Rico Rodriguez is back again in Just Cause 4 to topple yet another Latin dictator in some tropical location. This time in the land of Solís, a geographically rich country complete with deserts, alpine ranges, jungles and grasslands. Ripe for the destructive capabilities of the brand new Apex engine. Just Cause 4 is an action packed iteration to the franchise, with a rich and often comical story line but suffers from a host of technical and often egregious bugs. I was so hoping to be blown away by Just Cause 4, I guess in some ways I was… Literally. However the over all experience has left me feeling somewhat deflated and wishing for more.
Much like any Just Cause title, the mix of comedy and destruction favorably go hand in hand. Though it follows a now aging narrative design of, “Hey this bad guy is in charge, I should stop him.” Though I can still get behind a lot of the tropes surrounding the toppling of a dictator, Rico Rodriguez’s seemingly favourite past time, I did find some of the story missions to become somewhat repetitive.
Landing in Rico’s fathers homeland, after discovering that his dad at some point worked for the biggest and meanest army the world has seen. The Black Hand. Formally seen in the original Just Cause and Just Cause 3. Though now controlled by one Gabriela Morales, a newly introduced character to the series. Gabriela Moralas serves the Solís dictator, Oscar Espinosa. Espinosa has discovered a way to manipulate weather systems which proves to be a rather creative physics addition to Just Cause 4 but we’ll dive into that soon. In a super boiled down plot summary, bad guy has big bad army, you fight them, take his weather tech and free the people.
Quickly leaving his mark on the country, Rico and his accomplice Mira Moralas (Cousin of Gabriela) makes themselves a declared enemy of The Black Hand and soon found and enlist the help of the Army of Chaos. Rico just can’t have a lovely holiday in paradise without starting a revolution. The Army of Chaos is actually a rather cool game mechanic and introduces a couple of new characters along the way. As you progress through the side missions causing destruction to many of The Black Hand strongholds, you unlock units you can use to push forward your front lines of war and slowly take over the country. The training missions Luis sends you on with recruits often turns into a babysitter/driver style of adventure and quickly become really tedious. Their necessity to unlock extra units to push those front lines forward are pretty much the only reason I did them, I’d far rather spend my time blowing stuff up.
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not a bad story at all. The voice acting is great for the most part. The main characters are brilliant but the limited responses from many of the other NPC’s that populate Solís are so limited. The same phrases over and over and over again is super annoying and not something I expected in a 2018 AAA release.
Probably the biggest win in Just Cause 4’s favour. The Gameplay is fluid as all hell and with the new physics simulations in the Apex engine some serious fun can be had just blowing crap up!
Guns feel satisfying to shoot, I think my personal favourite is the semi-auto smart rifle. Grenades give a nice wee pop of colour when enemies are sent flying and the balloons. Man the balloons are cool. Balloons are the latest edition to Rico’s grappling device that will send enemies and debris skyward at a comically slow pace while they’re left helplessly hanging upside down. Don’t worry, you still get your rockets too, just with the balloons you can have some weird fun on the battlefield. That is as long as you can get used to swapping between all of the load outs. Thankfully you can configure things a wee bit more in depth in Just Cause 4, now you have the ability to set three different loadouts with varying degrees of strength for each special gadget. The ability to customise loadouts really does a lot more to help with the flow in battle than you may think, being able to switch up mid fight is a godsend for creating some wickedly funny moments if you time it just right snagging a balloon on one guy whilst hitting his buddy with a booster.
Let’s talk about the weather now. Not just chummy ol’ small talk either. The weather systems in Just Cause 4 play a pivotal role in not only the story but also the gameplay itself. As with most open world games the weather system is usually pretty cool with random spawning rain, storms, and all that pretty stuff. But in Just Cause 4 you can ramp that up a whole ‘nutha level with the addition of tornados and lightning. Sounds great in practice and it’s super fun to play in as well! Being able to throw an airlifter (I called them balloons earlier) on an enemy close to the tornado is pretty funny. However there is one wee tiny annoyance… They’re in biomes. I mean I do understand why, for one it’d be pretty rough during some of the missions to get hit by lightning but still, it’d add another level of interest. Basically what I’m saying is if you want to check out the crazy weather systems, it’s easy, just go to their spawn locations and they’ll be there.
I’ve never had to make this it’s own segment in a review but hey, there’s a first for everything. Even writing this I’m still not sure whether (Ha! Gettit, whether) all of this is going to end up fixed by the time most people pick up Just Cause 4. Though judging on the state Just Cause 3 was left in I probably won’t be holding my breath waiting, if you’re unfamiliar with that, check out the frame drops on console here
Thankfully Just Cause 4 on PC, for me at least, I have not experienced the same ill fitted frame dips. However for reference I should disclose my specs because it may matter with the torrent of issues I’m about to mention! The only weak point I’d consider with this system at the moment would be the CPU, she needs some more horses but my wife confiscated my credit card.
- i7 6700K OC’d to 4.8GHz on a custom EK Loop
- 32GB ADATA Z1 3200MHz DDR4 RAM (Also watercooled not that it does anything but I scored the block for like $20)
- AORUS GeForce® GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition 11G
- Game installed on a 1TB WD Black NVMe 3400 MB/s SSD
Technical and Graphics
First off the bat, a minor one but still annoying when any game doesn’t do this, doesn’t auto detect hardware and instead booted me into some 720p hell hole with what I thought at the time were some crazy sub par textures. After messing around in the somewhat convoluted settings menu we were finally off to the races in 1080p… Yes 1080p… I spent all my money on the PC and couldn’t afford better monitors, hook it up please ASUS? For one though, who doesn’t put a “Save Settings” button in a menu? That just seems silly, took an embarrassingly long time to figure out you had to right click blank space to bring up the option.
After getting past that, jumping into the game Rico is standing in a snow filled landscape, the first thing I noticed when I started to walk, his damn hair goes semi transparent or something as he heads into the white back drop. Now maybe during the few years in Rico’s hiatus he’s developed some acute dandruff issues, I mean no hate, happens to the best of us. It’s just weird it’s only when on light back drops… Also something I picked up in that first mission and noticed throughout is the weird flickering of shadows. It kind of seems like the destructive elements when casting shadows they pop in and out of existence. I feel like someone is gonna pull me up on nit picking here soon but when you combine all of this together with it being a triple A title and commanding a hefty $120NZD price tag for the pleasure, I think I’m allowed to be a bit picky.
I also experienced an uncomfortable amount of weird mis-matched textures and artifacting. To the point that it made me think it was my system. I reinstalled drivers, rebooted a couple of times between settings changes… Then googled it and yup, not just me. Some of the texture details are so good, like Rico’s clothing and weapons are so detailed and beautiful. But the environments and NPC’s need a real overhaul to get even close to similar. I do get it though, no one is really going around looking super close to environments and NPC’s, maybe I’m just weird. But I found it so jarring. Now, I know I ticked the hell out of that anti-aliasing setting multiple times and yet it seemed like no matter what I did there wasn’t really much of an effect. Edges still appeared somewhat jagged and just gave a really unpolished feel to most of the environments. I think a lot of this may be down to what seems to be a very short draw distance, whether this is an intentional thing to save on physics overhead in processing, I don’t know. But I would happily trade some of my frames per second for a larger draw distance, and my VRAM for higher quality textures.
Cut scenes themselves are rendered and look as if no one actually watched them through, maybe it’s just the film grain effect or the blur, but they wouldn’t look out of place on a PlayStation 3. Again, not a major issue, but it’s all starting to stack up though right!? Background NPC’s in both cutscenes and in game look as if they are mannequins in some places, that’s the weird thing, it’s not all the time! Which makes me think this all comes back to some weird draw distance issue. One thing that is all the time bad though is the vegetation. Maybe we were just spoiled this year with some really great looking games, but I feel like Just Cause 4 has just fallen a bit flat. And not literally like in Just Cause 3 where as you walked through fields the grass behind you would flatten. Grass and vegetation in Just Cause 4 appear as if they are floating on top of a green backdrop. They float back and forth as if trying to simulate wind, but in turn seem to dance in harmony to some inaudible sound track. I don’t like it. Grass you can’t dance.
I’ve gone on for way more than I really should have here. As much as it may seem like I’ve gone in on Just Cause 4, I don’t think it’s inherently a bad game. I mean there’s still a place for it even in a world of ultra realistic open world games, it’s just that with so many mismatched issues I can’t help but feel like there’s been a lot overlooked. If it wasn’t for so many of the technical issues I think I would really dig it. The gameplay itself is fluid, as always Rico is just as lovable, the gadgets can cause so much destruction and mayhem, and the plot line is fun even if it’s a little cliched. There was so much promise here and I so wanted it to be good, but I think that’s why it breaks my wee heart so much to say… Right now, I cannot recommend purchasing Just Cause 4.
Maybe in a couple of months down the track, if the developers manage to push fixes that get rid of even half my gripes. I’d then feel a lot more comfortable suggesting you pick it up. But right now, it’s one you should wait for a bargain bin or sale before you play.
EDIT: The developers have released a statement addressing some of the issues highlighted in this review, check it out if you’re still keen. I will be checking back in after a few patches and see how well things are going in a few months.