Review: Just Cause 4

Just Cause 4 is an open world game where you can cause a lot of controversy as Rico Rodriguez. That is what the series is known for, and this time too there is a lot of fun to be had. However, Just Cause 4 does not have much new to add to the franchise and even misses a lot on many points.

Some news in the concept, or some change of mind, would be good for the series. Now it is mainly "the same old Just Cause". There are of course some new gadgets and gameplay elements, but they are not fully utilized. Often you are also carrying out the same boring missions. 'Blow this and that on' missions are the most fun. But missions where you have to perform certain actions in a certain amount of time, where you have to escort someone, and missions where you have to defend a console or antenna against hordes of enemies quickly become frustrating. "It's gonna take a few minutes..." is a sentence that I couldn't hear after two hours of playing. Also, bugs are often present in Just Cause 4 and just seem to lack a certain finish.



Out with the old, in with the new

You can blow up certain things with the greatest of ease, but often it is impossible to make a dent in the most fragile buildings. Just Cause 4 uses the all-new Apex Engine. My advice is that next time they call EA about the Frostbite engine and its destruction capabilities. Frostbite is the engine that is mainly known for the Battlefield games. What can be destroyed in Just Cause 4 explodes with great pomp, splendor and violence. And that's what it's all about, making things explode with a lot of style. You can also air-drop items at any time, such as weapons and vehicles, which make it all a bit easier.
Unfortunately, the large amount of bugs does not make it more fun. This amounts to multiple getting stuck on or behind objects in the world, or simply crashing the entire game. Fortunately, the effect is sometimes a bit funnier. I was able to capture a few nice bugs:

Not only planes and helicopters can fly. More fun bugs below.
You will get some new toys. Instead of explosives like grenades and C4, each weapon has a second fire mode. In most cases, this involves an explosive or other more powerful shot. One weapon even has drones that fight for you. On the other hand, I do miss the so-called throwables.

grapple hook

Rico's iconic grapple hook is also present. You can quickly pull yourself somewhere with this. Or you can use it to speed up your wingsuit or parachute. The grapple hook gets two extra features in Just Cause, which are perhaps the most fun aspect of the entire game.
You can of course connect all the interactive elements from the game world together and let them fly to each other. You don't like that helicopter? You can steal it with the grapple hook and blow it up. However, you can also connect it to a large gas tank and blast it against it. In addition, there are two new features: a balloon and a booster. With the balloon things fly into the sky. For example, soldiers or vehicles. But also exploding objects. The second addition is the booster. If you connect it to something, it will move forward or turn at a rapid pace. And all these elements can be tied together to great effect. Also can switch between the two on-the-fly or even use them simultaneously. You can also apply various effects, such as making the gas in the balloon particularly explosive.

It's great fun, it's a shame that no reasons are given to use it. You don't have to solve puzzles with it and there are no necessary applications. Many games introduce new opportunities for them subsequently to apply. Unfortunately, the only incentive in Just Cause 4 is that they are fun to use. That in itself is not so bad, but it could have been so much more.

Weather

Another big 'innovation' is the weather. The Black Hand (the bad guys in the game) have different ways to influence the weather. You also get some control over those options later in the game. In general, this means that you can turn certain weather conditions on or off. However, it does not add much and is often even very annoying. So it does bring some variation, but I quickly got tired of it. Much more could have been done with this had it been developed further. A great opportunity that was completely missed. There are also multiple 'biomes', areas with different properties and weather. Think of beaches with sun, rainforest with rain and mountains with snow. I also couldn't get excited about this, and also an idea where much more could have been done.

Story

Rico's father was a scientist behind these weather machines. His father did not survive this and Rico wants to let the Black Hand smell a poopie. You will receive help from various people, some of whom are old acquaintances. The story provides context and has its moments of humor. Other than that, it's just a way to tie the missions together. For some the story will be an addition, personally after a while I started skipping cutscenes here and there. This wasn't just about the story, though. More on this later.
The story does pick up on the progression. By liberating and helping the local militia, you can take over territories. You can go anywhere on the map from the start, but missions do give a sense of progression. You play the mission in an area after which you CAN take over. You don't have to, you can also take over some other areas. I thought that was an odd design choice. Just playing a mission and thereby unlocking that specific area would have been enough.

Presentation

The graphical presentation is not what it should be. Animations are stiff and textures are downright bad. It's an open world with a lot of explosions and this requires a lot of computing power. But I played the game on an Xbox One X and seeing cutscenes like they're from Xbox 360 (which isn't an exaggeration unfortunately) takes that away from the experience. Then I would have preferred to see pre-rendered cutscenes. The world itself is also not impressive, but it is sufficient.

Conclusion

There are still a few things that kill Just Cause 4 a bit. Driving vehicles is not good (accelerate on RT/R2 and shoot or boost on RB/R1?), often it also seems like you are driving on a surface of pudding. Ammo for weapons is too scarce for a Just Cause game, especially the secondary ammo such as grenades. Side missions are limited to skill exercise such as driving through rings. There is also little reason to explore, the world is very empty outside the missions. So you generally just go from mission to mission.
It all comes across as very negative, but in the end Just Cause is about one thing, and that's fun. Making things explode; Flying from place to place with grapple hook, wingsuit and parachute and hijacking helicopters is simply a joy to do. This fun is of course not endless and when I had unlocked about 60/70% of the map, boredom started to set in. It is a fun game that is certainly welcome in the collection of many gamers. My advice is to only add the game when it is on sale. However, if you didn't get excited about the previous parts, Just Cause 4 will not change this.


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