The next open-world chaos-causer is here, but is it an improvement?
The Just Cause series has had four releases in 12 years, with the last, Just Cause 3, three years ago - but on the current generation of PCs and consoles. Consequently the most important question of any Just Cause 4 review becomes, “is this game really necessary?” You might not like the answer.
Nevertheless, developer Avalanche Studios have done their very best to make Just Cause 4 distinct from the previous game, at least in terms of creating a new driving force behind the campaign. JC4 is all about waging a war on the island of Solis, and ousting the Black Hand from the streets. There’s a bit of chaos to be caused, but now Rico Rodriguez is more about causing revolution instead. But is that better?
Let’s be honest here, the plot of the Just Cause series doesn’t matter. Which is good, because they’re terribly uninteresting. Rico is on the island of Solis to stop the Black Hand organization that rules it - only his first, direct attempt goes awry because the main base is harnessing extreme weather. Now Rico and friends become the head of a resistance movement, fighting to liberate Solis from the Black Hand one region at a time.
This works by completing missions and, to a lesser extent, causing chaos around the island. Once you’ve completed a bar, and finished a specific mission for each region, you can order your squads to move forward - just press a button on the map to liberate a region, basically. The side effect unfortunately is that Chaos just isn’t that big a deal any more. Previous Just Cause games were based entirely on causing destruction to progress, but Just Cause 4 all but does away with that, pulling the focus to missions. We’re not sure this works.
There is something really off about Just Cause 4. Every time we think we’re having fun, something happens to snatch it away - like a team of pinpoint-accurate snipers shooting out of the air from miles away, or your vehicle suddenly exploding without explanation, or your car flying off a bridge because the physics and driving are off. Then we start to think of ways we could have more fun but we can’t - maybe the armed response doesn’t have to be so long-range and extreme? Maybe there are more things to actually destroy? Maybe we could carry more than two weapons so we don’t have to drop the Wind Gun?
It’s a real shame, because there’s so much Just Cause 4 gets right. The feel of the wingsuit-parachute-grapple, hooking soldiers so they fly off into the distance, swinging by in an attack helicopter and strafing explosive canisters - it can be a real stress-reliever, even just as a shooter. But we can’t help but think that not only could JC4 be more ridiculous and extreme - all its best ideas were done in Just Cause 2, and just as well in Just Cause 3. Some things are outright better in the last game - the de-emphasis on causing Chaos, and the total lack of C4 or any explosives but RPGs, to name two.
We admit, we’re being decidedly harsh on Just Cause 4. It is an incredible amount of fun. Zipping around, everything exploding around you, diving into a warzone, commandeering an attack helicopter or a tank and raining down death - there is honestly nothing quite like it, nor as truly freeing, in gaming. Not even GTA5 can match the intensity and frequency of Just Cause’s action, and once you play with the grapple and wingsuit you’ll want them in every game - but they’re only in this game. We enjoyed ourselves a lot playing it, but it was all met with a tinge of frustration too - and not just because the island is pretty empty for the most part. It’s actually rather dull, especially when it comes to mindless destruction.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (6GB VRAM or better) | AMD Vega 56 (6GB VRAM or better)
Oh boy, here we go. Our system is an AMD FX-8300 Six-Core Processor, 16 Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4Gb, and Windows 10 64-Bit, and we ran Just Cause 4 fine at its highest specs… but not without issues. This is a buggy, glitchy game right now. The graphics go from amazing to truly terrible - hair and grass effects are glitchy, pop-in is ridiculous, and water effects (especially compared to Just Cause 3) are astonishingly bland.
There are bugs all over the place, from helicopters flying into mountains to Rico getting stuck in potentially anything. Driving is completely broken, as it feels just wrong and the turning is all off, so we struggled to drive any car. Worst of all, the game crashes 50% of the time when it finishes loading. It’ll be load - main menu - continue game - crash. Terrible.
JUST CAUSE 4 VERDICT
This review left us conflicted. On one side, we can’t deny we had a lot of fun dipping in and out of Just Cause 4. It’s an exciting, crazy sandbox with some wonderful tools and pretty non-stop action. The downside is - Just Cause 3 did most of this stuff a lot better. Even ignoring the bugs and glitches, replacing the Chaos meter with a mission-focused war doesn’t really work for Just Cause - especially when those missions repeat a lot. The Just Cause series is all about causing chaos and messing things up - Just Cause 4 isn’t, and that’s a big misstep. The lack of C4 or any explosives apart from RPGs should tell you what you need to know.
If you honestly loved Just Cause 3 and want to carry on the war that game started, along with balloons to send cows into the stratosphere, you’ll mostly be happy with the sequel. For the rest of us, it’s never as good or insane as it needs to be, and every part of the excitement is tinged with frustration.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Riding the tornado.
Exciting, action-packed gameplay, with some great weather effects
A glorious sandbox of destruction and animal cruelty
Plenty of moment to moment enjoyment to be had
Replaces Chaos meter with an emphasis on missions, which is a big misstep
Generally not as good as Just Cause 3
Every moment of excitement has frustration too, doesn’t go crazy or exciting enough
A lot of bugs and glitches right now, and don’t even try driving