Bigger explosions, chunkier weapons, and tornadoes headline the latest chaos filled adventure of Rico Rodriguez. Just Cause 4 is better than Just Cause 3 in just about every way, yet it still retains elements of the familiar, enough that I was able to pick it up and begin playing with little fuss. It’s not a game without its faults however, introducing new tools to the player but rarely giving them an excuse to use them. Chaos still holds firmly to the crown though, as Just Cause is all about wreaking havoc and causing destruction anywhere Rico goes. Players now have more ways to blow up even more stuff, even if they continue to fall back on the old faithfuls like a strong tether and big gun.
As I began playing, I wondered when Just Cause 4 would take away all of my toys and make me start from the bottom again. It’s a common ailment of sequels, one that Just Cause 4 cures. Although Rico’s gear does break after the introductory mission, it’s very quickly given back with just about everything you unlocked by the end of Just Cause 3, including a full ten tethers to create havoc with right from the beginning. Instead of retreading the same character and ability progression paths of the last game, it gives you new ways to play with those familiar tools.
Tools of the Trade
Easily the most innovative thing that Just Cause 4 does—more so than its new severe weather elements—is allow deep customization with Rico’s grappling tether. There are three loadouts that are quickly unlocked, and each can be customized with retraction, air lifter, and booster mods. Within each of those there are additional modifiers including strength of the effect and other crazier effects that get unlocked as you complete specific side tasks. If that’s not enough, you can set each one to be instant or deploy on either a tap or hold of the up button. It works almost like a simple coding of the tether, but allows for a ton of insane possibilities. You can even switch among the three loadouts on the fly.
And yet the game rarely asks you to use these deeper mechanics. Many of the missions and open-world activities rely on the surface basics. I waited for missions that might require some interesting puzzle solving with the tether loadouts, but I was left disappointed. The open world takes a similar approach to this year’s Far Cry 5, allowing players to experience a more flexible story by clearing the world in any order they choose, and then taking on the central final encounter. The story hits some highs and lows, retaining the signature bizarre humor that the series is know for and actually managing to have a bit of weight and heart to it occasionally. At it’s core though, it’s yet another revolution that Rico Rodriguez somehow finds himself in the middle of. Dress it up however you want, add weather-controlling super weapons, and a personal element (wait, didn’t the last game do that too?) it’s still just another evil dictator for Rico to topple.
The open world faces the same problem. It tries to do some unique things, giving Rico a revolution to control. Capturing the various regions is done by obtaining forces and pushing your front lines forward into neighboring regions. It seems at first like this could be some kind of unique strategy game, like an explosive version of Risk, but the truth is far more mundane. The battles that ensue at the borders are little more than spectacle. Unlocking regions is less about strategic deployment of forces and more about completing a Region Strike in each zone and causing enough chaos to recruit new revolutionaries to your cause. At first these are interesting, often with story attached to a particular region, but with 31 of these to finish, they do run into some repetition, falling under the same problem of never challenging players or requiring use of the many tools at their disposal.
Starting out strong, Just Cause 4 hits some rough terrain midway through the game, when experiences begin to noticeably repeat themselves. There is a lot to do in this world, but much of it is the same as the last thing you had to do. Challenges make their return from the previous game, but in odd ways. Instead of offering full on vehicle races or big tough wingsuit courses, there are rings baked into the world that require players to do things like drive through them in a specific vehicle or at a specific speed. And there are hundreds of these scattered around. They made for a nice distraction occasionally while crossing the world, but felt largely superfluous. That’s a good way to describe much of Just Cause 4’s world missions: occasionally entertaining, always distracting, and wholly superfluous.
Just Cause 4 is a visually confusing game. I want to say it looks stunning, but perhaps “deceptively stunning” would be a better term. The graphics look good, but they enter this weird uncanny valley where something is just noticeably off. Explosions look great, leading to some very satisfying fireballs as you blow things up while tearing the regime down. Motion, however, relies on motion blur far too much and there is a lot of very noticeable texture pop-in and artifacts that can be easily seen at a distance. The environments look great in screenshot form, but in motion they start to look like a window screen. I am playing on a standard PS4, so it could be that the Pro can handle it a little bit better, but the experience for many PS4 owners is going to show some issues. Characters also often look like clay, with poor animations and horrifying dead eyes. I mean, just look at ’em.
And yet, I still had a lot of fun with it, flaws and all. Boring missions and tasks made for great excuses to deviate and tear down a tower or blow up a fuel tank or five. I was able to create a good amount of interest in typically boring mission design by simply blowing things up. The effects and physics are more bombastic than they’ve ever been, which makes the act of creating a bit of chaos viscerally satisfying. The series at least knows what it does well, leaning into that side of the experience like a Hollywood blockbuster covering up its flaws with big dumb spectacle. And it works.
Just Cause 4 is just a better Just Cause 3, and that’s not a bad thing, but it feels that many elements were added just ’cause rather than seeking to revolutionize Rico Rodriguez’s many revolutions. New weather elements hardly play into the moment to moment gameplay, even if they make for some pretty epic moments during a few campaign missions. It’s a physics playground of the highest order, but rarely does enough with the clever mechanics in it’s repetitive mission structure, whether it’s the bland challenges scattered on the map or the increasingly dull and overly long Region Strikes. Just Cause 4 has some great ideas, massive explosions, and much needed improvements over the last game, but it can’t quite step out of the shadow of its own idea that pure and utter chaos should be the headliner, making the massive open world feel less compelling and more, well, just ’cause.
Just Cause 4 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring, please see our Review Policy.