If it’s a coincidence that Just Cause 4 was released just one month after Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s likely an extremely happy coincidence as far as Square Enix and Avalanche Studios is concerned. The latest installment in Avalanche’s Just Cause franchise is the perfect antidote for Rockstar and RDR‘s stoic, plodding pondering of the Old West. Protagonist Rico Rodriguez is here to basically blow up an entire island nation (in the name of liberation, of course), and he’s using every vehicle, projectile, explosive, and ballistic imaginable to get the job done.
For a short time, I was marveling at the scope of Solis, the island setting of Just Cause 4, and a bit chagrined at the slowness of Rico’s built-in traversal system of parachute, wing suit, and marvelous grappler (more on that in a moment), until I remembered that at any moment, Rico can steal a car or motorcycle or truck or plane or helicopter, or have some type of vehicle airdropped to him in the blink of an eye. Just a couple of hours into the game, you’ll unlock fast travel as well, and gain the ability to be airdropped pretty close to most targets you’d like to get to, PUBG-style.
The order of the day is mayhem, and the majority of the fun in the game is to be derived from just how creative you want to get with it. Destruction is not just encouraged, but more or less required, as you’ll gain “Chaos Points” for all of the enemy infrastructure, vehicles, squads, and bases you reduce to rubble. More points unlock more guerrilla squads for your “Army of Chaos” (subtle, the series is not), and you’ll be able to deploy the squads to capture areas of the map and gain more resources and attributes. There is a lot to do in this game, although most of it boils down to blowing stuff up real good.
It’s extremely likely that the amount of enjoyment you derive from Just Cause 4 will stem from how much time you’ve spent with other games in the series. It’s not a gigantic leap forward from Just Cause 3, but if you’re looking to wreak havoc with a bunch of weapons and get extremely creative with your mayhem, this is precisely what the doctor ordered.
(Note: Do not go to a doctor that prescribes either this game or the acts contained therein.)
The strength of the game lies in the near-limitless options available to you in how to burn everything within your field of vision to the ground, and in the gorgeous, eye-popping design of the island of Solis, which contains four distinct biomes, each with its own distinct extreme weather obstacle that occurs randomly (until Rico and his crew are able to weather-hack Project Illapa, the big weather machine at the end of this book). As you travel, you’ll unlock an abundance of weapons, vehicles, and options, with more and more upgrades and mods for your grappler.
These allow you to affix things like balloons and booster rockets to items or enemies, and you’ll have three different customizable grappler loadouts to edit strengths and timing for each of your gadgets. The grappler configurations stretch into the millions, but you’ll likely only use a handful unless you’re truly into the art of destruction.
That’s not to say there aren’t flaws in the game. Apart from its resemblance to the previous game in the series, there are bugs that will occasionally cause you to grapple inside a wall, for example, with no hope of escape. It’s not the most fun thing in the world to spend half an hour clearing a base and then find yourself hopelessly stuck and having to start over from your last save, forcing yourself to clear the base of enemies once again. That’s the other major drawback: There aren’t a lot of missions or activities in the game that you’ll be able to drop in and play quickly. Things take time in the game, as the focus is on blowing up whole waves of goons and vehicles. The time sink is about the only thing this game shares with RDR2, unless there are horse levels I haven’t gotten to yet.
The story is goofy and paper-thin, but I would definitely say that’s a feature rather than a bug. The Just Cause series (at least, at this point) is nothing if not a wonderful celebration of deliriously stupid action movies, and in that sense, Just Cause 4 definitely feels like you’re in a big, stupid blockbuster action film from the ’80s or ’90s. That is in no way a bad thing.
Another welcome change for the franchise, and something that somehow took four installments: For the first time, Rico Rodriguez is played by a Latinx actor.
From a representation standpoint, there’s a lot of conflicting emotions to be felt. It’s refreshing to play a game and hear and see an almost-entirely PoC group of people, rather than just the enemies. Unlike Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you’re not piloting the White Savior (or White Devil, and Lara Croft embodies at alternate turns in that game). While not all of the inhabitants of Solis are actually played by the ethnicities they’re embodying, having Rico correctly cast for the first time ever is huge.
If you enjoy mayhem and either haven’t been burned out by Just Cause 3 or desire more of the same, or if you’re just eager for some high-octane blow-’em-ups after clip-clopping your way through RDR2, you might want to check this one out.
This review was written using an Xbox One review code provided by the publisher.