“There’s explosive fun to be had in Just Cause 4, but it’s mostly a rehash of old ideas.”
- Exciting explosions
- Cool gadgets
- Rico is a likeable character
- Lots of room for experimentation
- Retread of Just Cause 3
- The world feels hollow
- Rico is basically indestructible
Just Cause 4’s main thrill is in its soulless open world. Blowing stuff up and causing ceaseless pandemonium will make up the bulk of your time there, and in this respect, it’s certainly fun. If your main reason for playing video games is to have mindless fun, Just Cause 4 invites you to turn off your brain and do just that. It’s a game that is upfront about its frivolousness — and for that reason, it’s hard to knock it.
Creating dazzling, fiery spectacles of infrastructure, vehicles, and enemies can be entertaining and hilarious. If you revel in displays of over-the-top stunts and sheer chaos, Just Cause 4 certainly provides the goods.
But after the debris settles from the symphony of explosions, Just Cause 4 just feels stale. The foundation of its world leaves a lot to be desired, and it does very little to set itself apart from its predecessor. It’s a mostly forgettable adventure that may occasionally have its sparkling moments but struggles to fully ignite.
Rico Rodriguez once again reprises his role as a jack-of-all-trades hero capable of both gliding across mountain ranges and guiding an enemy helicopter into an enemy tank. At first, it seems that Solis, the fictional South American country, could harbor a more gripping tale for our infallible hero. Solis is the homeland of the Black Hand, the organization Rico has quarreled with in previous entries. On top of that, it’s quickly revealed that Rico’s father was tied to the Black Hand’s foundation.
These two bits of intriguing information could make for some great fodder. Sadly, this is the same B-movie tale that the franchise has become accustomed to. Once again, your job is to take down a vicious dictator to save the people of Solis.
Cutscenes are sparse, and the writing rarely surprises or delights. The one constant pleasure that remains is Rico’s attitude. He’s a funny, charismatic guy that helps keep a smile on your face even when the story plods along as expected.
While the series has never been known to have a strong emphasis on storytelling, it is disappointing to play through a seemingly pivotal entry in the franchise that yet again fails to deliver the narrative goods.
Dismantling the oppressive rule is Just Cause 4’s overall goal and it goes hand-in-hand with its mission structure. Rico must assemble an army capable of taking on the Black Hand. To do that, you must recruit troops across the spacious map, which is neatly separated into regions. The loop follows a pretty standard progression. You can expand your reach by taking command of enemy strongholds. Then, on the map screen, you move your troops into the region, which unlocks new items and missions.
Send enemies into the air, fling them into exploding barrels, or even attach them to a car that drives off a cliff.
Although you’re building an army, there’s not much in the way of tactics here. You won’t make any strategic decisions during your conquest. The territorial expansion simply works as a means to gate the missions, though you still have some freedom when it comes to deciding which mission is next.
The missions themselves still rely too much on hacking consoles and destroying multiple points of infrastructure. After playing through about 10 hours of missions, you will likely have seen it all in terms of objective variety.
Despite not offering many twists to the missions, there’s still fun to be had when you’re hacking a set of consoles for the fifth time. Rico’s gadgets are the real reason to keep going. Like Just Cause 3, you have a parachute, wingsuit, and grapple at your disposal, each of which you can make great use of while traversing across the large mission set pieces.
Solis has massive changes in undulation, which is a perfect excuse to parachute, glide, and grapple your way across the map. Considering that vehicles outside of helicopters and planes still feel stiff and generally unresponsive, it’s great that all three of Rico’s key gadgets are unlocked from the beginning.
The trio of gadgets stand out most in time-sensitive missions. Sometimes you’re asked to unlock multiple consoles or stop numerous bombs from exploding in a short period of time. Without using your gadgets, it’s simply impossible to cover the ground needed to perform all these actions in the allotted time. This is where Just Cause 4’s most thrilling moments occur, and the game smartly guides you towards relying on your gadgets more and more.
The weather events end up feeling like a half-baked addition that could’ve been awesome if they happened more frequently.
Rico’s tools basically turn him into discount Spider-Man. And while it’s slightly odd to play this game on the heels of Marvel’s Spider-Man, the trusty items still work pretty darn well. Chaining together parachute jumps with grapples and glides is a satisfying endeavor that doesn’t take long to master.
The gadgets also make combat exciting, as your grapple can be used to send enemies into the air, fling them into exploding barrels, or even attach them to a car that drives off a cliff. This time around, your grapple has three unique loadouts: the standard retractor, devastating jets, and balloon-propelled grapples that lift objects from the ground. Only the retractor is really needed to complete missions, but the other two can help you create your own fun.
The feature that interested me most before launch was the weather system. Prominently advertised in trailers, Solis is home to a tumultuous climate featuring tornadoes, lightning storms, sandstorms, and more. These weather occurrences are manufactured with a machine owned by the villain. The weather is designed to impede your progress and give you more opportunities to wreak havoc.
Unfortunately, cases of inclement weather are few and far between. Even when they occur, they aren’t very impeding, or, frankly, that impressive. The weather systems end up feeling like a half-baked addition that could’ve been awesome if they happened more frequently and during pivotal moments.
We’ve been spoiled with a rash of open world games lately that are brimming with personality and detail. God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 are just a couple of excellent examples that come to mind. Just Cause 4’s world, while large, okay to look at, and fairly diverse, ultimately feels hollow and artificial.
If you run a civilian over with a car, they’ll scream but the people around them will mostly go about their business. If you blow up several structures, the people hanging out in the building near the wreckage often act as if nothing is happening. The people of Solis exist, but just barely.
The feeling of being the only person with a pulse is amplified by the enemies, a ragtag army of thousands who couldn’t hit you even if you aimed their guns for them. Really, you can absorb a ridiculous amount of damage. So much, in fact, that I was able to stand in one spot for more than a minute as multiple enemies shot at me, and lived to parachute another day. Gunfire will rain down on you from all directions, but you never really feel threatened. Rico is basically indestructible and everything in your path can be easily tossed aside, for better and worse.
Even though it’s fun to make everything go boom boom with your high powered arsenal, guns themselves feel weightless and it often doesn’t feel like you’re actually shooting enemies because of it.
Just Cause 4 also doesn’t look or run much better than its predecessor. On a launch PS4, the framerate chugs intermittently, and the visuals lack the detail and color seen in many AAA games of the day. I experienced very few bugs or glitches though, which is an improvement from the Just Cause 3 launch. While the ESRB rating specifies “in-game purchases”, it appears that this is only in reference to Just Cause 4 DLC and not microtransactions.
Just Cause 4 offers explosive fun thanks to Rico’s neat bag of tricks, but feels too similar to Just Cause 3. If you’re looking for an open world playground to mess around in, Just Cause 4 provides a nice space for that. Sadly, it’s not much more than surface-level fun.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. Far Cry 5 is just as silly, but better. You can also buy Just Cause 3 for much less and have a very similar experience.
How long will it last?
It took us around 25 hours to complete the story missions. We also knocked out a bunch of side missions in that time, but there’s enough content here to last you upwards of 50 hours.
Should you buy it?
If you enjoyed Just Cause 3, you’ll likely have fun with this one, but if you’re looking for an engaging open world to spend your holiday in, Just Cause 4 isn’t it.
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