Rico Rodriguez is, for all intents and purposes, the South American Ethan Hunt. Though he lacks the charisma, insane grin and cloak-and-dagger skillset of Tom Cruise’s on-screen guise, Rico is a bonafide action star and, just like with Mission: Impossible, the strength of the Just Cause franchise has long been its capacity to push the limits and go bigger time and time again. Though it’s far from perfect, Just Cause 4 is the fourth in a fun, workmanlike series that has always climbed to explosive new heights.
Rebellion is the driving force behind both the game’s story and progression, as you push enemy lines back and steal territory from the Black Hand, the returning mercenary cell. It’s a strange grind that Avalanche locks the player into by forcing them to advance on a number of territories, a rather timely exercise in its own right, before being able to proceed with the game’s rather drab, forgettable story.
This is a game that is at its best when you’re letting off steam and flexing your creative muscle, inventing new ways to both traverse the lush South American forestry and depose of the Black Hand as they threaten to swat you from the sky as you paraglide from town to town across the fictional state of Solis. With your hand held by the Army of Chaos, Rico soon amasses quite the toolbelt of gadgets to go with a stockpile of guns and vehicles that makes the game’s fairly vapid open-world bearable. The gunplay itself is a rush, it’s an odd compliment to pay but Just Cause has some of the most satisfying hit markers I’ve come across. When overwhelmed by large numbers, it’s easy to get disheartened when you’re rag-dolling around after grenades and eagle-eyed snipers smash you from all angles. The game does a poor job of throwing fun and tactical fights at you instead barraging you with aimbots.
Avalanche’s Apex engine is the driving force behind the game’s more stunning spectacles. The weather effects are often breathtaking and stunning to behold; there’s nothing quite like getting caught in the updraft of a fierce tornado as debris swirls unpredictably. Unfortunately, it isn’t all peaches when it comes to the game’s so-called intelligent systems. Non-player characters are, for the most part, denser than marble with enemies often not spotting Rico from a matter of yards while those tailing you constantly get hung up on walls and doors. Of course, the destruction physics are also pretty marvellous though there are limits on what can be blown to shreds. Imploding buildings isn’t exactly on the table but it’s safe to say falling silos and satellites doesn’t get old quickly.
Just Cause 4 has a litany of graphical and performance hang-ups with the game performing rather poorly, even on the beefy Xbox One X. Draw distances aren’t bad though there are considerable pop-in and rendering issues, and even when textures decide to load in, they’re pretty jagged. As impressive as the physics can be, it’s a double-edged sword with things behaving rather wildly at times. In one instance I called in a plane, not unlike a Wright brothers contraption and upon bursting from its shipping container it began to fish-tail into the dirt and, eventually, soar off into the sky. Between that and car tyres seeming to slide across the asphalt like an air hockey puck, it’s a bit disappointing. For a game that went gold months prior to its launch, I’m surprised there wasn’t a patch to make amends for a lot of these issues.
Proverbial mannequins litter the game’s every scene as the performances are wooden from the top-billed cast right down to the bottom. It’s not all doom and gloom for the game’s audio design, however. Where voice performances fall flat, the soundtrack does shine with a real Latin flavour. The rest of the sound design does well enough to compliment the scenes of disorder. Explosions are huge as they should be and guns bark with a satisfying ferocity.
I must admit, there’s a lot of fun to be had here but it’s fleeting and doesn’t extend to the game’s story or to its campaign. With little to no marketing and brutal competition, it’s no surprise Square Enix has let this sequel whimper out of the gate. It is, after all, a game just for the cult.
THE XBOX ONE VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON AN XBOX ONE X. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODW WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Just Cause is undoubtedly a fun series with a devoted following. When you embrace the chaos there can be a lot of fun to be had, but it's when you look deeper at the nuts and bolts it isn't a bustling sandbox you find. It's more of a litter tray, full of waste. If you expect the finest the genre has to offer you're bound for disappointment, though if you're after more of bedlam Just Cause is famous for then this fourth iteration is what the doctor ordered.