Have you ever loved something and been completely infuriated by it at the same time?
There’s an inappropriate joke in there somewhere…
Just Cause 4 is the inappropriate joke of the gaming world right now. No, not because it has lewd content, or is offensive in some sense. Instead, it’s a perfect example of a game that’s both extremely fun and ludicrously irritating at the same time. My time with Just Cause 4 can be summarized in this exact progression:
- Wow I love using the wingsuit!
- Why are there cars when you can just fly everywhere? Oh, they’re going to make me drive…
- I just blew up half the map!
- Defend a fragile building from waves of enemies? Yeah, didn’t see that coming… Again…
- Physics shenanigans? I’m so pumped!
- Wait, there’s a story?
- I just used a balloon to float up to a fighter and hijacked it from mid-air!
- Flying this thing makes me want to vomit…
If that gives you a good idea of what to expect, then read no further.
Actually, I’d appreciate it if you kept reading, but it isn’t like I’ll know if you didn’t.
I think the video about makes a good case for what to expect. I was laughing so hard that I had tears welling up when I recorded this. Jennifer was far less impressed.
The gameplay in Just Cause 4 is less about being a competent shooter, and more about giving you the tools to destroy anything you touch. Forget everything you know about cover, tactics, and… other things that are related to more traditional shooters. Embrace the grappling hook and try to avoid thinking too much about what you’re doing, because nothing you can do makes any sense.
But that’s okay.
It’s about ludicrous fun, not being realistic. Don’t worry about fighting a tank using explosives like a noob. Use the grappling hook to chain it to every other vehicle, then the balloons to lift them all into the sky before dropping them from the stratosphere. Luckily, you’re also given the freedom to use the various faction members to deliver vehicles, weapons, and supplies to you in the form of air drops. Don’t ask me how they cram a fighter jet into a shipping container and drop it from the sky without it getting smashed to bits. Just go with it, because it’s cool (even if it’s a bit ripped off from games like Mercenaries).
There’s even an element of a faction war to not care about. I mention not caring about it, because it really only provides a bit of cosmetic change to the map. When you unlock “Squads” to send to contested areas, you change the guard to your allies in that region and unlock some gear to have air dropped to you. Unfortunately, unlocking areas of the map almost always requires you to suffer through cookie-cutter missions, inevitably leading to completing the same objectives over-and-over.
What? You don’t want to spend ten minutes flipping breakers before defending an extremely brittle satellite dish? How about guarding a “hacker” as he parades about in a base full of enemies? Oh, that doesn’t sound fun? Well too bad, because that’s part of the game!
Seriously though, I just powered through the different regions to get them unlocked as early as possible so I didn’t need to deal with it later. I have a feeling it saved me a ton of headaches.
At least they didn’t lock aiming behind a skill this time around…
Just Cause 4 is… Okay looking. It’s not exactly a technical marvel, but it sure seems like it thinks it should be. While the graphics are pretty meh up close, it looks much better at a distance, which is good considering that the best method of getting around happens to be using Rico’s wingsuit, parachute, or some combination of the two. At one point, I was flying into a storm to see what the tornadoes in the game were like, except once I got close, the tornado and storm around it completely dissipated in seconds. Back to a perfectly sunny day!
What’s puzzling however is that while Just Cause 4 doesn’t look technically demanding, it sure behaves as if it is, even on capable hardware. Sometimes it makes sense, like when you’re attaching ten balloons to a car and watching it zoom off into the clouds. Other times it makes a lot less sense, like when you’re just trying to pan the camera around while driving. I’m still not entirely sure why the game runs so poorly, especially on the Xbox One X version which only offers HDR as an enhancement. It’s a shame too, because Just Cause 4 could clearly benefit from higher resolution textures or more system resources directed at making the framerates bearable.
Mira says it best I think…
Of course, the issues aren’t limited to just the Xbox One or even the PS4. The PC version has also been seeing a number of problems as well, though Avalanche is thankfully looking into this. Even though games in the Just Cause franchise haven’t exactly been the poster child of flawless presentation, it’s a little disheartening that there hasn’t been much improvement over the years. Sure, it looks good with HDR enabled, but it’s a little difficult to enjoy the higher contrast of images in the game when it looks so meh-worthy.
There’s nothing innovative about Just Cause 4 that hasn’t been done before by other, better games. I remember this specific formula when I first played Pandemic Studios’ Mercenaries on the original Xbox way back in the day. Just Cause has carried that torch in a sense, all while applying its own brand of action on top. You see, Just Cause 4 isn’t the type of game that you play for the story (more on that later). No, it’s about finding all manners of unique ways to abuse the physics system and gorge on explosions.
Hell, there’s a gun that fires wind, which can launch enemies across the map (I think I set a personal record of launching someone about 58km). Another one has a secondary fire mode that summons lightning to destroy your foes.
That last one is really cool, but it’s pretty irritating that the lightning only seems to target vehicles when you make an effort to drive one off. I definitely don’t recommend using the lighting gun during the game’s dozens of escort missions.
Whether or not you consider the weather effects to be gimmicky or a neat feature is probably a matter of opinion. I found the tornadoes themselves to be fascinating to mess around with, though they’re just… there. Sure, they do tornado-y things, like sucking up debris, vehicles, and whatnot, but to Rico they’re essentially harmless.
Actually, that’s really what sets Just Cause 4 on its own really. Nothing can really harm Rico at all, aside from being blown up in a car or smashing head-first into the ground at terminal velocity. To be perfectly honest, what makes Just Cause 4 entertaining is abusing the physics of the world. The grappling hook is no longer alone in Rico’s arsenal of tools, though he did replace the limpet mines with thrusters and balloons, and they’re so much fun to play with no matter all the glares and groans you hear from your wife as you attach a person to a VW bus lookalike, then inflate the three balloons that you attached to the bus, only to sit there and watch as both shoot straight up into the sky before the balloons pop and they both plummet down to the Earth and explode on impact…
Yes, there’s a story to Just Cause 4. I’m not sure what that story is, but there is one.
Honestly, I’m not trying to sound like I’m slagging the developers, but let me be frank for a moment; the story doesn’t matter, and it isn’t interesting. It’s a medium, a justification at best, for the chaos that you deliver to the small island nation of Solis. I think that Rico’s dad worked on a weapons program for the government of Solis, and that’s why he’s there getting roped into the antics of the local resistance group. That resistance group is quite cheesily named “The Army of Chaos”.
If you rolled your eyes, trust me… You’d be rolling your eyes even harder if you played the game.
It’s not that the story is bad… Well, it kinda is… The story is just ancillary to the game itself. It’s just, there. But again, story isn’t really important to the game at all, and I got the feeling that even the developers felt the same because the entire plot comes across as something that came straight out of a straight-to-DVD movie.
To put it bluntly, you won’t be missing anything if you skip the cutscenes.
WILDCARD: CHAOS REIGNS
Just Cause 4 is all about the chaos, whether it’s the… forgive me… “Army of Chaos” (I audibly groaned when I typed that), or the incredible swath of destruction you can distribute freely. There’s absolutely no penalty for civilian casualties or fratricide (for the most part), meaning that Rico can just annihilate anyone that crosses his path.
Unless you’re on an escort mission. Then you’re at the mercy of the game’s awful AI and mission design.
However, despite the cheesy nature of the rampant chaos, it’s incredibly fun to just wreak havoc everywhere you go. Hell, I’ve spent hours just playing with the grappling hooks, thrusters, and balloons you have access to. I still have no idea why it’s even possible for you to drive vehicles when you can just tie everyone up and fire enemy vehicles off into the abyss. There’s something sickly satisfying about watching an enemy soldier panic before you activate a thruster attached to his hand, then watching as he zooms off like Mark Watney trying to close the gap between his MAV and the Hermes.
The Martian is a great movie, and book. You should check those out.
Despite being very critical of Just Cause 4, experiencing my fair share of frustrations with poor mission design, and the incredible instability, I’ve had a ton of fun. Granted, the fun is interspersed with rage, but still.
However, I really can’t say I’d recommend someone go out and buy Just Cause 4 right now, or really ever. Maybe when it drops in price quite a bit, and well after Avalanche fixes the numerous issues. Perhaps they can make it less painful to play?
At any rate, I need to see if I can get my money’s worth out of it before I come to my senses. Time to play with the balloons!
Have you played Just Cause 4? What about the others? Does it sound like your cup-o-tea? Actually, it definitely isn’t anyone’s cup-o-tea, right now… or maybe never.
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