It’s hard to pinpoint the space in which Just Cause 4 falls short of the series’ history. I mean, it’s fun. Like, a lot of fun. Tethering baddies together and then putting boosters on them to watch them flail about in the air with crazy physics is fun. Sickly. But fun. And when you tether multiple baddies together and repeat the process, the resulting offensive maneuver is borderline torture. And it shouldn’t be as fun as it is. But it is.
But how long this ‘fun’ is sustainable for against the sheer size of the game and its ridiculous rehashed narrative is difficult to quantify. On the one hand, the game’s physics and systems allow for some pretty incredible experiments, while in-game as you’re playing properly, emergent outcomes because
of these systems does keep the action fresh. But the missions themselves become pretty repetitive pretty quickly, and Rico as a one-man army is all but invincible -- a deliberate design tilt for sure; Avalanche wants you to feel both powerful and capable, all while having fun. But this negates any sense of challenge.
I mean, at the end of the day Just Cause 4 is an explosion simulator. It’s like Jerry Bruckheimer asked the studio to build him an engine he could just plan his next movie(s) in.
But is that at all bad?
"The playspace here -- the South American country Solis, is different to previous playspaces in name only -- jungle, desert, snow and urban biomes jigsaw the makeup of the overly-sized game-world..."
Just Cause 3 was a really great instalment in the series. It gave us all new ways to traverse the world, and mini challenges peppered the landscape to break up the monotonous nature of just blowing up anything that was red. It was a polished game too, with a visual sheen that spoke to the studio’s technical strengths and its love of its IP. Just Cause 4, however, offers little in the way of evolutionary gameplay. The new weather content is cool, but it’s more or less just a new physics system to add to the physics arsenal found within. And, most alarming of all, Just Cause 4 is a visual mess. It’s obvious studio resources have been pushed elsewhere *cough* Rage 2 *cough*, and if I’m being honest and blunt, Just Cause 4 should not have been released this year. It needed way more time in the polish department -- from cut-scenes to textures, pop-up and in, and beyond.
The ‘new’ here comes in the form of bolstering your army who you can send forth to liberate areas of the map based on a few factors, but it’s largely superfluous. Loadouts are also new, and these aren’t at all superfluous, especially because it’s all centred around your grappling arm. New ways to tether, and play with the game’s silly physics present themselves, such as the new balloons you can use to lift physical objects in the world, or the baddies, and then even mess with the balloons themselves (helium-filled balloons in an explosion simulator… think about that science for a minute). And again, playing with this stuff, and even performing the requisite actions and completing missions to build up the aforementioned army can present you with minutes, or a few hours of fun. But after awhile, a question of “why?” presents itself.
"The lack of multiplayer, whether competitive or co-op, is a continued missed opportunity. This world and its systems simply demand it..."
The playspace here -- the South American country Solis, is different to previous playspaces in name only -- jungle, desert, snow and urban biomes jigsaw the makeup of the overly-sized game-world. There are hidden caves and cities and ruins and more, but they’re not really meaningful beyond set-dressing. Even missions around them don’t really take them into account. The only tangible parts of the game-world are those you can blow up on a permanent basis in order to make this ‘revolt’ a believable exercise, but problematically -- and this is series-wide -- it’s difficult to care at all, because the story is really, really, really bad. And it’s essentially the same story we’ve played through before, only now with an even less interesting dictator; a Bond villain dropout who likes to play with weather.
And it’s in conjunction with all of the above the most glaring omission from this series on the whole continues to rear its head -- the lack of multiplayer, whether competitive or co-op, is a continued missed opportunity. This world and its systems simply demand it, and it would give the world purpose and life. The static nature of the set-dressing I mentioned earlier wouldn’t matter so much, and the emergent opportunities that would manifest from any such exercise would keep us in this world for longer, rather than growing tired of it sooner.
The lack of polish doesn’t help at all, but down the track patches and updates could address performance. The series just needs a massive boost, and adding a new physics playtool in different types of weather just isn’t it. What you play a Just Cause game for will determine whether or not you grab this and how much you’ll actually invest in it from a time and gameplay perspective, but as a product that is more than just the fun, silly physics experiments part of itself, it’s difficult to glow at it beyond the “sickly” fun I mentioned in the intro. At the end of the day, what we need
from Just Cause is, well, just cause; purpose to play beyond tethering baddies to boosters, each other and exploding barrels. As fun as that is.