Rico Rodriguez takes on the Black Hand in a buggy and unoptimised game.
Is there any video game out there that lets you chase a freaking tornado or better, jump right into its eye? We think not. Just Cause 4 lets you do exactly that. If you thought the previous iteration of Just Cause was crazy, the latest one takes things or rather just one thing to the next level. The franchise’s success has always revolved around providing its players with an open world playground to accomplish impossible feats by humiliating gravity and disregarding any kind of real-world physics. Through the years, the games have gotten better with the addition of new features to enable death-defying stunts through equipment upgrades and gameplay elements. We explore whether Just Cause 4 manages to keep up with all the craziness expected from the franchise.
Our very own Dictator Removal Specialist, Rico Rodriguez, is back to create chaos and overthrow a ruthless ruler, yet again. However, this time things are more personal. Rico’s mission is to bring down Oscar Espinosa, the ruler of Solis. We say it’s more personal because of Rico’s late father’s involvement with Oscar. If you’ve played the previous games, you might remember the Black Hand, a faction of mercenaries with high-end weapons, vehicles and elite soldiers. Although they weren’t directly involved in the main storyline earlier, Solis is actually controlled by the Black Hand entirely. This means Rico is taking the party directly to them before Oscar brings destruction to Solis with Project Illappa. This project is how they can control the weather by creating artificial thunderstorms, tornadoes and sandstorms. Your mission is to take down the individual weather stations that control them and finally confront Oscar to stop him.
In every Just Cause game, the story has always been just a medium to take you across the map and have you interact with the environment while letting you explore your abilities. Although Di Ravello was an amazing adversary in Just Cause 3, Oscar fails to make an impact of being the same cruel and worthy antagonist. Anyway, the story was never a highlight in these games, so you aren’t really playing them for the story. All the fun is in the gameplay and that’s what we will be discussing at length.
Among all the open world games out there, Just Cause has always managed to stand out. The venerable grappling hook is the main attraction and unique to the franchise. In every game, you would get certain abilities as you progressed through the mission and there were upgrades introduced as well. Although you could already perform crazy stunts with these upgrades, the active community has always brought new abilities to the grappling hook through mods. In Just Cause 4, the game already gives you many abilities and you upgrade the rest of them as you play more. You now have three modes including retractor, booster and airlifters. It’s fun to combine the different hooks and marvel at the destruction you can cause. This was one of the big changes in the game.
Moving on to the biggest update, previously the weather was static and it didn’t affect your gameplay. Avalanche Studios teased the weather mechanics during their announcement and it gained a lot of hype. It was exciting to learn that the weather not only affected gameplay but it could actually kill you. The main story takes you on a journey to disable all the weather stations and finally take down Project Illapa. We were amazed by the scale of all the weather conditions, especially the sandstorm and tornado. One of the highlights was gliding close to the tornado while chasing it and finally towards the end of the mission, you enter right into it. We won’t spoil the weather systems much since it’s best to discover all the crazy things you can do with them and around them. All we can say is that they work and it was a refreshing experience.
All the new updates are great but what breaks them is performance. We don’t mean just the NPCs or AI going wild and disrupting your mission but game crashes were quite common. Looking at the graphics (which we will speak in more detail later) and the gameplay, Just Cause 4 looks like a rushed and incomplete game. Crashes were the most frustrating bit, especially when you were in the middle of a mission. Although there are checkpoints, the autosave only kicks in when the mission has progressed significantly. And you can only hope the game doesn’t crash randomly while you’re in between one. Tweaking with the graphics settings did the job for us. Sometimes, the AI would go crazy that included NPCs and vehicles. This problem isn’t new since it has been present in almost every Just Cause game in minor levels. However, this time they were a nuisance in certain missions.
An environment with destructible objects was the highlight in Just Cause 3. It made explosions much more fun to watch and pushed you to creatively destroy all the enemy outposts. You could blow up bridges and bring down massive structures using only C4 explosives or your grappling hook. However, Just Cause 4 has toned down the objects that can be destroyed in the environment. This felt unnecessary since there wasn’t any addition here, rather a removal of existing mechanics.
Finally, the gameplay of progressing over the map has also been changed. Earlier, it was all about destroying enemy structures and objects to liberate a town and eventually a region. This time, it’s about finishing a particular secondary mission in that region and expanding your boundaries. Essentially, it isn’t fun any more to liberate or recapture the occupied regions. While the mechanics were only a letdown, the performance of the game was frustrating at times.
Everything about Medici was beautiful in the previous game. From the beautiful countryside to the snow-peaked mountains to the wonderful sea and the urban landscapes. It was definitely a visual treat coming from Just Cause 2 and the environment was vibrant. We expected the same to be carried on in the new game, if not better, as it worked perfectly. However, the graphics were disappointing at times. Starting with the cutscenes, they looked terrible, almost as if they weren’t the final render or at a lower resolution. Solis looked magnificent to look at with dense forests and deserts at a distance since they implemented different biomes in the massive map. However, if there were any moving objects far away, they looked pixelated. The environment looked great up close when the draw distance wasn’t too much. So, the details on character models, vehicles and environmental objects didn’t have any form of pixelation or blurring. We loved how the water looked and behaved in Just Cause 3 but in Just Cause 4, it didn’t seem as responsive and vibrant. Hopefully, all these problems can be fixed with an update from Avalanche or maybe the community comes to the rescue with graphics mods to give it an overhaul.
Just Cause 3 was a major step up from Just Cause 2 in terms of not only the graphics but several factors including Rico’s abilities and how the environment responded to your shenanigans. Compare that to the transition to Just Cause 4, the game didn’t undergo a considerable change. In fact, it’s a step back at certain places. The biggest update is the introduction of weather elements that was never explored before and it’s also central to the story. This new gameplay mechanic was definitely exhilarating, providing the craziness one would expect from a Just Cause game. You can still perform outrageous and insane stunts by combining the abilities of your grapple with the environment. And we’re pretty sure that you’d surprise yourself with the result because the possibilities are endless.
As a fan of the franchise, you’re going to have a really good time in Solis even after you’ve completed the main story. It’s probably clear from the review that we wholeheartedly enjoyed Just Cause 3. In fact, we finished the previous game twice. If you’ve had the same memorable experience with it, then this game has a high chance of being disappointing to you. Coming back to Just Cause 4, there wasn’t anything memorable and we might not even give it a second run. Being optimistic, you must be wondering what would happen next in the franchise. Well, with that cliffhanger at the end, we’re already hyped about the upcoming instalment. It’s something fans might have always wanted to explore from the storyline and it could be a spectacular end to the franchise. But if all the problems of Just Cause 4 aren’t rectified, then we aren’t sure whether fans will be positively looking forward to the next one. Considering what’s about to happen next in Rico’s adventure, we surely hope that Avalanche Studios doesn’t mess up and give the fans the game they deserve. We can’t recommend Just Cause 4 in its current state or price. The best time to buy would be during the next sale or maybe even the one after.
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Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey
This ape-descended life form believed that coming down from the trees was a bad idea until he was introduced to video games. Has spent endless hours playing Prince of Persia, Hitman, Assassin's Creed, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead. This makes it three sentences, Half-Life 3 confirmed.