There is something that needs to be said about the Just Cause franchise: it’s definitely not for everyone. This is the videogame equivalent of a NASCAR race, a post-grunge record or a Steven Seagal flick: you need to shut your brain off and enjoy the dumb and borderline nonsensical amount of adrenaline it provides.
Just Cause 4 is no different. This is a game in which, while there is a story, one in which the developers actually try to come up with some (unnecessary) dramatic moments and instances of seriousness, you’ll just focus on exploding fuel tanks, tethering cows and dead soldiers to helicopters and attaching rocket-powered boosters to llamas just to see the poor furballs fly away in despair. In theory, this is basically the same game as Just Cause 3 was, with the exception of the llamas, but this time around, it works.
Avalanche Studios has promised players that they would come up with a way to make Just Cause 4 bigger and dumber than its predecessor, all while maintaining a constant frame rate and being devoid of glitches and crashes. Truth be told, they did achieve said goal: in my dozens of hours playing Just Cause 4 on a base PlayStation 4, I never encountered a game-breaking glitch, and the only time I witnessed a slight frame rate drop was when I filled the screen with more exploded tanks and helicopters than the average human mind could comprehend. The fact that Just Cause 4 is actually playable this time around makes it dozens of times more enjoyable than its already fun predecessor, but it did come at a cost.
In order for the game to maintain a respectable frame rate, the developers had to make it uglier. Just Cause 4 uses the same type of dynamic resolution technology that most demanding AAA games on the Switch use. In theory, the game alternates from 720p up to 1080p, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed it running at something other than its lowest resolution setting. Thanks to this, as well as some very low-quality textures and some really weird facial animations, Just Cause 4 looks blurry and muddy. It looks the typical attempt of making a demanding game run on your cheap gaming laptop.
The muddy visuals aren’t the only issues present in this game. The heavy emphasis on (bad) storytelling another big gripe I have with Just Cause 4. In simple terms: it’s cheesy, but not in the “so dumb it’s funny way”, and since you can’t skip cutscenes or radio-based dialogue, you have to endure the game’s bland dramatic moments and borderline racist voice acting. Everyone sounds like they have watched one or two Cheech & Chong movies and based their Hispanic accent on Cheech Marin’s delivery. Rico Rodriguez, as cool as his rocket-powered grapple-infused wingsuit-wielding self can be, sounds like an Italian guy trying to speak English with a Mexican accent. It just doesn’t work, and it gets irritating very quickly.
Finally, there’s the issue with the game’s weather conditions. Avalanche Studios and Square Enix have heavily emphasized the fact tornadoes and sandstorms would go rampant while you were raising hell throughout the map, but in no moment I felt like they were actually influencing the gameplay. The tornadoes felt very weak, as I could easily glide very closely with my wingsuit and not get sucked by them. All in all, those weather effects felt more like visual spectacles than actual gameplay additions.
While I may have sounded too harsh, I actually loved my time with Just Cause 4. All issues aside, this is what Just Cause 3 should have been: a huge, mostly glitch-free playground of destruction in which you can let your beer-chugging, heavy metal-appreciating imagination go rampant and come up with the most insane and explosive ideas in order to complete objectives, or just raise some hell for the sake of it. In a year full of serious masterpieces such as God of War and Red Dead Redemption, playing a game that lets you use a cow as a missile is almost cathartic.
Without a doubt, the best addition in Just Cause 4 is how the game handles liberating chunks of the map from the Black Hand. Unlike Just Cause 3, in which every single territorial liberation mission consisted on destroying the same two or three fuel tank-filled bases in each province, Just Cause 4 gives you a specific mission for each region. Sure, some of them are still comprised of mowing down hordes of soldiers and causing billions of dollars in property damage, but others revolve around rescuing hostages, conquering a dam in order to restore power to the country, hacking the Black Hand’s missile defense systems, and so on. Those missions are varied enough and are always a blast, both literally and figuratively. Whenever you liberate a part of the game’s (huge) map, you gain access to new weapons and vehicles. You can have them delivered right in front of you with the help of your army’s chopper pilots for free.
Just Cause 4 rewards players for being destructive and over-the-top. This is what its predecessor should have been: a gigantic playground of destruction in which the only thing you need to care about is how you’re going to top your previous explosion with even more missiles, fuel tanks, soldier corpses and even a mammal attached to a rocket booster. If that isn’t the epitome of dumb fun, I don’t know what else is.