Game review: ‘Just Cause 4,’ chaotic good
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Rating: M 17+
By Charles Singletary Jr.
Chaos is king in Avalanche Studio’s Just Cause series, but mastering movement is an essential part of this. Switching between on-foot, vehicle, wingsuit, parachute, and grapple hook movement is the foundation of the Just Cause 4 experience and it works well. I used an Xbox One gamepad and only stumbled briefly before I was flying around with ease.
In Just Cause 4, the mastering of movement extends out to other objects. The grapple hook’s tether has been improved and can now do three things: Tether objects together, attach balloons, and attach rocket boosters. These options are going to supply players with much creative opportunity. Some modifications are locked behind side quests, but are more than worth the effort. It is possible to progress through the game without using the full feature set of the grapple hook, but I do wish its other functions were featured more.
The game’s map is massive and there are a handful of filler quests to complete as you take over more of the map and unlock more toys to play around with. Repetitive as they are, the freedom to do almost anything to take down enemies keeps things interesting. It helps that I’m able to hover over areas and see what unlocks so I can take note of specific weapons or vehicles I’d like to have airdropped.
THINGS FALL APART
There are many moments when “Just Cause 4” is very pretty. The wingsuit animations are superb, right down to the subtle shifts of wind on clothing, and the game’s massive map has some beautiful sights. When looking at things up close though, there are some issues. There’s texture inconsistency, but the biggest culprits are damaged vehicles. Vehicles take on a washed-out texture when damaged – however it’s not as bad when destroyed.
Just Cause 4 loads incredibly fast for such a massive game, but assets also pop in and out. Draw distance is very far with varying degrees of visual acuity, but the problem is how enemies, NPCs, vehicles, and other objects suddenly appear and disappear as a player moves around.
As far as sound goes, explosions are impactful and voice actor performances are solid throughout, from the cut-scenes to the banter during missions. The downfall comes as a result of repetitive mission types, which also results in repetitive interactions. Additionally, explosive weapons sound fine, but the rifles are wanting. Some of the vehicles suffer from the lack of bass in the engine sounds.
Despite my grievances, cool things the game offers easily outnumber the issues that I did come across. The extreme weather mechanics are the spotlight here. The development team built Just Cause 4 around four weather conditions: Tornadoes, blizzards, sandstorms, and heavy rainfall with lightning. Visually, all four are impressive and they’re incredible additions to a game.
THE ART OF STORYTELLING
The game’s focus is largely on the action, with narrative not being a high priority. Nevertheless, the developers of Just Cause 4 weaved a decent story around the game’s focus on the weather effects.
Rico Rodriguez is his typical cool self and he has two consistent supporting characters along for the ride. Neither of the two antagonists in Just Cause 4 get the screen time they deserve. The game doesn’t directly engage either one, which is highly annoying for the secondary villain considering there’s a moment where a cut-scene sets up what seems like a direct engagement.
Just Cause 4 makes the massive leap for the open-world action series and has laid the groundwork for the series’ future, but it hasn’t come without some growing pains. The Apex Engine opens a lot of doors for the development team and the new weather system is a clear example of this. The development team has said that Apex will allow for a better product across all platforms, but I can only speak on my experience with Just Cause 4 on PC. My game crashed a handful of times. It was frustrating, but would have been even more so if the game didn’t have a forgiving auto-save and checkpoint system. Only once throughout my play did I lose enough progress to be upset.
Beyond the occasional crashes and the visual flicker, the game ran fairly well with so many things happening on screen. I never noticed any significant slowdowns, even with the game’s weaponized weather completely upending the area around me. At worst, there’s a slight frame rate dip with massive rapid explosions, but nothing that impacted my gameplay experience.
Just Cause 4 is available now for $59.99 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.