Taking place right after the events of Just Cause 3, Rico Rodriguez is back for another action-packed and explosive adventure in Just Cause 4. This time, our protagonist ventures into Solis, a fictional country battered by extreme weather to uncover the truth behind Project Ilapa, a project aimed to tame and control storms. Taking the sandbox-type action and chaotic physics and explosions of previous games, Just Cause 4 showcases the power of Avalanche Studios’ new Apex engine, which allows generation of extreme weather and physics. But will this addition be enough to make this game enjoyable and fun vs. its predecessors? Here’s our review of Just Cause 4.
The game takes place in weather battered Solis, lead by yet another dictator, Oscar Espinosa. In his control is the entire country of Solis through his private army, the Black Hand, and Project Illapa, a technology that allows Espinosa to control extreme weather such as lightning storms, sandstorms, tornadoes and blizzards. Mira Morales, a native of Solis, convinces Rico to help her liberate the country from Espinosa, and in the process, creates his own army, called the Army of Chaos. Meanwhile, Rico learns the truth behind Project Illapa, and how someone close to him is involved.
Story-wise, Just Cause 4 has an impressive story to tell. New characters are introduced along your journey as you progress the Ilapa takedown main quest. Supporting characters who give side quests are also interesting. The campaign takes about 15 – 20 hours to finish, and the story missions are quite enjoyable to play, except that it requires you to liberate areas first before you can play the main story missions – which are really tedious and repetitive. It honestly feels momentum breaking, as you’re forced to play a 10-15 minute mission that’s is almost always repeated throughout the game. However, if you can bear through that, you’ll be rewarded with a fun and enjoyable campaign.
Weather effects are given focus in the story, as you’ll be tasked to take down each weather core, and once in full effect, these extreme weather effects make for fantastic set pieces.
I have to be honest and transparent here, this is my second Just Cause game, and the kind of gameplay Just Cause 4 offers might not be for everyone. If you love explosions, playing around things to see if you can break the laws of physics, and roaming around a really huge open world, then this might be your kind of playground. It can take a while and it might be something like an acquired taste and pushes you to be creative with you approach. However as I’ve mentioned earlier, certain aspects of the gameplay make Just Cause 4 repetitive, boring, and sometimes just unengaging to play.
In Just Cause 4, since your main quest is to take down Espinosa and Project Ilapa, you’ll have to liberate the regions of Solis. This is the part where it gets terribly repetitive as it uses dated mission designs, like simple escort missions, destroy this and that and point-to-point console hacking, heck I even called this Console Hacking simulator because of how irritated I was with this design decision. It’s not fun and it’s a momentum killer for a solid campaign since you’re practically required to do this before you can play story missions.
The game world is huge, and is actually one of the biggest ones compared to its contemporaries. Solis features different biomes: there’s a lush tropical area covering the north east spanning south; a dessert area to the west and a snow capped mountain ridge to the center, each with its own extreme weather disturbance, and these weather features does indeed add a bit to the gameplay. When under a lightning storm, Rico needs to move fast and get low; in a tornado, you are sucked up and into the tornado when you have your parachute open; and when in a sandstorm, you’re movement and visibility is limited and you’ll be blown away by strong winds when opening a parachute. Thus you’ll have to tweak your movement in each situation. And the Apex engine does a great job in maintaining fluidity despite the extreme effects going on all over the screen. There can be dips in framerate but, negligible at best.
But back to the size of the game world, while it’s huge, it’s big to a fault. There’s not a lot of things going in between and it can be a boring ride when you’re going from one point to another. You might rely on the game’s fast travel a lot, and thankfully it loads pretty fast. There’s plenty of vehicle options too, but again, the game world is really huge, and driving or flying can take a while.
One technical issue I encountered often in my playthrough, that can be annoying at times. There’s frequent asset pop-in, meaning enemies can just spawn right in front of you if you’re travelling too fast.
The graphics in Just Cause 4 is its major let down. The game looks like a late PS3 / early PS4 game – character models, especially ambient NPCs, look dated are not so well designed. The only good looking character unfortunately is Rico. There’s also a lot of aliasing and edges really look rough.
There are times that the character speech doesn’t match the audio, which isn’t really something I’d mind but it breaks the immersion, and shows lack of polish.
The tornado, which should look fearsome from a distance, looks like an unpolished lowres image, and it’s really unfortunate that one of their biggest selling point doesn’t look up to snuff when viewed from a distance.
I get it, they may be compromising graphical fidelity with fluidity of rendering all the effects and physics to keep the action going, given the console’s limited resources, but it’s kind of annoying, as it really doesn’t look good even on a PS4 Pro. It just doesn’t look like a proper late 2018 game.
And don’t get me started on the HDR implementation. It’s not pretty, and unfortunately you can’t turn it off on the menu. In dark areas, much of the scene you’re seeing is blotted with unsightly extremely dark spots, that doesn’t even properly gradient. If you have an HDR TV, we recommend turning off this feature for now, until this becomes patched in the future.
Sound design in Just Cause 4 thankfully is great. Lots of deep bassy explosions, though the gun sounds could do some work. There’s plenty of songs to listen to as well in the radio.
The voice acting is top notch as well, and the south-central American accent brings life to the characters.
Just Cause 4 offers a great playground for players to play in. The Apex engine works great in rendering all that physics and destruction and offers players a wide set of tools and vehicles, all easily accessible to fuel your creativity. Plus, a decent campaign offers a good story to tell, while integrating pretty well its new extreme weather feature. However, dated and repetitive mission design, as well as graphical issues might hinder your enjoyment of the game. It’s too big to a fault, and misses on the finer details that should make this game fun, engaging and enjoyable.