I feel like I’m becoming a bit of a curmudgeon with the holiday season arriving. Between this review and Thronebreaker, I know I seem like the harshest critic out there. Who knows, maybe I’m just getting my annoyance and frustration out now before “quality time” with the family happens. This still doesn’t excuse how much of an utter disappointment Just Cause 4 is, though. I loved the second and third game to the point where I got the platinum trophy in both. That trend was fully expected to continue until I discovered that this entry didn’t have a soul. It was an empty shell of its former self and stripped away nearly everything that made the series great.
Just Cause 4 sees everyone’s favorite Rico travel to a fictional country named Solis after going rogue from The Agency. He discovered that his own father was working on top-secret science projects for the Black Hand, who’s base of operations is in the South American nation. On an initial, albeit cocky, attack on their headquarters, Rico discovers that the organization can create their own destructive weather storms as they please. Naturally, our hero must destroy key parts of this weather machine, once again help a rebel army take back their home, and just blow everything sky-high. Although the latter is one of the many things to take a hit.
But first, the story to Just Cause 4 takes itself way too seriously. Something that can be considered as a con since the second game’s finale saw you hopping from nuke missile to nuke missile in mid-air. Instead of being an over the top cheese fest, Avalanche Studios decided to try their hand at an emotional, gritty, and brooding tale. It simply doesn’t work or fit with what we’ve come to expect from the series. Granted there are still some characters that play up the ham, like a movie director who’s all over the place and obsessed with Rico, but the overall narrative just doesn’t feel like Just Cause or at least an improvement to it.
Gameplay is probably the most Just Cause vibes you’ll feel in the entire experience. Controls are still tight for a third person perspective and all the awesome toys make a reappearance. The grapple hook, that somehow doesn’t rip Rico’s arm off, will make traversal fun and easy, parachuting will make falling with style pleasant, and the wingsuit will help you soar through this tropical climate with much-needed ingenuity. These aspects were the only pure joy I found in Just Cause 4. Then again I do have constant fantasies about flying. You can still equip two guns at any time and pickups are scattered throughout the world. So you’ll never really have to worry about running out of ammo. Plus, you can still call in drops that give you vehicles, guns, ammo, etc. like before.
Of course there are a few new additions to the gameplay experience. One of which pertains to the grapple hook. You can now customize it with mods to create a handful of different playstyles and versions. Most will probably gravitate to balloons you can now attach to objects and make them float. You can customize how strong these will be alongside basic grapple hook abilities. Like how much thrust you can put into things attached by the hook. A beginning mission even sees you blasting off a giant boat in order to create a big explosion. Unfortunately, this neat addition was implemented messily. Navigating the menus in general was a slight pain, but going in menus within menus three or more times was annoying. Then overcoming the learning curve I found myself fighting on how to customize all three slots to each three grapple hook combinations. More or less the tutorial on this could have been better.
The biggest sin though in my opinion relates to destruction. When you do come across levelling things to dust, it is fun like Just Cause has always been. However, it’s taken a back seat in order to tell a more “compelling” story and objectives like escort captured prisoners out of a base or protect a car. You’re not even tempted to destroy an area or compound anymore as chaos isn’t what unlocks other areas. When you complete structured side missions you acquire squads for the rebel army. When you earn enough you can send them to surrounding areas which make story missions available in that territory. What’s worse is the challenge missions, such as flying through rings, driving cars fast, etc., aren’t separated from the in-game world anymore. Now most of the challenges will place rings in the world and expect you to work out how to get through them as efficiently as possible. Naturally, this isn’t as simple as it seems and makes things that used to be frustratingly fun more like a puzzle game.
I also remember something about Just Cause 4 having superior A.I. during the pre-release period. I can say that is a lie. One such example is remember those escort missions I told you about? If you happen to blow something up and the remains get in the way of your rescuees path…expect them to walk right into it and take forever to get past the debris. Graphics are also disappointing for a PlayStation 4 title. Honestly, the game looks like it’s from the early PS3 days and nowhere near as nice as Just Cause 3. The draw distance and objects rendering in joins this unfortunate club as well. You’ll notice this when wingsuiting especially. Lastly for this bad stuff in a newer time club, a lot of beginning missions have you travel to a place to get an airplane or helicopter and then fly it near halfway across the map. When for all we know the A.I. person who triggers the quest could just appear where the mission would actually take place. Voice acting is great if that makes up for anything?
Just Cause 4 PS4 Review
Overall - Bad - 4.5/10
Avalanche Studios clearly tried doing something different with the Just Cause series and added some new flavor to Just Cause 4. It’s a shame none of the additions really fit or handled properly. The story wasn’t well told, gameplay gravitated away from proper destruction, and just things that make the title look like it’s from 2008. If Just Cause 4 is like this because the developers are running out of ideas, it might be best to retire the series and move on to something else.
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Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.
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