People have flocked to the Just Cause series drawn by its OTT action mayhem. But how long can mindless fun keep people engaged? The new instalment answers that question, says José Barbosa – and it’s not good.
The last spurt of 2018 saw the market slammed with a phalanx of voluminous open world games: Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Far Cry 5, The Forest. None are without flaws, but in general they were all high quality and enjoyable plays.
Pity poor Avalanche Studios and Square-Enix, the developer and publisher of Just Cause 4, a game that’s been overshadowed by its competitors it’s contracted a vitamin C deficiency. So forgotten in the late 2018 rush was the game we’re only now just carving out enough time time to review it.
The Just Cause series has had only one goal: provide the player with all the over-the-top chaos-making tools needed to blow up and destroy every red marked structure, oil barrel, vehicle or cow in a large sand box of a world. It hit their goal of total action movie Bayhem goal in the fun nutty ride of Just Cause 3. I could happily spend an hour or two attaching cows to wind turbines or making a whirlygig thing out of beach umbrellas.
Just Cause 4 is arguably the same game as its immediate predecessor (you could argue all the instalments are basically identical) but there’s new tricks. Version quartro comes with a dynamic weather system, a new physics engine and a deeper modding system for Rico’s grappling hook gauntlet. Yet it all seems terribly dull. Missions are repetitive; they always were, but by the fourth instalment it’s getting a bit grating, and somehow the game looks worse. The world of Just Cause 3 was stunning, but the 2018 version looks somehow drab, brown and ugly; it’s more Zack Snyder than Michael Bay and that’s despite all the settings turned up on a beefy PC.
It’s a world seemingly without joy as you trudge through yet another console switch flipping mission. Even the weather system and intense weather “fights” leave one feeling hollow rather than elated. Mucking around with the new grappling hook modding system is at first confusing and even when you’ve got used to it it still feels clunky, like you’re fighting the game to get at the mod controls.
There is some fun still to be had. Zipping along via parachute and grappling hook feels reasonably effortless and yes, doing strange stuff to cows is always diverting. But the explosions keep coming and it all bleeds into a strangely bland experience where you’re just ticking off things to do on a list. Including, it appears, hanging out with Kevin Spacey.
The Just Cause series was almost certainly due for a renewal – in much the same way Assassin’s Creed has been reinvigorated by Origins and Odyssey – but the renaissance is yet to come. Just Cause 4 is, ultimately, a forgettable game. If you must play it, wait for a sale or, better yet, dust off your old copy of Just Cause 3.