STAFF REVIEW of Just Cause 4 (Xbox One)

Friday, January 25, 2019.
by Jennifer Dingle

Just Cause 4 Box art The latest entry in the fan favourite action adventure series, Just Cause 4, promises to be filled mayhem and madness. Having never played a Just Cause game prior to this, I was very eager to check out this massive open world filled with “conflict, secrets and danger”. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype or my expectations.

The story of Just Cause 4 centers on the series protagonist Rico Rodríguez, who is tasked with defeating the Black Hand and Gabriela Morales, while also assisting with building a rebellion against them. Taking place in Solis, a massive fictional South American country, Rico rallies the troops, enlisting local townsfolk in the revolution against the Hand, while digging deep into his past, revealing a secret about his father and his involvement with the group.

A true open world game, there are numerous missions to complete over a whopping 1024 square kilometers, and it’s definitely easy to get sidetracked. You can follow the Operations Missions of defeating the Black Hand, or you can complete numerous side missions on behalf of certain important figures in Solis who can aid your quest in defeating Gabriela. To be perfectly honest, I found myself very lost when attempting to follow the storyline. I found the mission structure made things a bit hard to follow, especially as someone new to the series. As well, there was a great deal of repetition in the mission types, and eventually found myself frustrated with escorting yet another NPC, or driving someplace to destroy a building/weapon, and found myself losing interest very quickly.

I think I had more fun with the challenge side missions than the main story. There are three different characters who will give you tasks to complete, and the location of these missions can be found on the map, indicated by an S, J or G. Sargento (who helps Rico lead the Army of Chaos, the rebels who seek to overthrow the Black Hand) will give missions to further advance the army. Javi, an archaeologist, tasks Rico with uncovering the history of Solis by uncovering ancient tombs and exploring ruins. And Garland, a movie director seeking to complete her opus, is looking for the perfect shot, asking Rico to complete outrageous stunts. There are also seven pilots to aid you in your missions with supply drops and fast travel on the map, unlocked at various levels in the game.

But let’s be real. You’re not really playing for story. The best part of a Just Cause game is the chaos that you can create with the grappling hook and vast arsenal of unique and crazy weapons and vehicles, like helicopters, jet skis and boats at Rico’s disposal, and Just Cause 4 certainly does not disappoint. As someone new to the series, it took me a bit to master, but I was soon whipping across the map using the retractable attachment, swiftly climbing trees or clinging to the bottom of a cable car on my way up a mountain to take out a drone facility. And along with the wind suit to gracefully soar through to your objective and the parachute at your disposal, you can travel around Solis with ease.

The grappling hook is highly customizable, with thousands of potential modifications available to wreak havoc. Completing missions for Sargento, Javi and Garland will give you much needed upgrades to aid to your chaotic destruction as well. There are three attachments; the retractable hook, the air lifter (balloons that can be attached to objects) and the booster (jets that can be attached to anything). Virtually anything can be used to create epic destruction, and creativity is rewarded with hilarious chaos.

Creating epic chaos and mass destruction will earn points that will unlock and allow you to advance your army, which is indicated by a gauge at the top of the screen. For example, attach air balloons to a car and use it to float around. Use the retractable hook and draw yourself closer to an enemy. Send enemies soaring into the air with a jet booster. And adding to the insanity and chaos is extreme weather (an important part of the storyline but not wishing to reveal spoilers!) such as man-made tornadoes, lightning, and blizzards to contend with, or perhaps use to your advantage.

I found that using the grappling hook was smooth and intuitive (except when unexpectedly I lost the use of my retractable attachment. I have determined this potentially was an isolated bug). I had no problem traversing around the map! Gunplay felt right, and auto aim made hairy situations and overwhelming enemies quite manageable. But the driving controls were absolutely atrocious, which isn’t great considering many side missions involve using a vehicle to perform a stunt or escort an NPC.

There is definitely high replay value, and one of my favourite things about Just Cause 4 was the feats system. I absolutely loved this! There is a mini leaderboard in the right corner of the screen that tracks your progress against your friends. There are Land, Air, Sea, Mayhem, Marksmanship and Creative Feats to try your hand at, like farthest distance an enemy travelled after being thrown by a retracting tether, or longest time spent in a wingsuit without taking damage, which adds a bit of a competitive edge to this single player game (and great disappointment when you realize that you’ve failed to complete it!). At times I found the leaderboard was sometimes a nuisance on the screen, but it can be adjusted or turned off in gameplay menu.

Unfortunately, Just Cause 4 just didn’t look that great. Despite playing on a 4K TV, visually it was rather average, with character models and map textures looking somewhat dated. That said, considering what’s required with the in-game physics and to have the level of chaos and destruction in the game, it could perhaps be forgiven. I did encounter several graphical bugs, but nothing I that would consider game breaking. Voice acting was well done, and the soundtrack fitting, but again, nothing really outstanding or noteworthy.

It’s absolutely insane and absurd at times, and creating epic chaos while attempting to complete challenges cans be great fun, but Just Cause 4 really didn’t wow me. It simply felt rather average. The story was mediocre and hard to follow, it’s really wasn’t much to look at and the missions soon became painfully repetitive. Please don’t get me wrong, Just Cause 4 certainly isn’t an awful game, but it lacks the polish that I have come to expect with a AAA title in this generation. There are definitely better open world games that have recently been released, but if you are a fan of the series or looking for the chance to blow things up and tide you over until the next big release, then you may want to add this to your collection.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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