Just Cause 4 Review
Going with the flow of chaos, like a parachute around a tornado
Not enough games embrace the explosive craziness of a sandbox open world. Thankfully the Just Cause franchise has built its whole action gameplay around it. Just Cause 4 continues the trend of giving players a large area with many toys to exploit. The goal is, and will hopefully always be, to blow things up. The fourth entry simplifies its weapons, missions, and chaos system, and it is easy to play. With extra functionality to the iconic grapple hook and some extreme weather tricks, Just Cause 4 is a fun explosive romp.
The story in this latest chapter once again follows Rico Rodriguez, as he arrives in Solis to stop an evil villain who has command over the weather. Oscar Espinosa can make thunderstorms, sandstorms, tornadoes, and blizzards from his megalomaniacal office atop a mountain peak. Rico attacks him head-on but is blown off course. He comes to realize that he’ll need help from the local populace to chip away at Espinosa’s Black Hand army. Rico thus builds a chaos army to take down each of the weather generators.
Most of the extreme weather events occur in story missions. Thunderstorms force Rico to be nimble to avoid being struck by lightning. Sandstorms are annoying due to low visibility and hellish winds. The tornado is the most impressive; it’s fun to watch vehicles fly around after entering the danger zone, even more so when you’re inside one. And the blizzard is only really seen at the end. After conquering each weather type, Rico has the power to turn them back on again—bad news for the locals—but only in specific areas. The extreme weather does make for some decent story missions but their infrequency in the open world seems like a missed opportunity.
While the story revolves around weather, the main narrative is clichéd and weaker than the last game. Espinosa is only really present at the start and end of the campaign. Along the way, you’ll meet a storm chaser that believes reptilians are making tornadoes and a movie director that wants Rico to perform stunts. The cutscenes are ugly and bland, due to low resolution, stilted animation, and poor lighting. The only upside about the story is that there are minimal load screens. To finish the campaign, you will need to navigate to all corners of Solis.
Solis is a large island that can be freely explored. It consists of four biomes: desert, jungle, grassland, and snow. The lush jungles are nicely reminiscent of the second game in the series, likewise for the grassland and the third game. You’re not going to be liberating towns as before, nor will you need to destroy everything to conquer bases. Cities mostly exist for a few stunts and enemy bases are just destructive hotspots in missions. You will never care about being detected when destroying things. Rico can destroy as much or as little as he wants. Cause enough chaos and your army grows, allowing expansion into new territories. Frontlines are warzones between opposing territories, and their location can affect missions that snake through the ongoing conflict.
Side missions range from car races to facility incursions. You could be asked to provide sniper overwatch while hanging from a chopper, or become an assassinating chauffeur. There are even some basic tomb puzzles to solve, if you have time. All stunts are viewable and trackable with a new augmented reality HUD that improves general flow. Unfortunately most stunts are too simple—wingsuit challenges consist of just three rings. Side missions generally compare poorly to the varied challenges in its predecessor.
To access story missions, you will need to take control of enemy facilities in specific regions. This usually means performing tasks quickly in a hostile base. There are a few repeated types—defend the world’s slowest hacker, drive car bombs into the ocean, and unlock missile silos—but they are entertaining enough due to the rapid chaos. Rico can blow things up in action or wait until it’s over and destroy them at leisure. In either case, you’re going to want to move fast to succeed in missions.
The grapple hook is the perfect tool for getting around Solis rapidly. In combination with the parachute and wingsuit, soaring around is just as wonderful as it was in the last game. You can glide forever without touching the ground. The grapple has been upgraded too, and can now airlift objects and put booster rockets on things from range. With a slew of mods that change boost activation time and increase retraction speed, there are heaps of options and the grapple is certainly more useful than ever before.
Weapons are your mainstay for blowing up fuel tanks, generators, radar dishes, and other machinery. Here there are even bigger changes. No more pistols, hand-placed remote explosives or grenades to throw. Rico can only carry two weapons, like a rocket launcher and sub machine gun. To make up for the lack of hand grenades, almost all anti-infantry weapons have a secondary fire mode that packs more punch. One assault rifle has a grenade launcher and there is a sniper rifle with a heat-seeking rocket. There are even some weather-related weapons, like the lightning gun that brings a temporary storm. The destructive options suit the fast movement, though you’ll be swapping weapons quite often due to limited ammo. Weapon crates can be found scattered about the place, but they are clumsy to use when enemies are respawning from everywhere.
Supply drops can keep you topped up with weapons and vehicles. Unlike the last game, you can only drop one item at a time, but you have more control over its orientation. Up to seven pilots can have preset drops. These pilots are also used for fast travel. For most of the game, you will only have around four pilots, so it’s not a solution for staying armed. Often you are just better off heading into danger and grabbing weapons from the dead. Supply drops are definitely useful to call in vehicles though.
There are a huge number of vehicles to drive and their variety provides great entertainment. Rico can commandeer any with a grapple, throwing locals and enemies alike to their deaths. Using a warship to blast enemies on the shore is as fun as positioning a tank to fell distant towers. Or just bring a racing car up to speed, jump on the roof, and shoot the tires from pursuing vehicles to make them explode. Most ground, sea, and air vehicles control pretty well, with nitrous boosts for some cars and a wonderfully unrealistic jumps for watercraft. Motorbikes are a bit awkward to turn, but at least you can shoot while driving.
The best thing about the action is that it is dynamic and continuous. Whether you take control of a chopper or use an auto-retracting grapple to bring it to ground is a personal choice. When low on ammo, just tether two fuel tanks together for explosive enjoyment. How you swoop through facilities will determine where snipers spawn and maybe you take their rifles to clear distant targets. The combat is much easier than it was in Just Cause 3 because vehicles are durable and Rico can be immersed in action for longer. The game also only rarely interrupts you with cutscenes or interface prompts, letting you just go with the flow.
While the game plays smoothly, it’s not the slickest technical package around. Crashes were frequent enough, often during load but sometimes mid-mission. Character navigation and other physics oddities halted mission progress, although both were usually fixable with a grapple pull. Framerate was generally okay, until Rico used the windgun which sent it into single digits. Mouse issues resulted in slow aiming but twitchy vehicle chase cameras. Even the menu is clunky to use with the mouse. Some issues are said to be fixed in an upcoming patch, so hopefully things will improve.
Just Cause 4 offers a relaxing way to blow stuff up. It seldom interrupts the player and this helps the destruction flow. Weapons are capable against both soldiers and fuel stores. The grapple hook is more useful than ever, and the broad list of vehicles keeps the action intense. Not many games offer so many effective tools in a large world full of red things that go boom. But the game fails to tether it all together because the story is weak, missions are bland, challenges are simple, and the extreme weather is mostly a gimmick. Fans of the series might also miss the liberation and the completionist-style destruction of the third game. But for those craving constant chaos, the issues in Just Cause 4 might be little more than a storm in a teacup.