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Just Cause 4 Review - Mildly Wild Ride

  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
  • Reviewed Dec 4, 2018
  • PC

A strong hook tethered to a meager cause.

What's another oppressive dictatorship to series protagonist Rico Rodriguez? Not much. He does encounter a new kind of enemy in Just Cause 4, however: extreme weather. It's the common thread that runs through both the story and new mechanics and tops off the explosive spectacle the series is known for. And alongside new gadgets to send objects (and people) flying across the world, Just Cause has become a physics playground. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough opportunities to put these features to good use; underwhelming mission structure and a world slim on enticing activities makes Just Cause 4 a short-lived blast with untapped potential.

The best and most prevalent piece of Just Cause games is at the forefront once again. An exceptional traversal system lets you propel Rico across the beautiful landscapes of Solis and effortlessly soar through the skies. With the combo of a grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit, Rico can basically go wherever, whenever (and often more efficiently) without a vehicle. Like past games, you build momentum and essentially catapult yourself using the combination of these tools and hardly ever have to touch the ground. It's tough to overstate how satisfying it is to escape enemy hordes and hook onto the underside of a helicopter to hijack it and tear them all down, or slingshot yourself out of harm's way toward the next target you'll blow to bits.

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Rico isn't only built to move fast, however: if you aren't causing explosions on a regular basis, you might be doing something wrong. Fuel tanks, red barrels, and vehicles are unusually explosive, and set the stage for over-the-top action. Since the grappling hook can also be used to tether objects together, you have lots of opportunities to get creative outside of exhausting your arsenal of firearms--some of which have their own wacky practical applications, like the wind cannon or lightning gun. Some weapons just wreak havoc such as the railgun or burst-fire rocket launcher, and even modest small arms like the SMG have impactful alternate fire modes. This may be the expectation for Just Cause, but it still pulls you in for a wild ride.

It's tough to overstate how satisfying it is to escape enemy hordes and hook onto the underside of a helicopter to hijack it and tear them all down, or slingshot yourself out of harm's way toward the next target you'll blow to bits.

Its identity as a destructive playground is further emphasized by grappling hook mods, three of which you customize: air lifter, retractor, and boosters. All three devices coincide with the new physics engine. Air lifters (essentially mini hot air balloons) let you launch things into the sky, and they can be further customized in terms of velocity, behavior, and altitude. Retractors pull targets together violently, and boosters work like jet engines that'll send objects into a speeding frenzy, whether it be an attack helicopter or a poor enemy soldier. Multiple permutations of these contraptions are made possible, since their effects can be stacked into a single tether and three loadout settings let you switch between loadouts on the fly. These gadgets are unlocked through side activities, and you're given plenty of avenues to make them work as you desire, which leads to the most disappointing part. Just Cause 4 gives you so many shiny new toys to play with but seldom a reason to use them.

Mission structure is uninspired, as you are continually asked to escort NPCs, defend a specific object for a set duration, activate (or destroy) inconspicuous generators, or hit a number of console panels to activate some sort of process. The worst offender has to be the timed missions that ask you to sink bomb-rigged vehicles into the ocean; they're tedious and prone to mishaps at no fault of your own. These are tied to Region Strikes, which are required to unlock territories on the map and progress to main story missions. While blasting through waves of enemies and their military-grade vehicles offers some great moments, you're often asking yourself: okay, what else? Shielded heavies, snipers perched from a mile away, and flocks of attack helicopters can become enjoyably overwhelming, since you have to rapidly make use of your diverse toolset. But several missions are designed in such a way that's oddly restricting, limiting the game's strongest assets. Enemies simply swarm and act as basic obstacles rather than clever challenges, and that leaves you with objectives that rarely bring out the best in the mechanics and systems of Just Cause 4.

At a time when open-world games sometimes overstay their welcome, Just Cause 4 is at the other end of the spectrum, where you wish there was more to experience because it has so much going for it.

There are a few stellar moments in the main story missions that make proper use of the extreme weather system that is the core of Just Cause 4's premise. Specifically, the conclusion to a stormchaser-themed questline funnels you through a number of battles while a tornado rips through your surroundings. Your ability to parachute and glide are drastically affected by the wind velocity and turbulence, which throws some welcome unpredictability into the mix. One particular sequence is also indicative of what the grappling hook mods are capable of; destroying massive wind cannons that impede progress with boosters wasn't only the most efficient method, but watching these heaps of steel frantically spin out of control was a sight to behold. The last stand in this mission, a sequence of rooftop firefights amid the harsh weather, brings the many great pieces of the game together.

The same can't be said about the other extreme weather conditions, however. Sandstorms challenge you with violent winds and obscured vision, and thunderstorms bring torrential rain and lightning strikes that make for a visual treat. But they're not game-changing in the way tornadoes are since they have a minimal effect on gameplay. Even then, the questlines tied to these weather conditions and their respective biomes are over before you get to fully experience their unique qualities.

All the while, a vaguely coherent story about family and a rebellion against an evil regime serves as the platform for Rico's wild ride. Stories in Just Cause haven't been more than excuses for environmental destruction and a way to make you feel comically powerful, and the same holds true here, though you may find the ties to previous entries somewhat endearing. The harsh forecasts are justified by villain Oscar Espinoza's high-tech devices that control the weather and oppress the people of the fictional South American country Solis. Rico remains the plausible one-man army who has the capabilities of a superhero with the air of a grounded, unassuming protagonist. If there's anything that Just Cause does well story-wise, it's convincing you to accept the absurdity of it all.

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Throughout the game, you'll be building a revolution across Solis, bolstering what's called the Army of Chaos. It's a fundamental piece to progression and the key to taking down Espinoza and toppling The Black Hand private military again. The Army of Chaos serves as a tool to controlling territories across the map since you need to accumulate squad reinforcements to overtake regions, which also gates your ability to take on story missions. Cause destruction and raise your chaos level, and get squads to progress. It boils down to a numbers game, and once you understand the structure of this system, you can easily snowball squad numbers and control all of Solis without having to grind your chaos level. Side activities from three minor characters litter the map as well; Sargento has you teaming with NPCs to destroy enemy infrastructure, Garland makes you do stunts, and Javi provides a bit more context to Solis by asking to do a few easy puzzles. It's more things to do, and they unlock the aforementioned grappling hook mods, but they're simple in nature and aren't enough to compensate for the shortcomings of other missions.

Just Cause 4 has incredible moments where beauty and destruction cross with Rico's ability to zip around the world at a moment's notice. It's gratifying and easy to grasp, especially when you're able to string a series of wingsuit fly-bys, vehicles hijackings, and fiery explosions all in the name of revolution, but those moments are either short-lived or tied to rudimentary missions. You're given an awesome toolset that paves the way for creativity in a world with too few problems to solve. At a time when open-world games sometimes overstay their welcome, Just Cause 4 is at the other end of the spectrum, where you wish there was more to experience because it has so much going for it.

Back To Top
The Good
Kinetic traversal system is as satisfying and efficient as ever
Tools for creative destruction are awesome and at your fingertips
Physics system lets you experiment with new gadgets
The Bad
Often uninspired mission structure that doesn't bring out the game's best
Unusually bare open world without enough enticing activities
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Michael put 25 hours into the PC version of Just Cause 4 to finish the main story, complete all 31 region strikes, and do a handful of the side activities. It's hard for him to look at other open-world games and not get the hankering to catapult himself with a grappling hook, wingsuit, and parachute. Code was provided by Square Enix for this review.
174 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for Sindroid

Taking this review with a pinch of salt..

I play Just Cause for the mayhem and to blow cows and shit up

The story? What story? i dont care.. I dont even remember the story of Just Cause 3. There was a dictator involved yes.. not much else.
Its just a game to blow of some steam and have a laugh and a great time.

Its like going down to the pub and get pissed..

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Sindroid: Then you are better off just playing Just Cause 2 or 3. According to people who played it, they said it isn't any better.

Avatar image for mdinger

@Sindroid: An actual good sandbox game should offer both a fun story and random open world mayhem, e.g. GTA or Saint's Row series. There is no excuse to compromise one element over the other in this genre (unless it's a budget title of course, which this isn't).

Avatar image for sparent180

@Sindroid: all depends what you are looking for. That's more than enough for some people, others might expect a bit more from there games or might just be a little bored with it now that this is the 4th game in the series.

Avatar image for Karmazyn

Sounds about right bro.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

It also has a bit problem of lack of attention to detail...

This is just unbelievable in this time and age.

Avatar image for sparent180

@Warlord_Irochi: what a contrast to a game like RDR2 where the attention to detail is far beyond anyone's expectations.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@sparent180: Indeed. And another important point when it comes to comapring it with RDR2: It seems like Just Cause 4 runs quite poorly in base consoles (Scaling as low as 720p on base PS4) and it's quite demanding in PC (They recommend a GeForce 1070, for those graphics that are far from perfect).

Meanwhile, RDR2 runs quite decently on base consoles.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Warlord_Irochi: Oh wow. Wow.

This just reeks of bad coordination among the development team, along with next to no quality assurance.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@Gelugon_baat: The industry needs to learn that is really a BAD idea to cut in QA.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Warlord_Irochi: Shit, dude, they learned that they can just offload that to the customers long ago - specifically the fools who buy in early.

At least the paid beta-testing years back in the first half of this decade had some class.

In the case of this game though, I don't think that QA was ever a goal. I get the impression that Square Enix just want to cut costs - especially cutting off budgets to any non-Japanese-led projects that don't happen to be super-profitable.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@Gelugon_baat: I wish I could argue with that.

Avatar image for videogameninja

Sounds like a case of “more of the same”.

-More of the same, Ninja. Sounds familiar.-

That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I don’t think fans of the series will mind in the least. Still, while a new coat of paint is nice it would give everyone something more to get excited about if there were leaps in the overall presentation of the game (and not just superficial ones like weather destruction.).

Having more things to blow up is always gratifying but does little to distinguish it from previous entries in the overall grand scheme of things.

That’s not to say there isn’t any fun to be had but I think many in the gaming community were expecting more of a leap in this latest installment than what is on display here.


Avatar image for Vodoo

I boight the JC3 XL Edition, with all the dlc on a great sale, and I just can't get into the game at all.

My friend says it's awesome and I need to give it more of a chance. I just don't like the controls and there's something else I can't put my finger on. It feels like a cheaply made game to me, but I can't give a definitive reason why I don't like it. I want to, it's just something holding me back.

Avatar image for SsangyongKYRON

@Vodoo: the physics. JC2 was brillaint in physics. They screwed 3 with terrible controls and camera.. Oh and no photo mode.

Avatar image for sparent180

@Vodoo: that's how I felt too. Granted I probably gave it less than 30 minutes but that was enough for me to determine the game wasn't for me. There is soooo much content (games, movies, tv shows, books/comics) these days to waste time on something that just doesn't hook you in. Games like God of War, Spiderman, RDR2, and even Far Cry 5 (the only Far Cry game I've played) grabbed my attention almost immediately. With Just Cause 3 I didn't have enough interest to spend time playing and waiting to come around to the game

Avatar image for Vodoo

@sparent180: It's funny you mentioned Spiderman. Because after playing it for 20 minutes, I said to myself, "this game isn't for me." And I was pissed I felt that way because I knew it was a great game.

The controls were a little weird in Spiderman and I kept getting my ass whooped at first. I kept playing to learn the game better and have since beaten it 5 times and it's one of my favorite games and definitely my favorite beat em up game.

If I would've given up in the beginning I would've missed a great game.

Avatar image for sparent180

@Vodoo: That definitely happens. Mass Effect is one of my favorite games and series ever (haven't really played Andromeda) however I HATED it the first few times I tried to play. Part of it was because I was playing for the wrong reasons. With all the accolades the game was receiving I was expecting to be blown away by every aspect of the game and the gameplay just didn't click with me. This is a year after Gears of War released which became a generation defining 3rd person shooter. Mass Effect's gameplay by comparison felt rather generic.

I finally gave the game one more chance around the release of the sequel thanks to my work manager urging me to try it again. He basically told me "just stick it out because it gets really fucking good." Man am I glad I listened.

When it comes to Just Cause I guess I never had enough interest in the game or series to keep playing. One of those games where I'm won't going to regret not playing.

Avatar image for fecalmatters

@Vodoo: Anyone who recommends 3 over 2 has never played 2. It is SO much better. The branch of Avalanche that made 2 was the same that Mad Max (decent game), while 3 and 4 were sent off and completely rebuilt by a newly opened branch.

Avatar image for murekkep

@fecalmatters: They're mostly the same games. JC 3 is JC2 with better graphics.

Avatar image for fecalmatters

@murekkep: No

Avatar image for Vodoo

@fecalmatters: My friend and I share our accounts and I own 2 also, but never played it. I got it as a free XBL game of the month.

He told me 2 was good also, but 3 was newer and on sale with all of the content. He wasn't telling me to play one over the other, just that I couldn't go wrong with the JC 3 XL edition for $20.

Avatar image for fecalmatters

@Vodoo: No way. 2. No question. It IS that Spiderman Game before Spiderman. because the city is ridiculously big and you get grapple\parachute.

I can see enjoying 3 casually, but f*cking 2 there is MORE than 100% completion worth of stuff. I have never played an open world game that I 100%, only to find I have to download a computer program to get the rest of the stuff.

Basically, with the city and all... JC2 actually oozes detail and variation. 3\4 just didnt do that. Like you never got tired in 2. Could always go to the desert, Winter Mountains, GTA city (pedestrians in street and all like its no joke). They more variation in bases, different objects to destroy. 3 just repeated... where were the gas lines and sh*t? (edit Or the deep missile silos with code entry? Or the custom satellite dish style bases?) There was nothing! (was there even a dance air base club a mile in the sky?)

2 is a masterpiece. It is actually the definition of a masterpiece. 3 fell TOTALLY off the map. Completely new team (JC2 team was doing Mad Max which actually used a modified JC2 engine and why the weather in that game is so good), and it showed. Sorry to be so bluntly honest but its true.

Avatar image for m_nay2008

@Vodoo: I know your feeling bro.

I finished this game but it didn't feel like a smooth ride at all and I don't know why too ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Avatar image for J-007

Such a shame because here is a game with such potential and I am happy that it's a fun all out action game. A bit of a harsh score but I like the fact that there is more and getting the game before this score was a bit of a flaw

Avatar image for mpl911

I realise this was reviewed on pc, but any idea about the frame rate? I played a lot of JC3 and had a lot of fun (at least an 8 imo) but by far the worst bit about the game, and the thing that seemed to be brought up more than anything else, was the dreadful slow down when you blew up more than 2 or 3 things simultaneously, which was, after all, the point of the game.

It sometimes dropped to about 4 or 5 fps during busy bits on the One and I don't think it was much better on the PS4...

Avatar image for Vodoo

@mpl911: It seems that Gamespot no longer includes ANY technical details in their reviews. They used to have applications to measure fps, screen tearing, and other issues in games. Now it seems like they contract out a lot of reviews to 18 year old kids that can write a nice story, but a terrible review, that include no relevant information.

I remember when they would review a game on one platform and then list any differences for the other platforms the game was on and tell you the best platform experience.

Things have gone way down hill and you really can't take their scores seriously without the relevant technical data included.

These aren't game reviewers, they're kids that take a creative writing class.

Avatar image for Yams1980

performs better than JC3 i heard. Game gets boring fast from overall sound of it all.

Avatar image for salty101

@mpl911: ACG's review talked about performance being it's biggest improvement over JC3

Avatar image for siarhei

@salty101: on PC

Avatar image for death_burnout

Sounds just as uninspired and underwhelming as JC3. It’s also telling Square Enix have been sending out the PC version for review. Avalanche don’t seem to give one damn about speccing Just Cause for consoles.

Mad Max remains their best game in years and it was painfully underrated, here’s to hoping RAGE 2 is good.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

I'm guessing there's going to be separate reviews for the console versions, because the graphics are pretty bad. Not really happy with how it looks on Xbox One X. Textures are barely better than a 360 game, especially in cutscenes.

Avatar image for justthetip

None of these games were particularly great.

Avatar image for off3nc3

@justthetip: JC1 and 2 we're awesome.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@justthetip: It was the multiplayer hack of Just Cause 2 that made the IP popular in the first place.

Avatar image for murekkep

@Gelugon_baat: Also infinite grapple mods.

Avatar image for justthetip

@Gelugon_baat: Ok.

Avatar image for SoNin360

Hmm, I know what expect from these games and I think I'll enjoy it. Reviews are about the same overall for JC3 and JC4 at the moment. Shame that they haven't learned how to make better story missions, though. That was the worst part of JC3 for me... escort missions and other BS tropes that should hardly exist anymore.

Avatar image for acerock980

@caj1986: I clicked on that link and immediately had more information than this gamespot article.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup

I really wish reviewers would bring up DLC.

I checked this thing, it has £50 of DLC on launch. Not just the season pss, a ton of content (weapons, vehicles) segmented. It's ridiculous this is acceptable for a £50 product.

Avatar image for mpl911

@uninspiredcup: I don't think it really matters that much. I know DLC is horrible, but if it's just a load of pointless add-ons, like shinier guns or different coloured weapons, I'm not that fussed. There will always be someone who's desperate to rid themselves of money on something useless. A fool and his money are soon parted as the saying goes.

I find DLC more insidious when it affects the gameplay or it's pay-to-win on an MP game

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@uninspiredcup: Regarding that matter about reviewers bringing up DLC, I know that some publishers head off such remarks by providing the day-one stuff together with the review code.

It's hard for the reviewers to take a perspective from the prospective customer's standpoint when they are getting all the shit there at day one from the review codes that they get, at least not without pissing off whoever sent them those codes.

(The pissed-off party could gripe about "unfair bias" and shit like that, arguing that the reviewers are reviewing content, not assessing value, since they got review codes that gave them all content there is.)

Now, if the publishers forgot to include day-one stuff, that's another matter. The reviewer is going to notice things that are missing from the game, and you can expect complaints about things being cut out for day-one DLC.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@uninspiredcup: Shiiiiit... Seriously, the day-one DLC totals the purchase price of the main license itself? That's a lot of content that was made during development just to be hawked out as DLC.

Man, Square Enix. Fucking Squidix.

P.S. Just to head off anyone who would make the counter-argument of "parallel development" and crap like that, I will make the counter-counter-argument that all those resources could have gone into content for the base game to make it more valuable to the customer in the first place.

That's the best form of "value-added" strategies: make the customer feel good about their purchase, "bang for the buck" and all that. Nickle-and-dime them later.

Avatar image for davillain-

The review is what I expect for a game like Just Cause. When it comes to Just Cause, I want a dumb fun game that doesn't take itself serious and Just Cause 4 is what I totally expected to be. The review was fair, and sadly though, I won't buy the game due to Super smash Bros. Ultimate releasing this week along with Just Cause 4, so this will take a backseat until the new year arrives after I'm done playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Just Cause 4 More Info

  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    It's time to bring the thunder. Just Cause 4 by Avalanche Studios and Square Enix is coming to Xbox One this winter.
    Average Rating45 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Just Cause 4
    Developed by:
    Avalanche Studios
    Published by:
    Square Enix, Stardock
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language