I always love the underdog. The games that never quite make it to the top. There’s usually something these games do so well, whether it’s passion or just offering something different. Just Cause came out in 2006 to a light head nod from the gaming community, but I loved it. A giant and colourful open world filled with things to blow up just spoke to me. Sure, it was a little messy but I stuck by it. The two sequels that followed upped the ante and Just Cause planted its roots as a fun action series. Just Cause 4 aims to follow this trend but can it break into the top tier of gaming?
We start, as always, with the story which to me is the most important part of most games. Just Cause never prioritised its story but had enough zaniness to keep the player invested. In Just Cause 4 our hero Rico Rodriguez is storming yet another facility. There is a generic reason by a generic bad guy for this as usual and it just falls flat. Flash forward a few minutes and Rico enters a nice little town about to be besieged by The Black Hand (Our villains) and Rico drops down from the sky to save them. This would of made for a much better opening, if it wasn’t so bland. I really liked how Just Cause 3 opened, it gave character to Rico and his charismatic enemy but in Just Cause 4 Rico saves this town and a revolution immediately starts throughout the whole country. It comes out of left field and the story fizzles out. There’s a few cutscenes here and there but they are few and far between and all completely forgettable. Rico has gone through yet another personality change, he’s no longer sassy, he’s just boring. With a game like Just Cause though the story isn’t the main focus so let’s see how it plays.
Watch the Just Cause 4 launch trailer:
Remember in the previous titles you would approach a location and have to collect things and blow up every single thing in there to complete it? How satisfying it was? That’s gone now, replaced with cookie cutter objectives that boil down to pressing a lot of switches and waiting for a meter to fill. They’re fine for the first few times but this map is so ridiculously huge, there are dozens upon dozens of these to do. Towns, cities and landmarks don’t even have collectibles any more. To complete these, you have to drive a vehicle through a hoop or wingsuit a little. There are seemingly hundreds of these and both these and the limited destruction you do all fill a meter to give you strike teams.
With this being a revolution, you are going to need help and this comes in the form of strike teams. On the map there is a front-line you need to push and you have to send strike teams to take over other sections of the map. This starts off with a lot of potential but it just boils down to doing a generic side mission then sending in a strike team, it gets stale very quickly. Taking over a new region nets you a new supply drop item which is a suitable reward. Supply drops come from one of several pilots who can drop one item at a time and they’re on a timer before their next drop-off. You have to select their loadout from a massive list of items and vehicles, one of the easier menus to navigate. The grappling hook gets many new features from; standard tethers, rocket boosters and even inflatable balloons. The menu and loadouts for these get far too in-depth and deciding what level of tension for each and how many of each you want gets very cumbersome. Everything else from exploration to combat is the same as Just Cause 3. Meaning, poor but serviceable shooting and vehicles that handle fine in the air but horrifically on the ground or in water.
View some Just Cause 4 screenshots in our gallery:
Things get worse from here because visually Just Cause 4 is an absolute mess. The tutorial was filled with unfinished textures, cel-shaded characters and horrendous lighting. After resetting the console a couple of times it still looked poor. The game improved a little after the tutorial but the character models remained bad throughout the game, extending even to the terrible cutscenes. Minute to minute it’s a strange beast, it can look nice but it’s often not. This game has some of the worst texture pop-in I’ve ever seen and the lighting is all over the place. As someone who never gets sick in VR, Just Cause 4 actually made me quite nauseous. This is even on Xbox One X and while a patch is on the way, its unacceptable for a game to launch in this state. Thankfully Avalanche have delivered a rock solid frame rate (Save for a lot of lag in the menu) and the explosions looks really nice with the physics surrounding being great. I haven’t forgotten about their “Extreme Weather” system, it was just not worth mentioning since it’s so forgettable.
Avalanche are better than this. They’ve made fun and beautiful worlds before and it’s sad to see this fail when I was backing its corner so much. Look, there are moments of fun here, there is still plenty to blow up and lots to do but looking at the rest of the games on the market right now, Just Cause 4 just doesn’t cut it.
Just Cause 4 was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Avalanche Studios Release Date: December 4th, 2018 Reviewed On: Xbox One X Also Available On: PS4, PC