Just Cause 4, at times, is woefully repetitive and boring. In moments, though, it’s also the most hilarious and entertaining game you’ll ever play.
Once again placing you in the shoes of Rico Rodriguez, who’s now getting a bit old for the type of shenanigans he gets up to by his own admittance, Just Cause 4 rewards creativity yet also feels creatively bankrupt. As you trounce your way through its boring campaign you’ll activate console after console, occasionally pulling switches to mix things up. Sometimes you’ll do it with a time constraint, too, to really make things exciting. Honestly, Just Cause 4‘s campaign is a real chore to work through, with a story that you really won’t give two hoots about. But outside of the campaign… well, there’s huge amounts of fun to be had.
Broken up into districts, Just Cause 4‘s massive open world requires you to wage war with your Army of Chaos in order to free it from the Black Hand’s grasp. That basically means you need to destroy lots of things, which is always fun, and complete missions, which are a mixed bag. For every one that allows you to cause mayhem and have a good time, it feels like there are another two that just want you to interact with one console or switch after another. But your efforts do pay off; with each district you liberate, numerous fun activities are opened up, allowing you to test your skills and unlock new playthings which you can request at will.
From flying through a set number of rings in your wing suit to driving at insane speeds, Just Cause 4‘s challenges just scream fun. Often very tricky to complete, you’ll attempt them time and time again until they’re smashed, and there’s plenty of them to go at. But you know what’s even more fun? Simply playing around in Just Cause 4‘s world.
Rico Rodriguez’s grappling hook has always been a centrepiece of the series, but in Just Cause 4 it really is the star. Very early on you unlock a trio of modifications for the contraption which allow you to be wondrously creative. And as you complete tasks for those who granted you such aerial delights, you’ll unlock yet more ways to tweak your grappling hook’s functions, too.
Balloons allow you to suspend objects, or people, in the air. A powerful retractor enables you to quickly pull two objects together, or open doors that would otherwise remain shut. And boosters grant you the ability to propel object at great speed. All three have hilarious applications right from the outset, but it’s when you start to customise how they work and build your own grappling hook loadouts that the real fun starts.
I’ve spent nearly just as much time attaching balloons to random strangers as I have progressing through Just Cause 4‘s story, elevating them to a great height before popping the balloons and watching my victims plummet to the ground. I have made Rico Rodriquez a villain. Even more nefarious is tethering six or so pedestrians to a vehicle before attaching numerous boosters to it, essentially creating a Catherine wheel of death. Honestly, watching a vehicle fly into the air while spinning violently is entertaining enough, but when there are also people being flailed along with it, it’s mesmerising.
As a sandbox for utter ridiculousness, Just Cause 4 is a triumph. Its physics are brilliant, and it gives you so many tools to create mayhem with that you’ll be smiling from ear to ear. Helicopters, fighter jets, sports cars, lightning guns; they’re all at your beckon call once you’ve unlocked them, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Sending a vehicle down a cliff after jumping out and deploying your parachute, you’ll gaze in wonder as it tumbles before exploding magnificently, with trees and other debris descending around it. It’s the unexpected things you’ll find wonder in when playing Just Cause 4, making every time you sit down to play the game unpredictable and exciting, as long as you’re not sitting down to concentrate on its campaign.
As if I’ve not reiterated it enough yet, Just Cause 4‘s campaign is dull as dishwater, but thankfully you can move through it at quite a quick pace. Also, liberating the game’s massive open world can be done quite easily, too, opening up its bountiful challenges. Covering large distances between activities can be quite laborious thanks to fast travel essentially being given a cooldown timer, though. And exploration can be quite an eyesore at times.
After Just Cause 3‘s performance problems on console, Avalanche has made a smooth framerate a priority this time around, even when all hell is breaking loose. It’s a task it has succeeded at with flying colours, but it comes at a cost; Just Cause 4 is simply ugly at times. Playing on Xbox One X, I was frequently faced with low quality textures, shimmering, awful pop-in and excessive blurring. But then I’d take to the skies near a mountainous area and be blown away by the sheer beauty of what’s on display. Inconsistent is the word I’ll settle on when it comes to Just Cause 4‘s visual splendour.
And I’ve just realised I’ve not mentioned Just Cause 4‘s new weather effects yet, but that’s because they’re underused to be honest. Although it’s probably for the better; when they are brought into the action, they don’t really add anything to the proceedings other than an extra layer of difficulty. Just Cause 4‘s lightning storms and tornadoes ultimately feel like gimmicks out to hinder you rather than enhance the gameplay.
Just Cause 4 certainly isn’t a bad game, but it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. The fun you can have outside of the game’s campaign shows that the world and the tools you’re given work in harmony with each other, but you’re never given the freedom to really make use of them during missions. It’s like being given a box full of LEGO but then being told you can only use the old-fashioned system bricks to build with; you know there’s fun to be had, but your creativity is stifled. Buy Just Cause 4 if you want to set off epic explosions and simply have fun playing the fool. Don’t buy it if you expect to do that while working your way through its story, because you’ll be sorely disappointed.