Boom. Just Cause is back baby, get ready to blow stuff up, smash your way through a new location and cause some chaos. Rico is now on his fourth outing, the second on PS4 and he comes equipped with new tools, weapons and vehicles to cause mayhem. I have played all the Just Cause games and I have always found them fun, I love the ability to use tethers and tools to complete your objectives and traverse the world in fantastic, weird and wonderful ways.
The story in Just Cause has always been just a vessel to enable the destruction and mayhem in the game, in fact, in Just Cause 3 the story even poked fun at itself for doing so and I enjoyed it for that. This time around the story seems to have taken a step back from this and it seems to be trying to be a bit more serious. In my opinion, the game is worse for this and I definitely preferred the Just Cause 3’s angle of being silly, self-referencing and over the top, it fitted the style of the game and I enjoyed it more. The game is set in Solis, an area that’s really prone to extreme weather systems and occupied by the Black Hand, another military outfit that Rico must eventually quell and free the local populace from its grasp. Rico finds out that his father is somehow involved in the situation and partnering up with a few old faces and new faces alike, must stop the Black Hand, get to the bottom of the extreme weather issues and free Solis and return it to its people.
One of the things I really used to love in Just Cause was the mindless destruction I could cause and the fact I was rewarded for it made it all the more enjoyable, it was an amazing thing to experience and a very addictive gameplay mechanic. I loved hovering over a base in a helicopter and just blowing up the environment or tethering stuff together, standing back, watching the physics take hold and the carnage ensue. In Just Cause 2 this gameplay mechanic was perfect as you had a percentage of items to destroy in your current location and you had to find and destroy all the items needed to fill the gauge and get 100%, there was always something I was missing and I had to spend a bit of time finding a little generator hidden somewhere and destroying it to complete the area, it was fun and added a little bit of a puzzle element to the areas as you hunted down the last piece you needed to blow up. Just Cause 3 placed the items needed to be destroyed on the map and I felt this detracted from the game and it was worse for it, it was far too easy to find everything required and took away some of the enjoyment. Just Cause 4 seems to have done away with this whole system and now your destruction just adds to an overall meter that spans the whole game, it’s fine but I do miss scanning through the bases and areas and trying to destroy everything to get that 100% and I think the game is inferior for it.
While we are on the subject of gameplay systems, the whole progression system and gameplay flow has been altered in this iteration of the game. You are in control of your own army called the Army of Chaos, which by the way is a great name if not a predictable one. You’re tasked with battling the black hand on various fronts and slowly gaining back parts of Solis in the process. In order to take back an area you have to send in your army you have accrued so far, your army grows in size as your chaos meter increases, rewarding your destruction with a bigger army to do your bidding. Then when you have completed the ‘unlocking’ mission in the area and you have enough troops, you can send them in, take over the area and reap the rewards. The system works fine but I just wish we still had the task of completely destroying areas, I liked it in the previous games and now it’s just one big chaos meter I fell less inclined to spend as much time as I did previously wrecking the environment and causing chaos.
One thing this game does well is the fact it acknowledges the fact that players love using the tethers to create custom destruction scenarios. The tether system has been completely overhauled, you can now customize them in all sorts of manic ways and have different stored setups for every chaotic situation. You have more tethers, more options and things can get very silly very fast. You have balloon tethers, booster tethers and they can all be configured with different tensions and behaviours depending on what carnage you want to achieve. Want to make a floating tank, you can, want to boost a chain of vehicles through the air, you can. It’s all I have ever wanted, all the restrictions from previous games involving the tethers have been removed, it’s a great system to have fun with and I cannot wait to see some of the outrageous creations people can create with these tools at hand.
Unlocking more options for your tethers is easy enough, you have various tasks scattered around the map and completing them fills up your XP bar for each tether type. You have stunts for your booster tethers, army training for you air lifter tethers and tombs for your retractors. It gives you a reason to do these tasks and doing so is fun and a worthwhile task. It all goes hand in hand, create more chaos, take over a region, do some challenges or missions to unlock more ways to create chaos and take over more regions. It’s a nice gameplay loop, it’s enjoyable and flows very naturally through the game.
Rico’s arsenal has also been improved in this game too, each weapon now has a secondary firing mode that mixes things up in some bizarre and fantastic ways. This all leads to creating more chaos and being able to destroy things very quickly and efficiently, take a grenade launcher, for example, it now has a secondary fire mode that fires a barrage of grenades at once. So that tower that took several shots to take down can now be crumbled in 1 shot, I loved parachuting around areas and peppering the area with a hailstorm of grenades and just watching all the explosions and carnage occur under me. Beautiful, controlled chaos. Also included in this game are some of the weirdest weapons I have seen for a while, I won’t spoil too many of them but they include a lightning gun and a wind cannon, both with amazing secondary firing modes to boot.
Traversing Solis, as in previous games is a joy. Combining your tethers, your wingsuit, parachute and the plethora of vehicles at your disposal is an amazing experience and probably my favourite way of getting around a game world in any game I have ever experienced. One minute you’re in a helicopter, you can freefall out of it, deploy your wingsuit and then tether straight onto the back of a moving motorcycle. The options are endless and it’s a joy to try different ways to get through the world, complete missions and destroy everything in your path. For example, I had a mission to destroy a generator, in a normal game you would have to get out of your vehicle open the generator and destroy it. Not in Just Cause, I hung from the bottom of my helicopter while it was hovering in the air, used a tether pull out the generator and blew it up with a grenade launcher. I then got back in my helicopter, still in mid-air and went about my business. It was quick, fun and could have been done in numerous ways depending on who was doing it. The traversal systems, destruction and tools all add up to making you feel very powerful and creative, it leads to some amazing scenarios and you’re only hampered by your imagination. There are a few additions thrown into the mix with Just Cause 4, weather systems try to halt your progress through the map and slipstreams to help or hinder your progress when wing-suiting around the various regions of the game. Sometimes you come up against a massive tornado, ripping violently through the map. Its a sight to behold and it changes gameplay in its local area in very destructive ways. Ripping up the environment and throwing vehicles around like toys. These weather systems are never too intrusive though and never get in the way too much, they can be avoided easily but do give you something else to think about sometimes when travelling around Solis.
Now on to, in my opinion, the worst part of Just Cause 4. It’s a graphical mess. I always tell people that the graphics in a game are pretty low down on what I find important in a game, gameplay is king and that has never been more relevant than in this title. It’s horrid looking and looks like a PS3 game, there are jagged edges everywhere, there seems to be no anti-aliasing system implemented whatsoever. Also, the motion blur is so severe when turning the camera that I found it very jarring and distracting at the start of the game, I did eventually get used to it though and don’t really notice it now. Some of the textures are bland and washed out, the draw distance is quite bad and buildings in the distance look hideous. Luckily the developers have come out and stated that they will be looking at the graphical side of things, tweaking the motion blur and generally improving this side of the game.
I don’t know if it’s due to the reduced graphics at all but this title performs far and above what Just Cause 3 performed like at launch. Everything runs smoothly and it doesn’t matter what’s going off at the time, it never seems to affect the framerate of the game at all. I had explosions, fighting, vehicles, bullets and all sorts cracking off at the same time and the framerate and game performance never dropped a beat. This was a far cry from the previous title which stuttered and performed very badly when the onscreen carnage increased. So if it takes lowering the graphics level of the game to get better performance, then I am all for it. I would rather have an ugly well performing game than a beautiful stuttery one.
I really enjoyed Just Cause 4 and once I had got used to the graphical issues and gameplay changes, it was a fun romp that challenged me to be creative and use different methods to accomplish my goals. The traversal and tether systems are still amazing and the range of vehicles and weapons still vast, the tether upgrades and configurable setups really add to the overall feeling that you can create anything you put your mind to. The new weather system mixes things up a bit and the gameplay changes, mainly the army system and progression systems make it feel different enough to previous entries. Graphically it’s very poor but the performance is great compared to Just Cause 3 at launch, maybe one was sacrificed for the other and if this is the case I am all for it. The story and some of the missions are bland but the fun of causing chaos remains and will always be fun given the tools you have and the creative freedom you are given. If you are a fan of the previous games in the series, once you get used to the changes, you will enjoy what’s on offer here. If you are a fan of causing mindless destruction in a sandbox that has very few rules and gives you plenty of tools to break it, then this is the game for you.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*