Score: 7.5/10      |      ACTION ADVENTURE      |      OPEN-WORLD     |      EXPLOSIVE THEMES

“Just Cause 4 cranks up the series’ fast-paced in-your-face explosive action with great visuals and story missions. It’s the best game in the series, undermined with bouts of game crashes for some players, myself included which affected my experience. Take those away and it’s improved on most game elements from Just Cause 3, though the added weather effects were a little underwhelming.”

Just Cause 4 is an all-out guns-blazing action adventure game developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Square Enix, released on December 4, 2018. Ever since our first look at the game at E3 back in June, I was looking forward to seeing how devastating the advertised tornadoes and storms would be on the open-world landscape, in addition to the standard over-the-top explosive gameplay that the previous three games in the series have produced.

I played the original Just Cause on the Xbox 360 back in 2006 and the action was fast-paced and full of big guns and even bigger explosions. As each game added to the series, the story got deeper and the explosions bigger – MUCH bigger! In that respect, this game doesn’t disappoint as it puts you straight back in the shoes of Rico Rodriguez, only this time we’re in Solis, South America, on a map 2.5 times the size of Medici from Just Cause 3.

Straight away the cutscene graphics looked a little darker and less quality than I expected, and the character’s hair was kind of sparkly (this may just be my video settings?). However, once I got into the actual gameplay it looked crisp and ran smooth at 55-60-fps (v-sync is on). Once we took the controls, we were straight into using the grappling hook, wing suit and parachute, where the previous games slowly gave us these mechanics as we learnt to use them. As this is the 4th game there’s no issue here, and into the action we went! The sounds of the guns were much better quality than JC3 and we could zoom in a bit by holding down the Shift-key, causing many a headshot. It’s oh so satisfying to blow a whole bunch of shit up, especially seeing fuel tanks rocketing up in the sky, or barrels shooting across the road hitting another barrel causing a bigger explosion, which then chain reacts into the generators nearby and sparks off more fuel tanks. Boom baby!

As I took down soldier after soldier, I was pleased to see a slew of weapons and more importantly easily-identifiable ammo drops. It was a frustration in Just Cause 2 to be overwhelmed by enemy soldiers and not have many weapons or ammo dropped, so I often would get killed and must restart a mission. Whereas in this game, I was able to keep picking up ammo as I ran along and occasionally found a weapons cache to restock or change weapon depending on the situation. The enemy used a new technology against Rico, Project Illapa, and you end up in crashing in a forest in the middle of nowhere. Your grappling hook, wingsuit and parachute are damaged, so you run back to civilisation. I took a moment to take in the views and the developers have done well to capture the look and feel of the forests and villages, and this became more apparent later as I explored more areas.

The next mission taught me the processes of completing a zone mission which will then unlock the ability for resistance soldiers to take back that area of land from the Black Hand military organisation. We are also taught how to tether objects together with the grappling hook, only this time we don’t need to press shift to reel the objects together, once you hit the initial target and then release the right mouse button at the destination, the line will tether automatically. This is used to blow up doors with fuel canisters, pull off latches, open big doors and pull-down ancient levers. We’re also introduced to modifications and variants of the grappling hook. From explosive tethering, lifting objects with balloons, to planting boosters on objects, there is a whole range of things the grappling hook can now do based on the situation you’re facing. I’ve got to admit that some in-game cows were harmed in the testing of these grappling hooks mods. After using the air lifter and booster in the quests they were introduced, I sometimes use the balloons for a bit of a laugh, otherwise I stuck to the retractor which is just so versatile.

In these early missions, I saw plenty of the series’ tell-tale red/white destructible items around the missions such as fuel tanks, generators and satellites, however these had less of an objective value compared with the main mission objectives. Once I completed the first couple of story missions, when I chose a village on the map to liberate, aside from a couple of small fuel tanks, there were hardly any of these red/white items around. There is the presence of a chaos meter from previous JC games that builds chaos as you blow things up, however the method of liberating a village now is to complete challenges in the form of wing suit runs, charging through a ring at a certain speed or with a certain vehicle, and destroying air surveillance balloons (orange icons on the map below).

No longer is there the need to blow everything up to liberate a village like in Just Cause 2 and 3. This threw me off initially and, in a way, took the excitement out of liberating these villages as they got repetitive fast. I have less of an incentive now to try 100% complete each zone before branching outwards as they’re just stunts as opposed to properly ridding a village of the enemy’s presence. If I happened to be driving from point A to point B and I see some easy objectives to complete (usually speed rings) I’ll do them, however I chose to ignore most of the village points of interest on the map and focused more on completing zone missions so that my army forces could advance the front lines. By the way, the grappling hook is now my favourite mode of transport in this game! Faster than cars and check out the view! If you make it through the full clip, you’ll see multiple forms of transport in the game.

Outside of the main story, you can do missions for Sargento, Garland and Javi. Sargento’s missions are about strengthening to the resistance’s army, Garland’s missions are fun and crazy movie stunts (like the movie stunts in Forza Horizon 4) and Javi tasks you with discovering hidden tombs and the messages found within them (reminds me of Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider). Completing these missions grants you access to weapons and vehicles via air drops which can be called down at the click of a button, provided your allies are not on cool-down. This allies system also allows you to fast travel to locations you’ve visited.

After 10 hours of gameplay, aside from seeing a tornado and an electrical storm long in the distance, I hadn’t yet experienced these types of storms which were so heavily advertised in game trailers. This was partly due to the fact I had spent 2 hours negotiating crash after crash which almost made me quit playing the game. I was trying to do this one bloody mission in the SE corner of the map and it would crash every 10-20 minutes. It just crashes to the desktop or freezes up with no error message. At any point in missions in general, if the game crashes it will reset your progress right back to the start of that mission. For me, this included having to find a vehicle and drive the long distance down to the bottom right of the map to start the mission and go through all the same sequences of events after each crash. I still haven’t completed it and since moving to the north of the map, haven’t crashed in over 1.5 hours.

Rather than waiting for the main missions to take me to a tornado, I thought I’d go storm chasing! I saw one in the distance and took one of Garland’s racing missions thinking it’d take me closer to it by car. Nup, went miles the wrong bloody way! So, after finishing that race I fast travelled (hot dropped!) to a point close to where I thought the tornado was, then took a drive over to it. It’s an awesome thing to watch from a distance, but I wanted to get up close and personal. The way it’s animated is awesome and you can see trees, debris, cars and cows swirling around it. As I got closer to it, drops of rain started falling, the lighting got a bit darker, you could hear the wind whistling louder and as I got closer on foot, it made me crouch down due to the strength of the wind. But I wanted to get even closer. Fast forward the below video to 7:10 for the tornado action.

I grappled close to it and then hit my parachute hoping it would catch me and take me for a ride. I honestly thought I’d be sucked in and die straight away, however it just swirled me around it without pulling me in. I wanted more action and saw a few cars being sucked up into it, so I jumped into the nearest car which subsequently got sucked up straight away. I started swirling around the tornado, but then the game bloody crashed again. That was after a solid 2+ hours of no crashes as well, DAMNIT! Later I completed a mission in an electrical storm and that has an indicator showing the lighting was going to strike you, so you had to quickly grapple away from that spot. Once you got the hang of this mechanic it was relatively easy to dodge. I was a little underwhelmed with the weather effects I had experienced so far. I’m hopeful that we do some later missions that involve tornados and bigger storms so we see some real good action.

Overall, I gave the game a 7.5 out of 10. Just Cause 4 cranks up the series’ fast-paced in-your-face explosive action with great visuals and story missions. It’s the best game in the series, undermined with bouts of game crashes for some players, myself included which affected my experience. Take those away and it’s improved on most game elements from Just Cause 3, though the added weather effects were a little underwhelming.

This review utilised a Steam key provided for review purposes with 12 hours of gameplay. Just Cause 4 is available now on Steam, Xbox and PlayStation.

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