If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, there’s probably a good chance it’s a duck. Just Cause 4 is said duck. The follow up to 2015’s Just Cause 3 picks up right where it’s predecessor left off, in more ways than one.
Fresh of the events in Medici, Rico Rodriguez travels to Solis to take on the Black Hand and tornadoes. That’s right, tornadoes. This was the big selling point of the new Apex Engine that’s been implemented in the game. Boasting dynamic weather elements and improved chaos inducing explosions, the new engine does a relatively good job. These elements mostly make appearances in the main story unless you actively seek them out. The problem is, the graphics behind them look straight out of 2014, before the last game was released. I feel like there was a huge missed opportunity with more powerful consoles pushing the envelope and it feels as though Avalanche Studios did the bare minimum here. Don’t go in expecting a mind blowing story either. It’s really only present to give the player some motivation to unlock the next area, and it struggles on that front at times as well. That’s not to say it’s a bad game though.
The game thankfully has a ton to do. The goal is to take over different areas of the map through a handful of different types of missions. There are a couple dozen different areas, but only one type of mission in each. Unfortunately, they become repetitive after about five of them. Again, just a little more effort and it would have resulted in a much more varied experience. Once those areas are unlocked, you move your army in to take them over. You earn squads through building up chaos and as you’re familiar with in Just Cause, you earn chaos by blowing stuff up. Once you take over the area you also receive a different item or weapon that you can add to your bag of goodies all of which can be airdropped to your location. Phew! Still there? Good. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s all implemented very well. About an hour in and you’ll have it all down pat. Now, what you do with all of these goodies is where the fun comes in.
Do you want to sweep through the air on your wingsuit trying to hit small markers at top speed? You can do that. Want to tie two helicopters together with Rico’s signature grapple/tether? You can do that too. How about attaching balloons and rockets to the backside of a cow, launching it into a spiraling bovine missile? Yup, you can do that too. Your options for attacking and dealing with situations is really left up to your imagination. While there are a few control issues, even those can result in awesome or hilarious moments.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about Just Cause 4 but that doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable experience. Far from it. There are missed opportunities to be sure, but in the end, the freedom the game presents you is worth the price of admission. I’m a firm believer that gameplay, if done well, will trump a good story and graphics almost every time. I want to have fun when I play a game, and I did with this one, more than I thought I would. If there was ever a game where the phrase “It is what it is” aptly described the entire experience, this is that game. If I can paraphrase Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite, “There’s always a country, there’s always blowing stuff up and there’s always a Rico Rodriguez”. It’s still a duck though.