Just Cause 4 Review – Chaotic Repetition
Rico Rodriguez makes a return in Avalanche Studios’ chaotic third-person shooter franchise Just Cause with the release of Just Cause 4. Boasting more control, chaos, and power than ever before, Just Cause 4 combines the destruction of Mother Nature’s most fearsome forces with the lust for greed and control. Will Rico’s latest foray into the physics sandbox prove one step too far, or is this the best Just Cause yet?
Just Cause 4 Review
Just Cause 4 builds on the legacy of its predecessors in almost every way imaginable. There’s more weapons, more vehicles, more chaos, more destruction, and somehow, even more explosions. Boasting a larger open-world experience, better physics, a revamped engine, and huge advancements in technical performance, Just Cause 4 appears to offer fans everything they hoped and more. And on the surface, that very much appears to be the case.
One of Just Cause’s most innovative features has always been Rico’s Grapple. A Spider-Man type tool that lets Rico scale buildings, attach himself to objects, and manipulate structures, it really was an impressive tool in past Just Cause games. However, in Just Cause 4, the developers went all in. The new Grapple tool can be modified with a variety of improvements, allowing players to tweak and adjust different modifications to better suit their personal style of play. Attaching several Boosters to the back of a small van before accidentally sending it soaring into the sky to take down a helicopter is not something you can pull of in most games, but in Just Cause 4, that’s just one of the many examples of random but utterly awesome chaos I experience throughout the game.
In another situation, when the enemy forces of the infamous Black Hand had me outnumbered, I simply removed their best assets from the playing field. Sending vehicles, or even the soldiers themselves, into near orbit before watching them fall to their doom was endlessly entertaining from start to finish. One of the biggest selling points of Just Cause is its physics sandbox with tools to give players the freedom to approach and manipulate situations as they see fit. This tradition continues with Just Cause 4, and in terms of the creative playground of chaos, it’s the best the franchise has seen to date.
Unfortunately, that same improvement cannot be said for many other aspects of the game. The mission objective variety is incredibly poor and quickly becomes repetitive. You’re either hacking a console, defending a console, finding a console, searching for a power hub, or escorting prisoners. Areas at the very end of the game followed near identical objectives and style to the starting missions, making the campaign itself disappointing and seriously lacking in variety and flavor. Sure, you can use a variety of the games impressively creative tools to tackle each situation – or just call in a tank and do it much faster that way.
Much of the same can be said for the game world itself. Just Cause 4 looks great and technically performs very well, but the world itself is void of charm and individuality. I often find myself lost in wondrous open-worlds where those that inhabit it go about their daily lives completely oblivious to my goals and achievements, but in Just Cause 4, it all seems rather numb and mindless. You don’t interact with people, there’s not much to discover off the beaten track, and exploration is made frustrating through lack of incentive, rewards, and those special “wow” moments you find in other open-world games. It feels segmented, each area divided into bases designed for gameplay, but lacking any real function or interaction.
I spent the majority of my time in-game flying a helicopter and dishing out death from the skies. Traveling by car is a mess, with the games wonderfully crafted physics engine falling apart at the slightest hint of a collision with the tiniest object. Going offroad on anything is a sure death wish, and the driving itself lacks any fluidity. You either over turn or under turn, then spend a few seconds correcting yourself, only to over correct and fall to your death in a ravine 100 feet below. Thankfully however, you can avoid the driving entirely as using helicopters and planes is a lot more fun and controls much better.
One thing you cannot ignore is the gun combat. I always found previous games in the Just Cause franchise to be seriously underwhelming in gun combat. Enemies would react in bizarre and confusing ways, shots lacked impact, and everything felt tacky and cheap, proving to be a feature that took a backseat to an otherwise passionate and creative project. Just Cause 4 changes that, drastically, with huge improvements to basic combat and more weapons than you’ll ever need to use. Taking down bases, blowing up vehicles, fighting it out with soldiers – it has a quality feel to it that was seriously lacking in the past.
Prior to its release, there was a lot of hype about new weather systems in Just Cause 4. Sandstorms, thunderstorms, and tornadoes all make a lasting impact on the environment, but in very scripted locations. You won’t suddenly find yourself tossed into a chaotic thunderstorm as you battle off waves of enemies unless you’re on a specific mission. While each of these weather systems is a sight to behold and worth the price of admission alone, the lack of dynamic feature really retracts from the further value these system could have introduced.
Just Cause 4 is a fantastic playground of chaos, giving players the tools and creative options to sow seeds of complete mayhem. It’s only when you step away from that mayhem, following the path of the campaign put ahead of you, that you’ll find repetition, lack of character, and a disappointing open world.
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