Sunday, March 24, 2019

Just Cause 4 Review

After having such a good time with Just Cause 2 a few years ago (review), I was pretty excited to check back into the series for its fourth installment and cause a little open-world mayhem. Similar to the previous games, in Just Cause 4, secret agent Rico Rodriguez is tasked with overthrowing an oppressive regime by causing chaos and inciting the citizens to rise up against their dictator.  While  there was plenty of satisfying havoc to wreak in the new game’s expansive world, I found myself wanting something more as the credits rolled. Here are my takeaways from my time with Just Cause 4:

  • Being a game heavily inspired by corny action movies, there is one thing it absolutely had to get right: explosions. And, oh boy, does it deliver in that department. JC4’s upgraded physics engine allows for all kind of opportunities to blow up enemy compounds with vehicles, weapons, and chain reactions. One of my favorite techniques was turning propane tanks into missiles by shooting a hole in one side of them, causing them to rocket off in the opposite direction.
  • Just Cause 4 continues the series’ penchant for excellent character locomotion. Equipped with a  grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit, that he can swap between instantaneously, moving Rico around the environments of JC4 is a joy. One I got the hang of it, grappling to a tree or building to build speed and then abruptly switching to the parachute for lift followed by the wingsuit to fly through the air made Rico feel even more like a superhero (and I previously described him as “Spiderman with a gun”).
  • In JC4, Rico’s grappling hook comes equipped with new gadgets that are a lot of fun to experiment with: a tether, a balloon, and rockets. The tether can be used for lashing enemies to objects (or each other), the balloon is great for those times when you just want to turn a tank into a blimp, and the rockets can turn pretty much anything into a missile. Several hours of my playtime probably consisted of trying out different combinations of these gadgets on various objects just to see what would happen.
  • Much of the campaign consists of seizing territory from the dictator’s control. While I like this concept, there are only about three or four different types of missions to take territory and Rico has to conquer dozens of regions to complete the game. This begins to feel repetitive after a while.
  • The territory control missions and smaller story missions build to a handful of major story moments and action set pieces. Unfortunately, on several occasions, these set pieces took the form of cut scenes instead of interactive sequences. I found this to be a let down; I wanted to fly through the tornado myself and go head-to-head with the Big Bad, not just watch it play out in a pre-rendered scene.
  • The game world is quite large and full activities to unlock new weapons, vehicles, and upgrades. Most of these tasks were what I like to call "open world busy work" such as performing deliveries, driving NPCs around, and flying aircraft through rings. For the most part, these didn't hold my interest for very long.
 At its core, there's a solid action game here with very strong mechanics, but the game design doesn't give you as many interesting things to do with those mechanics as I would have liked. With a little more development time or resources, I think Just Cause 4 could have been made into a fantastic action-packed experience, but what we ended up getting is mostly just a sandbox in which to experiment with physics. That's fine, but I can't help but feel like there's lost potential here.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 25 hours (normal difficulty, all territories conquered)

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