Prior to this past week, I had spent a lot of time of late playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76. Now though, Just Cause 4is out and so my time has been filled with that. This newest game is best thought of as a sorbet after those other two flavorful dishes. It is something in keeping with them, something that works alongside them, but a nice, light, palette cleanser in comparison.
As with the other games, Just Cause 4 is a large open world title with pretty graphics that lets you go off and do the main story or side missions. Where it differs is that there is less moral ambiguity, less choice for you, the player, to make. Your job as Rico Rodriguez in Just Cause 4
is simple – create havoc. You are to blow stuff up in new and intriguing ways. This in turn angers the bad guys and gets you closer to taking them all down.
This “blow stuff up in new and intriguing ways” is so important to the fun of Just Cause 4. If you don’t spend your time trying to figure out the biggest, best, weirdest way to accomplish a goal, you’re not going to love the game. The reason for this is simple – the various missions are repetitive and, consequently they become boring. For instance, the number of times you will have to defend a spot as you wait for a hack to be completed is insanely high.
Because a lot of time is spent defending a single spot, the ability to just shoot a large number of enemies is important in the game. However, the mechanics of gunfights leave something to be desired. It is great that Just Cause 4 truly limits the number of bullets a gun comes with, with the tradeoff that there’s always another gun nearby, but there’s no cover mechanic, which feels weird. Here is Rico, trying to kill a dozen soldiers, and he can’t peek out from behind an object to snipe them one by one.
The trade off is that the game has created a massive, varied, world where there are an incredible number of ways to dispose of enemies instead of just firing your gun at them. With this, it succeeds wonderfully. The explosions are big and beautiful, and there’s just something special about tethering an enemy soldier to a gas tank, launching the gas tank into the air, and then blowing it up as it lifts into the sky. You don’t have to blow it up once it’s in the air, the soldier isn’t coming back, it’s just fun to blow it up.
Just Cause 4 is a game where, when you need to get airborne to reach a helicopter you have a half-dozen options (or more) about how to get there. These range from the simple (climb a building and use your all-important grappling hook to reach out to the copter), to the slightly more complex (run away and find another helicopter somewhere you can steal and return with it), to the weird (attach lift balloons to a car, jump on the car and float up to the copter).
The game does not really reward the most unique way of tackling a problem over any of the other ways. It is just more enjoyable to play and watch the destruction unfold.
Most basically, the effect of all of this is that, unlike something like Red Dead Redemption 2, where you can sit and play for eight or 10 hours and not feel bored, Just Cause 4 grows tiresome much more quickly. You will still want to return the next day to see what else you can blow up or how fast you can pas through rings in your wingsuit (it’s a side mission) or if you can really skim the surface of a roadway in a jet fighter so you can hit a speed goal that’s probably meant for a car, but it’s just not as all consuming as other open world titles.
While the two other open-world titles ask players to think and contemplate, Just Cause 4 is really just about going out and having fun. It’s less engrossing, but it’s quite a party.