Just Cause 4 Review
I enjoyed the previous Just Cause games and was looking forward to playing Just Cause 4. One of the things that I found appealing about the prior games is that they were like guerilla warfare sandbox games - take out an authoritarian government by striking their facilities, disrupting their logistics, and doing whatever it takes to loosen their grip on power. Unfortunately, Just Cause 4 completely hamstrings all of that, and in doing so loses it soul.
The problem lies in the way that Just Cause 4 has you liberating the fictional Latin American country of Solis. The country is divided into regions, and starting from one of those regions you must swallow-up the neighboring regions, pushing the battle lines farther and farther out until the entire county is liberated. The hotspots on the frontlines are actually kind of cool as rebel soldiers will be engaged with government troops in battle. You can jump into the fight and attack the government troops, but doing so will show you that the battle is merely window-dressing. Take out the government forces and the rebels will hold their ground until government reinforcements arrive rather than advancing to push into the next territory.
To liberate a region you'll need to go into it yourself, and while you're free to cause as much destruction to government forces and facilities as you want, you won't be able to take any of the regions that way. Instead each region contains a mission that must be completed in order to take that territory, and just about every one of these missions is a variation on a theme. A typical mission will send you into a large enemy installation wherein you'll need to "hack" a series of terminals. Hacking involves either clearing enough enemies from the immediate area so that you can survive while holding the hack button and waiting for the hack meter to fill, or defending a terminal while it is remotely hacked and waves of enemies come at you. Escort missions are also prevalent in which you must keep a group of allies alive as you make your way through an enemy facility. There are some interesting missions later in the game that involve surviving the various unnatural disasters generated by the enemy's experimental weather machine, but it will take you hours upon hours of grinding through repetitive and unimaginative missions before you get there.
Once you complete one of these missions you'll be able to go to the in-game map and tell the rebels to move in and take the territory, which all takes place automatically on the map screen. Sometimes the game will require that you to commit extra rebel units before you can conquer a territory. These units are generated by causing destruction of enemy facilities, but there are so many fuel tanks, radars, and such in the enemy facilities that you hit during the missions, that as long as you cause plenty of destruction during the missions you'll generate enough of these extra units to take any territory after completing its associated mission. There's really no need to go freelance and attack facilities on your own, which pretty much removes any gameplay reason for causing destruction outside of the missions.
There are some side quest lines in the game to mix things up a little for you. You'll help an archaeologist locate and investigate sites across the island, perform stunts for an action movie director, and help a commander train new rebel recruits. The archaeologist missions can be fun little tomb raiding diversions, but the movie stunts fall into a few categories and can feel repetitive unless you're really into things like flying a wingsuit through hoops. Following the side character questlines does have the benefit of unlocking new equipment for you, though, including some mods for your grappling hook.
Thankfully the game's crazy action moves are as fun as ever. Your grappling hook can be used to traverse up walls, leap between buildings, or just to pull yourself along the ground faster than you could ever run. Is an enemy attack helicopter bearing down on you? Grapple it, pull yourself up to it, toss the pilot out of the cockpit, and the chopper is now yours.
You can also use the grappling hook to attach two objects together and once connected the line will pull the two objects together. Grapple a radio tower to the ground and watch it come tumbling down, attach an explosive barrel to an enemy machine gun and the gunner won't be giving you any more grief. Attach a car to a helicopter and enjoy the show.
Just Cause 4 also allows you to add attachments to your hooks and customize up to three loadouts. The balloon attachment can be fun to use. Attach a few balloons to an enemy roadblock or vehicle and lift it up and out of your way. You can also remotely detonate the balloons, sending down that floating car like a hammer on your enemies. I particularly like the rocket attachment which allows you to attach rockets to an object and then fire them off. Turning a fuel tank into a giant flying explosive missile can create an amazing amount of destruction.
Using the hook in fun and creative ways is the best way to dispatch enemies, both because it's fun and creative and because the game's gunplay is rather pedestrian. The enemy AI isn't very intelligent - a flaw the game frequently tries to mask by throwing a lot of enemies at you - and when you bring your gun up it will be aimed right at the enemy that you're facing. Pull up your weapon, fire a few rounds into an enemy as he stands there and takes the bullets, and then move on to the next. The hardest enem9es to deal with are the snipers because they can very quickly draw a bead on you and if you're facing more than one of them it can be difficult to both dodge the red laser beams they use to target you while trying to locate them and get a shot off.
In addition to your hook, you have two other pieces of equipment that are always at your disposal, a wingsuit and a parachute. While there are obvious uses for these such as getting down off of a mountain quickly or bailing out of a burning plane, you can also get creative by combining them with your hook. Hook plus parachute and a passing car equals parasail, and you can wingsuit over the walls of a fortress and use the hook to attach to a structure in the base to slam on the brakes and nail a perfect landing inside the enemy facility. While it can be fun to try out a few of these combinations, I still found that the parachute and wingsuit were most useful for traversal than for anything else, although the wingsuit can be a fun way to get from one point to another as you catch updrafts on cliff faces for boosts and cross an entire province just riding the wind.
While Solis is a large island with four distinct biomes, it's not the prettiest open world game out there. After exploring the amazing worlds created in games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Solis looks like a step back in time to an earlier generation of open world games. One location looks pretty much like another within the biomes, and there's nothing that I found particular memorable about Solis. The character models look even older than the landscape, with odd over-shadowed, unnatural faces.
Just Cause 4 has some enjoyable moments when you're playing around with the grappling hook to create explosive mayhem or experiencing the weather events, but the problem is that outside of this there's a lot of repetition and hamstrung gameplay that make the game feel like a grind.
Final Rating: 68% - Playing Just Cause 4 is like watching an action B-movie that just goes on and on and on.