Wednesday, 30 January 2019 10:12

Just Cause 4 Review

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Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

The Just Cause line of games is pure, high-octane fun. The team at Avalanche Studios has centered design decisions for the series around an open-world experience where you're allowed to wreak havoc just, well, cause. This formula hasn't changed much as the series has continued, and we're really not complaining about that. The question is: Does Just Cause 4 check off all of the boxes of a Just Cause game?

Lifelike Fun physics?

Just Cause 4 kept the wingsuit from its predecessor and it really makes you feel like Batman. You're also able to use Rico's famous grappling hook to propel yourself along at breakneck speeds, and your parachute to keep yourself in the air pretty much indefinitely. The utility of Rico's grappling hook is also slightly elevated in this entry by adding different grapple mods that allow you to attach balloons and thrusters galore to vehicles, objects, and people in the open world. Due to these additions, guns can be an afterthought during enemy encounters, as dropping cars suspended by balloons is just as effective (and so much more fun) than a traditional shootout.

The physics engine completely fails for vehicles, however. While the title's predecessors had very tight vehicle controls on both keyboard and controller, Just Cause 4's vehicles are jerky at best, and unresponsive at worst — often one and then the other. The Just Cause series is known for having quite a few vehicles in its DLCs, often of varying levels of firepower and ridiculousness, but you might want to stick with the wingsuit on this one.

I'm going to check the physics box for Just Cause 4, because after you've beaten the campaign, you'll be able to use the open world of Solís as your own personal physics chaos sandbox.

How's it look?

There is talk on a few forums that there's an issue with the PC release's .INI files, such that you can't turn the graphics settings above the minimum. This has since been improved, except for the water. With my in-game graphics settings  — and my settings forced through GeForce Experience — at maximum, the game certainly didn't look great. I'm willing to accept, even if it's not my bag, the artistic choice of including a bit of brown, but graphically-speaking this entry has taken a few steps back. Just Cause 4 includes several extreme weather events (tornados being the most fun), but they look unimpressive, taking the danger out of it.

Just Cause 4 also really loves its motion blur... even when you turn it off. Console users specifically have noted that the motion blur can be very invasive while driving (especially when frame rates are lower), so much so that vision is completely obscured when taking a sharp turn at speed. On the PC version I was able to turn this off right away, but the blur persisted when using the wingsuit.

Little technical downgrades aside, Square Enix went a darker route —literally — for the graphics in Just Cause 4. They're gritty and realistic compared to its predecessor's bright and fun atmosphere, and the darker theme is a bit out of place in the goofy explosion simulator that I expect (and mostly got!) out of this Just Cause title.

All in all, the graphics weren't what I expected. (Except for the bugs. I expected the bugs.) So I'm going to keep this box unchecked. Speaking of bugs…

Bugs? Check.

The bugs in Just Cause games vary from hilarious to game breaking and everywhere in between. In Just Cause 3, you couldn't turn left while honking a vehicle's horn. In Just Cause 2, sometimes invisible NPCs would walk around with just their clothes showing. These were eventually patched but were quirky glitches that I've come to expect from the complex graphics engine of the Just Cause series.

Just Cause 4 has quirky little bugs, too: It crashes. A lot. On launch, the game had an infinite loop error that would cause the game to crash (on the PC version) at least once every half hour. This has since been improved (I'm not using the word "fixed" here for a reason) with a patch, but not after a large number of players weren't able to progress in the game for at least two weeks.

It seems strange to ask Avalanche for fun bugs in their games, but they didn't quite deliver in that regard.

Which dictator do we take on this time?

Just Cause games have never taken themselves seriously. If you've never played one before, let's just say they treat radiation poisoning and the like as if it's no big deal. Just Cause 4's story is based in Solís, where you take on the Black Hand, a private mercenary army, and leads your army (The Army of Chaos) to free the South American nation. The story takes itself very seriously and settles on a dark tone to match the game's color palette.

None of the characters are particularly memorable, save for Tom Sheldon, an old favorite from the series. While the story isn't all that central to what is, at its core, a sandbox for creating chaos, the slow, serious plot makes the story feel less like a fun, tropical jaunt with rocket launchers and more like a boring obligation with rocket launchers.

As a result, I'm also going to leave this one unchecked.

When do I get to blow stuff up?

The core gameplay of Just Cause 2 and Just Cause 3 involved traipsing around as Rico, blowing up as much stuff as possible. To fully complete both games, you had to blow up every possible blow-up-able thing. Just Cause 3 in particular used a liberation system, where you would liberate different areas by blowing up all of the government's stuff in that area. In Just Cause 4, this very popular system was removed. You're still blowing stuff up; completing different quests and actions generates chaos, allowing you to advance your Army of Chaos to different locations, where you'll take those areas. This is decidedly not as fun as rolling up to an area with a rocket launcher and tearing down, blowing up, and pushing over everything you can while the government sends goons after you.

All in all, yes, you do get to blow stuff up in Just Cause 4. Somehow, however, it's not fun anymore.


The Verdict: Flawed

Just Cause 4 takes itself too seriously and has removed quite a few of the crowd-pleasers from its predecessors, leaving us with an empty, buggy game. At its core, Just Cause 4 tries to be a physics sandbox that gives you the tools of destruction to spread as much chaos as you could ever desire. However, graphically and technically, it doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from Just Cause 3, which I can almost guarantee is on sale somewhere as you read this.

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James Kuhtreiber

James Kuhtreiber is an American writer and comedian who is currently living in Ireland. His work can be found on Amazon and probably below the paragraph you’re reading right now. James is also the Chief Editor over at Nerfwire, the oldest established (and most definitely genuine) gaming news site in the world. When James is supposed to be working on everything mentioned thus far, he’s usually playing World of Warcraft.


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