Just Cause games have always had a penchant for the ridiculous, but after the release of the fourth game last year, I’m sure many of the series’ fans were left wondering where on Earth Avalanche could go next. With the Expansion Pass, it hasn’t taken that long for us to find out. The first instalment, Dare Devils of Destruction was all about crazy cars and challenges, Los Demonios delved deep into the supernatural with otherworldly parasites and demons running rampant, and for the third? Well, Avalanche are going back to the future.
Danger Rising brings back The Agency that Rico left in the run up to Just Cause 3. Like a bunch of vigilante librarians, they’ve checked their equipment lockers and discovered that a bunch of their gear isn’t where it should be, so they’ve come to get the overdue returns back from Rico. They’ve come in force, as well, bringing the full might of the Agency, with a fleet of submersible carriers, a whole army of troops and agents, and a bunch of sweet new gear.
It’s an interesting task fighting enemies that have got similar gear and abilities to yourself, but in truth it’s like you’re battling Rico version 1.0. They’ll happily use their grappling hooks to get around, often hanging from walls and getting up to vantage points in order to get the height advantage on you, but the regular Agency grunts don’t have Rico’s tethering smarts, let alone all the bombastic gadgets that he got to unlock and personalise through Just Cause 4.
In the end, my favourite move was still to grab a shotgun or fast-firing assault rifle, grapple onto the enemy themselves and zipline my way into them to follow my flurry of bullets with a boot to the chest. It’s still just as incredibly satisfying as it was before, and Rico’s remarkable flexibility in a fight will still be just as useful here.
The ultimate goal of the expansion will be to visit all of the carriers in turn, embarking on eight story missions that will see you taking them out. Here we see a bit of a return to Just Cause 3’s style of base capture, with a laundry list of things to do and blow up and shifting objectives. The carrier that we go to take on had us finding shipping containers of supplies and booping them into the sea, destroying communications towers and satellite dishes, and eventually completing some action-oriented environmental puzzles to expose the ship’s energy cores in different parts of the ship.
It’s an engaging challenge, but it’s made all the better by having a new gadget, a fourth new mode of transport for Rico to rely on alongside his grapple, parachute and wingsuit. Enter, the hoverboard. A simple click of the right stick and Rico pulls out a hover board, and in one fell swoop makes it so that you won’t ever find yourself stranded in the water again, as (unlike its Back to the Future counterpart), it’s more than happy to work on water and actually acts like a buoy that propels Rico up to the surface and then lets you skate along friction free. Sure, you can run out of momentum after a while, but just put it away and pull it back out again and you’re away.
It’s tied into the design of the Agency carriers as well, with plenty of electrical guiding rails that you can latch onto and ride around on, in a manner that’s a little reminiscent of the inFamous games. That keeps you on the move as you’re blowing things up, while a grapple behind you will spin you around and have you heading the other way. And it’s integral to solving the light reactor core puzzles, perhaps having you hover over a series of turbines to disrupt them, or riding one way around a rail to raise up a transmitter for you to destroy.
Of course, just like everything else that Rico can get his hands on in the Expansion pass – like a great big demon tentacle tank-spawning gun? – this can be taken into the rest of the game as well. The first Danger Rising mission is available almost from the off, but then you have the benefits of the hoverboard through the main campaign, adding more flexibility every time you would previously find yourself close to a body of water and looking for a boat.
Now, it’s safe to say that, as with Just Cause 3, a lot of console players in particular were disappointed in Just Cause 4 at launch. The tradeoffs that Avalanche had to make to get their bombastic over the top gameplay to fit led to them fitting a dynamic resolution that dropped quite a bit lower than many would have liked, and even then the frame rate wasn’t as stable as it should have been. A steady stream of updates to the game since then have helped a great deal, with Avalanche completely redoing the game’s lighting and further optimisations letting the consoles reach for their respective maximum resolutions more regularly and ironing out the frame rate kinks. Dipping back into the game on PS4 Pro with the most recent live update and the resolution does remain a bug bear, leading to a somewhat smeared and blurry look, but it does feel a shade more vibrant than before and I didn’t notice anywhere near as many of the previous hiccups and frame skips.
They’ve also tweaked the gameplay, so that you have more ammo at your disposal, meaning you won’t need to go hunting for guns anywhere near as much, and with the number of enemies coming after you ramping up significantly faster than before. Choppers and drones will be coming at you within moments, if you start acting up, and they’ll keep on hounding you for much longer as well.
So is Just Cause 4 worth returning to, or giving another chance, now that the expansion pass is coming to a close? If you can live with the less-than-ideal resolution or are playing on a powerful PC, then absolutely!