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Review

Just Cause 4 Review

Chaos reigns supreme

When you’re talking about bombastic gaming franchises, few can compare to Just Cause. This dark horse of destruction, fronted by nonchalant former spy Rico Rodriguez, has made blowing everything to hell in the noisiest way possible its calling card, and now, coming into its fourth instalment, its developer Avalanche Studios has more or less perfected the formula for chaos.

This time out you’re joining forces with the snappily-named Army of Chaos, who you train, work and fight alongside you to take down scheming baddy Oscar Espinosa and his Black Hand organisation. Now you’re fighting on their home turf, leading a resistance to try and force them out of the fictional South American state Solis. You help to expand the area of control by doing what Rico Rodriguez – and apparently this army – likes best; causing chaos.

The more explosive destruction you administer, the more people rally to your cause, and you can then move troops to capture the next section of the map by pushing the front forwards, gaining upgrades and unlocks as you liberate the entire country. It’s represented as you play by actual front line battles in the world, which is a nice touch. Sadly the narrative that dresses all of this up is pretty forgettable and doesn’t display the same level of humour, or heart, of the previous game.

Rico Rodriguez may be a former secret agent, but in Just Cause 4 he’s more of a superhero than ever before. While leading the revolt he will wade through nearly anything, surviving missile fire, bullets, being blown up and falling from leg-breaking heights with little more than a red tinge to the corners of the screen, and that’s before you use his catalogue of traversal moves.

There are few things as satisfying in gaming as Rico’s grappling hook/parachute/wingsuit combo and by utilising all three you’ll be able to zip about the map with instant Twitch-ready style. The level of empowerment that Just Cause 4 affords you as a player is incomparable, and the phrase ‘one-man army’ has never been truer.

You can easily destroy an entire enemy facility all on your lonesome, dropping in from a dying helicopter that inevitably falls onto something explosive, causing a cascade of fiery death as you plummet to earth with your wingsuit before opening your parachute at the last minute and filling all of the remaining evil henchmen with righteous lead as you daintily land on your feet. It’s hilariously stupid, grin-inducing stuff, and few games can come remotely close to its hyper-stylised take on guerrilla warfare.

Those are compliments that you could also level at Just Cause 3, but this latest adventure has a few key improvements over its forebear. The new grappling hook upgrades give you twice as many things to play around with as you’re unleashing mayhem, and you can switch between multiple loadouts so you’re constantly in control. These range from attachable balloons that you can use to lift things out of – or into – the way, to the returning thrusters that you can now stick on nearly anything with your hook to help shoot them across the map. Within these are now granular options to alter the strength or speed of each attachment so you can find just the right ridiculous tool for the job.

It’s here that the most creative players will have no end of fun, tinkering with the millions of combinations  as you look for new ways to cause destruction. It ranges from lifting explosives into the air, speeding them across a ravine and then letting them fall on an unsuspecting target, to creating an airborne tank that’ll rain destruction from the sky… or spiral uncontrollably into space if you’ve put too many thrusters on it. It’s a shame then that barring a couple of examples there’s no real narrative drive to force you to make use of these physics-based toys if you don’t want to, and there’ll be plenty of people who miss out on the wealth of possibilities that Avalanche have dropped in their lap.

The other major new addition is the introduction of weather effects. Each of Solis’ four distinct terrain biomes plays host to its own spectacular set of extreme weather that pushes the Apex engine further than ever before. Remarkably it holds together despite the strain of full lightning storms, tropical hurricanes and tornadoes filling the screen while attempting to rip you and the landscape apart. They might not be quite the game-changer that Avalanche intend them to be, but they’re certainly exhilarating, impressive displays of the game that Just Cause has become.

In fact, where Just Cause 3 fell down was in its own ambition, with the game engine creaking under the strain of everything Avalanche put into the game. This time out performance is much improved, at least on a suitably sturdy PC, and even during the most extravagant moments of weather-based mayhem it holds relatively steady.

It’s a different story on console, where they trade resolution and graphical quality for a more stable frame rate. Having primarily reviewed on PC, our preliminary testing suggests that the original PS4 scales all the way down to 720p on a lot of occasions, even when not much is going on, while the PS4 Pro often only musters around 1080p. Performance is a much steadier 30fps because of this, even when near some of the major weather events in full force, but the combination of motion blurring and shimmering aliasing is a very noticeable tradeoff.

The menus aren’t the most intuitive out there, and strangely laggy to boot. It’s in here that you can tinker with your own personal loadouts, and in particular it’s your grappling hook you’ll likely be messing around with the most. You’ll be jumping in and out of the map fairly regularly too, whether to look at what needs blowing up next, using the fast travel system, or requesting a supply drop.

While I managed to incur a couple of crashes during my playthrough they seem to have been fixed by an interim patch and there’s a list of minor known problems that should be sorted with a day one patch. Just Cause 4’s biggest issues are more to do with its ultimate similarities to the previous game and that the further you play the more likely it is that repetition will begin to set in.

Avalanche have done their best to alleviate this with plenty of different mission structures, including some pretty tight time trials, and some of the silliness you’d hope but the bottom line always comes back to blowing everything and everyone to hell. You’ve got the tools to keep things fresh and lively, but you have to wonder how many players will exploit them to their fullest.

What’s Good:

  • Rico’s abilities are hugely empowering
  • Beautiful and varied setting
  • Gameplay is pure, unadulterated fun
  • Steadier performance on console

What’s Bad:

  • Repetition can set in
  • No huge progression over Just Cause 3
  • Narrative is underwhelming
  • Low dynamic resolutions on PS4 and PS4 Pro

Just Cause 4 is the best entry in the series to date, offering spectacular free-wheeling destruction on a scale that’s not been attempted before. Rico remains one of gaming’s most enjoyable protagonists, but more than ever before, it’s really all about what he’s capable of doing rather than the events unfolding around him.

Score: 8/10

Version Tested: PC
Also available on PS4 and Xbox One

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7 Comments
  1. MrYd
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    Why do I get the feeling the PS4 version is going to be as broken as JC3 was?

    All the reviews seem to be based on the PC version. And what’s been tested of the PS4 version suffers from an absolutely pathetic 720p resolution? What are the odds on further testing later in the game producing pretty slideshows rather than a playable game? Maybe the dynamic resolution will save it and it’ll at least always hit a framerate in double digits? Probably about 11FPS.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 10:16.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      I’ll be digging into it a bit more tonight – we got PS4 code yesterday and I played for a couple of hours on PS4 and Pro to get a feel for it and do some pixel counting – but your feeling doesn’t match up with what I’ve experienced so far. The dynamic resolution has been put in place specifically to help with frame rate, driving at speed is much more manageable, Avalanche have rewritten the physics engine to be able to cope with the tornado, etc. etc.

      So it doesn’t look particularly pretty, but currently we’re seeing that it runs solidly with mild frame skipping when explosions trigger and driving at high speed.

      Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 10:44.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        After the mess of JC3, I’ll wait for further investigations.

        Just looked up the review for that, and it mentioned “severe” frame-rate drops on the XBone version and that the PS4 version reportedly suffered less, but that it doesn’t make it unplayable.

        That was quite clearly not the case. Or at least for some people. Some claim they never had a problem. Others had frame-rate drops into single figures. At certain points when stuff was exploding, I definitely had frame rates more usefully measured in “seconds per frame”.

        But if the terrible resolution has fixed that issue, it might be worth a look later when it’s on sale. Or in a couple of years assuming the PS5 is backwards compatible.

        Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 10:59.
  2. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    The “Repetition can set in” bit is what always gets me with JC games. I’ve never finished one because of this. Always have fun to start, but after 15 hours or so I end up giving up.

    Will leave this until it’s free on plus.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 11:03.
  3. JR.
    Member
    Since: Apr 2013

    Looking forward to this. The one thing that bugged me about JC3 was the cap on drops from the black market. Also having to wait 15-30 minutes to request the same vehicle/weapon. Really spoiled the fun. I hope they haven’t brought this back for JC4. Unlimited drops please.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 13:53.
  4. ico
    Member
    Since: Aug 2010

    Loved 2, enjoyed 3 and looking forward to this one when the price goes down. No reviews of note I can see on PS4 or XBO which is a slight concern unless there is an embargo issue, I see the comments here (and elsewhere) re performance of JC3on PS4 but I felt it played ok on the whole and don’t remember it being unplayable.

    I liberated 100% of the islands on both 2 and 3 from memory and as long as you don’t play it in mammoth sessions it was rather fun. Think you’ll struggle again if you looking for any depth in the game but for a single player equivalent of something like Halo’s 15 seconds of fun (repeated) these games do the job. I’ll look out for console reviews and how it plays technically but will almost certainly pick it up at some point.

    Comment posted on 04/12/2018 at 15:19.
  5. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Have they fixed the driving physics? It was so strange in JC3 that, in combination with how much easier and more fun it was to zip about with the grapple/parachute/wingsuit combo I only used road vehicles when I had to. The bikes were practically unusable. That was a shame because I loved the vehicles themselves and the road layout was pretty fun.

    Comment posted on 05/12/2018 at 10:18.

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