Just Cause 4: The Story of a New Engine and Rushed Development

I think it’s pretty well known at this point that Just Cause 4 did not have a good release. From issues with the settings menu to broken LOD to constant crashes to desktop, many fans of the series were disappointed with Avalanche’s newest release.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened though. Just Cause 3 had an infamously shaky release with many similar issues that made the game unplayable to many. JC3 was able to turn itself around and become viewed in a mostly positive light, but is it too late for the 4th installment?

I, sadly, think it is.

See, Just Cause 4 had an extremely large marketing campaign. Every big youtuber was sponsored by Square Enix to show off the game and its newest mechanics, within guidelines of course. This created a massive hype train, as the game looked fun and beautiful in the segments we were shown.

Fast forward to release day, and the buggy release begins. From the get go, many people cannot even get the game running long enough to get any meaningful gameplay, and those who do get it running are left with a game that most certainly did not live up to the unimaginable hype that surrounded it.

It is now around half a year after release, and after a polite request from Square Enix, I decided to give the game a second go to see how it had improved in those several months.

I would like to start by saying that I did not have nearly as bad technical issues as many, only a few crashes here or there, so I did get around 30 hours of gameplay during the first few patches. I also did not actually dislike the game, as I had a genuinely fun time with it and its marvelous controls and world. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t see the many flaws that littered the title.

Before I get into the bad, though, let me start with my favorite things that this game does. Firstly, Rico is more fun to control than ever before. While at first it felt pretty similar to Just Cause 3 in game-feel, I started to notice the few small tweaks made to his controls and animations that vastly improved how great it felt to play.

Not only did they make the parachute faster to pull out and put back, they gave it the ability to glide straight down and even backwards in the right circumstances, which made it easier to use it to rain down bullets and explosives down on the enemies. They also adjusted the way Rico reacts to his grappling hook, making it easier to tether to what you want and just as fast change targets. They removed the main progression to Rico’s personal moveset, and instead pushed all progression onto the tether system.

The tether system is a thing of beauty for anyone who enjoys a good sandbox game. With the many possibilities and the three quick slots, it was easy to create tether layouts that perfectly fit my playstyle. Personally, I always kept a tether set up as a ranged explosive, with both an explosive balloon and a thruster that would explode after only two seconds. This made it easier to conserve ammo for when I really needed it, though ammo and weapons are spread plentifully throughout the world.

The weapons in this game are a huge improvement from the previous titles. Each weapon feels unique and has its place in the arsenal, along with each one having an alternate fire that expands that weapon’s usability greatly. Shotguns with ricochet shots, rocket launchers that would fire an entire volley at once, machine guns that turn into a portable turret with a shield, and even the standard SMGs with grenade launchers, the wide variety of weapons make sure that there is something out there for any kind of player.

Just Cause 4 takes place in the fictional South American country of Solis: A beautiful paradise of various sprawling biomes and terrifying natural disasters. The world itself is one of the most important parts to this Just Cause, as it manages a safe in-between of JC2’s claustrophobic but diverse island and JC3’s sprawling but same-y Mediterranean vistas.

The world is split into 4 large biomes that each have many sub-biomes within them: the jungle, the plains, the desert, and the mountains. Each one has a large ecological variety within, from the swamps of the northern jungle to the canyons of the southern desert. There are animals you can find roaming these areas, as well as many small settlements that dot the landscape.

One complaint I’ve seen is that the cities in the game are tiny, and I definitely agree that they are, but I don’t really feel that it’s as big an issue as they make it out to be. This is a tropical island in South America, I don’t really expect huge realistically sizes cities or sprawling urban landscapes. I enjoy that civilization is almost kept in check by the sheer power of nature on this island.

Again I hear many criticisms of the characters in this game being bland and lifeless, but I don’t really see it that way. Each of them is their own person, and each of them grow throughout the course of the main story. Do their voice lines sometimes get irritating? Of course, but I understand the amount of effort it takes to have a large library of voice lines and I’d rather more production time was put into the meat of the game.

The enemy AI, while still being pretty dumb because of their inability to adapt to the sheer chaos Rico causes, put up a pretty entertaining fight thanks to the new varieties they come in, which really mixes up the gameplay in a much needed way. Sadly two of the varieties are just bullet sponges, which feels like a waste compared to how different the others are.

Now to finally talk about the bad parts of the game, which there most certainly are plenty.

The mission system of this game is pretty lackluster. This time around, the map is split into many small regions that must be conquered individually. To do this, you must first complete the one mini-mission inside each region, which will be one of only a few varieties.

There are escort missions that require you to escort a group of prisoners to the edge of a camp without them dying. There are defusal missions, which require you to drive a certain number of vehicles rigged with explosives into the water under a time limit. There are infiltration missions, which require you to gather a certain vehicle to enter the areas you need to go.

There are also missions where you must drive hackers to locations and then protect them for a time from the full force of the base. Lastly, there is the most commonly used mission type which involves going to different points in the base and either pressing buttons or typing into consoles. While these all don’t sound bad on their own, what makes them bad is that they are repeated throughout the 25 regions multiple times each, and with each repetition they become less and less fun.

Sure, the first time I drove a bunch of cars into the bay it was fun, but by fourth time it just felt like a chore.

And that’s the biggest problem with Just Cause 4, everything eventually ends up feeling like a chore. You feel like you are only doing it to check another item off the list. This feeling starts about a dozen hours in, and it really doesn’t go away after that unless you are just messing around not doing missions.

This probably comes down to the lack of tangible reward for doing these. Sure, you free the region, but all you get is the ability to drop some new vehicle or weapon from the supply drops, which I hardly if ever used.

The side-missions on the other hand are exempt from this feeling (except Sargento’s missions, which are all escort missions. Every. Single. One.), as they are all pretty fun. I personally enjoyed the missions I did for Garland, as it was interesting seeing what new crazy stunts she wanted me to do all while trying to piece together her seemingly nonsensical movie. For Javi, I just am a big fan of ruins from ancient civilizations so I always had a good time exploring the different ruins of the royal family. These side missions are needed to unlock new modifiers for the tether system, so I actually felt like I was getting rewarded for having fun.

There are also small task absolutely littering the map that give a few XP each towards each of the three tether attachments. These are in every small town, near every lake and park, around every base. It is overwhelming just how many there are, even if each of theme is only a menial task. Drive through the ring at a certain speed, drive through with a specific vehicle, fly through the ring with your wingsuit under the time limit. None take more than a few minutes at most, but the sheer quantity of the feels oppressive at the start of the game, even if they only appear once you’ve found an area.

One of my biggest complaints with the game is the map. Not only does it limit your zoom way too much, making it impossible to see anywhere near the whole map, but it has no way to filter the symbols down to only what you are looking for. As it stands now, I have beaten the game and am making my way around the map trying to complete each of the tasks, but this is made so much harder by the map’s complete lack of functionality.

Now, I’ve found that this is not a game to binge. If you want to play through an entire game in as few sittings as possible, I would not suggest this game. I’ve found that I have a lot of fun playing this game in small bursts every now in then. Not only does it help me not get burnt out, but it helps make each of the repetitive aspects of the game feel just a little bit less same-y.

Overall, I don’t think Just Cause 4 is a bad game, far from it, but the many small issues that you can find absolutely everywhere as well as the major design decisions that hinder long-term enjoyment make it so that this game will not be one enjoyed by the majority of people.

No matter how much they fix the bugs and add more content, I think the game failed to meet so many expectations early on that it will never see success. After its disaster of a launch, nobody has been buying the game, even with the significant price drops and brand-new content. I genuinely love this game, and I can see how much effort went into its gameplay and world, but I know that this game is dead, and that it most likely means the end for the series I have sunk many hours into.


Pros:

  • Smooth controls
  • Vivid diverse world
  • Fun gameplay options
  • Wonderful playstyle options

Cons:

  • Repetitive missions
  • Technical problems
  • Many QOL problems

Final Score: 7/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s