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Just Cause 4 Review : The King of Open World Sandbox Games

by Arun Uppalapati
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I was always fond of sandbox games, which let my imaginations run wild. One among those is the Just Cause series. Just Cause 3 was a mixed bag for me, I really enjoyed my time with it but all the technical issues on PC hindered my overall experience and left me wanting more.

With that said, I can gladly say it’s not the case with Just Cause 4.  It nearly improves upon everything that was bad in Just Cause 3 and more. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t have any issues.

Let’s have an In-Depth look at what the next chapter in Rico’s Adventure has to offer. I’ll try to keep the review as spoiler free as possible.

The Story :

Oscar Espinosa

After Liberating Medici from Sebastiano Di Ravello, Rico Rodriguez is back, this time in Solís – Home of the Black Hand ruled by Oscar Espinosa. Rico’s on a personal mission to find the mystery behind his father’s death and take down Project Illapa. At-least that’s the gist of it to avoid spoilers. Just Cause series isn’t really know for it’s story telling but Avalanche studios up’ed their game this time around, It’s not the best story ever by any means but, it is genuinely good with charming and funny characters and amazing set pieces from ancient tombs to chasing tornadoes  – Yes, you chase tornadoes, everything is well crafted and executed.

The Map:

Just Cause 4’s map is really big, the biggest Just Cause map yet, it has four distinct biomes – Rain Forests, Grass Lands, Desert, and Alpine. Which have varied terrain, weather conditions and unique landmarks to explore. You are free to explore the entire map from the start. Just gliding across the map with the wing suite and some music feels heavenly. The biggest issue I have with huge maps is that they feel ’empty’ and Just Cause 4 is no exception. Apart from the beautiful set pieces and the new Extreme Weather Events there’s not much going on in the world of Solís.

Gameplay:

This will be divided into three sections – What’s New ? , The Good , The Bad. So, lets get on with it.

What’s New ?

  • Possibly the biggest change for the series is the addition of Extreme Weather Events.
  • Upgraded Grapple Hook with 3 new abilities and the ability to customize their functionalities.
Extreme Weather Events :

Just Cause 4 has four distinct Weather Events each in their respective Biomes.  These are proven deadly and alter the gameplay drastically.

Rain Forest – Tropical Storm

Thunder strikes the highest person or vehicle it can reach. You’ll see small static electricity before the thunder hits, you can make use of it for some deadly attacks.

Grass Lands – Tornado

Massive Vortex of absolute destruction. Fun fact, you can slingshot using the tornado with the wing suite.

Desert – Sandstorm

This makes it so that enemies can’t detect you very well and you can’t either and gushing winds make it hard to control your parachute.

Alpine – Blizzard

This is a combination of winds, thunder, snow which can obstruct your view and protects Project Illapa.

Upgraded Grapple Hook:

Grapple Hook has been upgraded with 3 new abilities and you have 3 different loadouts which can have any number of combinations of Retractor, Air Lifter and Booster. You can also have maximum of 10 tethers attached at once.

1. Retractor :

The Retractor is basically the same from the previous Just Cause games, but this time for every ability you can customize how they operate by equipping or De-equipping mods that you unlock by completing side quests.

2. Air Lifter

The Air Lifter can lift any object that it is attached to. You can make the object hover in the air, follow you or make it float to infinity and beyond with the add-on mods.

3. Booster

This is by far my favorite ability, you can attach boosters to any object and watch the fun!


And the best part is that you can combine all 3 of these abilities and let your imagination run wild. 

The Good :

Physics:

Like the previous games in the series Just Cause 4 computes real time physics calculation, which makes the massive destruction’s even more better. You just can’t predict whats going to happen next.

Performance:

Just Cause 3 was plagued with performance issues on consoles but more so on PC’s, but Just cause 4 improves on all that. My time with the game was buttery smooth and the game didn’t even crash once. I’ve encountered some bugs but those one’s were the funny type and nothing game breaking.

Open World:

As I’ve said earlier, the map of Solís is massive and it’s fully accessible from the start. And it looks absolutely stunning, for me gameplay has more priority than how the game looks but with this, you can’t stop but admire the beauty of Solís.

Extreme Weather Events:

These are one of the selling points of Just Cause 4, these weather events make your wildest dreams come true in the most destructive and awesome way as possible. And i’m glad they could pull it off the way they did and keep the performance intact.

Grapple Hook:

The Star of the show is the Upgraded Grapple Hook,  with 3 new abilities and the ability have 3 different loadouts and Customize the functionality of each of the abilities is jarring. You can literally have more than 4 million combinations for the grappler for all your destructive needs.

Wide Range of Vehicles :

From Exotic to Sports Cars, Cargo planes to High Powered Jets, Speed boats to War Machines, and Buggies.  Just Cause 4 has got them all. Some also have functionalities like for example, you can open the Cargo Door of a plane, Use a Crane to lift cars and so on. I know what you are thinking, but how is the handling ? Well about how you’d expect from a Just Cause game. But they’ve improved it alot from Just Cause 3 i’ll give them that.

Weapons :

Cool little feature that they added in Just Cause 4 is Iron Sights for every weapon in the game. Also each weapon has a deadly secondary fire that you can use to combo. Weapon variety ranged from assault rifles, smg’s , and  snipers to grenade launcher and Rocket launchers to Shielded Mini guns.

Multiple Save Slots :

Never in a million years did I think this will be considered a reason in reviewing games but here I am, lots of companies take the simplest things for granted and I’m glad avalanche chose the right thing.

Progression:

This is kind of a mixed bag for me, I’ll list out the best aspects of it here and touch on the cons later. In Just Cause 4 progression is made by completing main missions obviously but apart from that you can cause chaos  to get chaos points that let you recruit more member to your squad, the more number of squads you have,the further you can advance your territory.

The Red line in the above image shows the border between our territory and the Black Hands which is called Frontline . If you want to cause some crazy chaos head to the Frontline and cause some destruction. And that’s where the good stuff ends.

The Bad:

Let’s start off with the progression system.

Progression:

My biggest gripe with the progression is that in the Frontline doesn’t actually do anything, i.e your squads never advances it’s just and infinite fight between the Black Hand and your army. And the Black Hand can never take over the territory you own. The Frontline advances ‘only’ when you complete some missions and earn enough chaos point so that you can deploy new squads. I think this is a missed opportunity  for otherwise an amazing gameplay mechanic.

AI:

The AI is not so good to be honest. Enemies can’t detect you properly and they can spawn almost anywhere and sometimes in areas they shouldn’t.  And pedestrian interactions are lacking.

Take Over Missions:

There are several Blank Hand Base take over mission that basically tell you to hack a console, fight a ton load of infinity spawning enemies,  open an underground bunker and the same template repeats. Which gets annoying real fast.

Replayability:

Apart from blowing everything up which does have a replayability factor , but most of the other things there isn’t any replay value once you are 100% complete.

Keybinds:

Changing keybinds is a nightmare, you can’t re-assign a keybind if it’s already being used, instead of auto settings the keybind to unbounded if it’s being used. The game makes you have to  go search for that option that is using  the keybind change it to some other key and come back to change the keybind, come on avalanche don’t you think you are over complicating things ?

Cannot re-map Movement keys: 

You cannot rebind Movement keys (WASD) to other keys, like are you serious ? I really can’t think of a reason to restrict it but my brother is used to playing with the Arrow Keys as Movement keys. I hope they can fix this.

Another small nitpick I have is that the Graphics settings for PC lack some important options like better Anti-Aliasing and Ambient occlusion, you can have a look at the graphics menu below.

Final Thoughts:

Just Cause 4 is by no means a perfect game, it has it’s flaws, some are rage inducing while others can cause small inconveniences, but none the less Just Cause 4 is the best open world Sandbox game I’ve ever played. The Massive destructions, the amazing grapple hook and above all, the Extreme Weather Events keep me hooked up and I’m sure they will for many more days to come and I hope avalanche can iron out the some of the major issues soon.

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