“A plan is just a list of things that go wrong,” quips Rico Rodriguez, Just Cause 4’s thrill-seeking protagonist, in a cutscene that plays out mere moments before he sets off on yet another explosion spree. He’ll claim that it’s all in aid of helping the poor people of Solis fight back against a notorious dictatorship occupying their country, but really, deep down, we can’t help but feel that it’s due to some deeply hidden desire to fulfil a perverse appetite for destruction. Those with similar taste in Rico’s high-octane thrills will find it in this fourth entry of Square Enix’s physics-defying series, even if the ensuing chaos does collapse at times.
Just as players familiar with the franchise might expect, Just Cause 4 continues the previous game’s fetish for letting you wreak havoc within an exotic open world paradise. Your primary methods of doing so consist of the typical tool selection found in other games of its ilk: military vehicles, heavy artillery, gadgets… But it’s really through freedom of movement where Just Cause 4 stands apart, and where the fun taking down baddies is most found. This is all made possible by Rico’s returning grapple hook, which lets you approach hostile situations however you choose thanks to its long range, varied function and creative use to tie objects together.
Let’s say you’re tasked with destroying a series of generators key to decreasing the occupying enemy force’s influence. You could set an objective marker, drive up to the facility, and go in all guns blazing sure, but only in Just Cause 4 can you dive off one of the island’s many high peaks, pop your parachute before gliding down to the compound using your wingsuit, zipping your way around the compound via grapple hook while also using it to manipulate the environment around you before turning it on bad guys. Realistic? No. Outlandish? Yes. But boy does is allow you to realise your ‘80s action movie fantasies – all in a manner of your choosing.
Just Cause 4 has you consistently engaged in improvisational scenarios such as this, tethered together by the faintest of plots. This is to say that, in this area, the game suffers from a very distinct sense of ‘been there done that’ – even by open world game standards. Much like how Just Cause 3 saw you liberate town after town in the effort to overthrow an evil dictator, the plot here is unnervingly similar. The only real difference is that Rico Rodriguez has slightly more personal investment in his actions this time, after finding evidence that his late father was working with The Black Hand, Just Cause 4’s flavour of foe.
Thankfully, there are a few new elements introduced that help shake up the Just Cause formula ever so slightly. Chief among them are the added customisation options available for the grappling hook. Whereas before using it to your advantage would be a simple case of connecting objects together to create an all-to addictive chain of action and reaction, here it’s increased ten-fold by an enhanced booster rocket and what’s called an air lifter. You’re able to select which one to prioritise and how it functions from a loadout menu, rendering said loadouts interchangeable on the fly.
Booster rockets have appeared previously in Just Cause, but now you’re able to attach as many as you’d like to any object you’d like. Trust us, there can be something quite therapeutic about blasting a ship across the river and into an enemy radio dish. Air lifters equally let control your environment in stylish and inventive ways, having you tethering balloons to anything in sight until it’s raining cars and satellite dishes. Pulling off a lot of these manoeuvres in Just Cause 4 can initially feel cumbersome, but there can be nothing more rewarding than orchestrating them in such a way that you’re able to unleash a Rube Goldberg machine of anarchy.
Speaking of anarchy, while the core tenets of what Just Cause 4 has you doing often suffers from a general feeling of overfamiliarity and repetition, it is at least offset somewhat by a handful of missions centred around intense weather. You see, at multiple times in the ‘story’ the usual cycle of shooting, grappling, and mayhem-unleashing is broken up by missions that force you to contend with bouts of lightning, whirlwinds, and sandstorms – all of which show up to the party to help keep Rico on his toes, even if these sequences are a tad fleeting.
With explosions, weather effects, and skydiving a common sight in Just Cause 4, perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn than the game often struggles to cope. Frame rate dips, slow down, and the occasional freeze all contribute to make Rico’s adventures a technical mess at times. It’s a shame as these instances pull you right out of the action, along with character models that also don’t look particularly great. Don’t get us wrong the game is ultimately playable, but it does lack the polish most players will likely expect from most Triple-A games released today.
Just Cause 4 is the perfect open world adventure for those looking to cut loose and just scratch that adrenaline junkie itch. It neatly slots into a small category of games that’s core objective is to offer players an unrelenting sense of fun by turning everything up to an 11. Despite the slight monotony that comes from some repetitive mission design and a few slips on the technical side, Just Cause 4 delivers the same thrills found in prior entries with the odd mechanical upgrade thrown in.
Just Cause 4 is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4