Release Date: December 4, 2018Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox OneDeveloper: Avalanche StudiosPublisher: Square EnixGenre: Action-Adventure
“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 some deeply hidden desire to fulfill a perverse appetite for destruction that sets Rico on his new mission. Those with a similar taste for explosions 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 tools 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 taking down the 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.
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 realize 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 terms of narrative, 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 evil faction.
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 customization 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 prioritize 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 of your choosing. 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 you control your environment in stylish and inventive ways, tethering balloons to anything in sight until it’s raining cars and satellite dishes. Pulling off these creative maneuvers in Just Cause 4 can initially feel cumbersome, but there’s 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 suffer from a general feeling of familiarity and repetition, it is at least offset somewhat by a handful of missions centered around intense weather. 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 that the game often struggles to cope. Frame rate dips, slow down, and the occasional freeze can make Rico’s adventures a technical mess at times. There are also a few character models that don’t look particularly great. It’s a shame, as these instances pull you right out of the action. Don’t get us wrong the game is ultimately playable, but it does lack the polish most players will likely expect from most AAA 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 whose core objective is to offer players an unrelenting sense of fun by turning everything up to 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.