun as Just Cause can be.
I only wish that the story had more grip and a better pace. I mean, sure, there’s something relatively interesting to soak up here, but it hardly walks a compelling line. The game looks and sounds sensational, despite its play-it-safe voice acting. Though above all else, its performance is on point. This was a concern of mine from the get-go. However, I’m more than glad to report that the game suffers nowhere near as much as its immediate predecessor did, on a technical basis – an achievement in itself, given the gameplay depth.
My main gripe, and the game’s biggest drawback? Repetition, as alluded to above. I’ll make it clear, Just Cause 4 offers fun by the bucket-load. Manipulating the weather, playing with fire, chaining together tools, and just generally blowing shit up, is exhilarating. Sadly, it all gets a bit stale after several hours of play. More so when we consider that most missions are generic. The game is at its best during the initial hours of play, but after that, you sit back and realize that you’re doing the same stuff over and over, and it begins to hit home.
The lack of a better story means that you’re literally guiding your own entertainment. Which is fine if you’re content with experimentation alone, but for me, I enjoy my open-world games much better when I have something more story driven and interesting to follow. I want to make it absolutely clear, Just Cause 4 is the best Just Cause in the series, but it could have been so, so much better if more strength was given to the game’s pacing, and its overall world structure was more defined. Nonetheless, for Just Cause lovers, this is a must have.
Just Cause 4 is easily the best game in the series, seamlessly combining its freedom of experimentation with its signature, action-packed concept. The addition of extreme weather effects, together with the game’s redefined functionalities, go hand in glove to produce wildly entertaining gameplay opportunities from the get-go. Unfortunately, the game’s weak story and its grindy structure ultimately pulls it just shy of greatness.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.