Just Cause 4 Review- Explosive Fun Amidst the Flaws

Posted December 14, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Avalanche Studios

Publisher: Square Enix

Release date: December 4, 2018

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

The Just Cause series, featuring agent Rico Rodriguez, has always valued explosive gameplay over story. The games have always unfolded with B action movie plots. Rico tackles a dictator in an exotic locale, and aids the local rebels in their fight against him. The latest entry from Avalanche Studios, Just Cause 4, is no exception to that rule.

This time around, Rico tackles a dictator on the South American island country of Solis who has acquired weather controlling technology. The plot is as ridiculous as it sounds, and Rico gets help from new characters as well as a couple returning from previous titles. Depending on your skill level and tolerance for frustrating game design (more on that in a bit), the game will take you between 20-30 hours to complete. In addition to the main story missions, there are side missions and stunts to complete. The map is a nice size, and there’s a fair amount to do for the completionist. 

All that stuff to do would be great if the game worked well all of the time. Sadly, the game frequently throws up roadblocks to what fun is there. Those roadblocks are enough to turn more than a few players off of even attempting to complete the story missions or advance rebel lines to take over the map. The game is strongest when players just decide to free roam and wreak havoc on the Black Hand forces, blowing up anything marked with red.

That havoc is where Just Cause 4 is at its most fun and can have you grinning from ear to ear. Your grapple, essential for movement, gets three enhancements, though its the tether you’ll use most. Tethering enemy forces to walls or enemy vehicles to each other to cause explosive crashes never gets old. Setting off fuel tanks to have them rocket across the screen is a real joy, and the resulting explosions are quite satisfying. Moving about via grapple and parachute (less so with the wing suit) is mostly fun, though it does have the occasional hiccup along the way. 

Those hiccups tend to rear their ugly head in the form of technical issues. Just Cause 4, at a cursory glance, can be a pretty game. But closer examination reveals screen tearing, pop in, and bad pixelation. The game would have looked nice on the last generation of platforms, but on the current gen, especially when compared to visual wonders like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption II, the game fall short in that regard. It’s not really ugly, but the flaws are noticeable. 

Other technical issues can involve frame rate slowdown, bad camera angles, inconsistent controls, and the game did crash twice on me on the PS4. These issues have led to a few cheap deaths. Then there’s the respawning enemies, who continuously reappear behind you, even though you’ve wiped out those forces previously. This happens in missions as well as free roam, and it can make for a frustrating time when you’re suddenly shot from behind by a sniper when you’ve already killed or tethered the enemies in the area. Cheap deaths are never fun, and I had more than my share of them. 

Missions aren’t overly varied, and all too often rely on the same approach- disabling power sources, hacking computers, and fighting off waves of enemies as your allies take their sweet time downloading info. Add in timed sections, spread far apart and marked with poor objective markers, and the desire to just quit a mission and go back to blowing stuff up overrides any desire to press forward to try and successfully complete he task at hand. Too many missions are timed, and are frustrating to pull off. Unfortunately, some of these are necessary to complete in order to advance the story or advance the rebel line. it’s poor game design, and it does not make for a fun time. 

And that’s a shame for Just Cause 4. When things are flowing well and the explosions lighting up the screen, the game can be a real joy to play. Sadly its flaws drag that fun down, making it feel like the series has taken a step backwards from the better Just Cause 3. Adding in the weather effects sounds like a good idea, and does look neat, but because the missions needed to carry that plot forward are frustrating to pull off renders that whole idea nearly moot. Fans of the series know for the most part what they are in for with a Just Cause game, but even fans may be disappointed with this latest entry. There’s fun to be had here. Too bad the flaws can’t be dispatched with as easily as structures marked in red.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus