Rico Rodriguez, a name that threatens chaos and brings fear to the hearts of many an evil henchman or red barrel.
We’ve loved the Just Cause series since the beginning, playing the first game on the xbox360 was a joy – giving the open world genre a shot in the arm by throwing in crazy vehicle stunts and skydiving, not forgetting one of my favourite achievements ever completed. Rico, in a much younger form was the eighties action hero we all wanted to be.
Things then went from strength to strength, Just Cause 2 in the late life cycle of the last console generation introduced some impressive grapple physics and milked the console power to deliver one of the prettiest games with big explosions. A couple of years ago we got Just Cause 3, inevitably, bigger and better with additions like the Bavarium powered wing-suit and gadgets galore. This one opened up like a real playground and the options for destructive fun were endless. The only thing missing on consoles and or PCs without a mod was multiplayer.
Today we take Rico to Solis, on a family fuelled tale of revenge which pretty much does everything it says on the tin, with a few steps backwards and still missing any form of playing with others.
Since its reveal JC4 was shaping up to be something special, signature humongous explosions, stunts, crazy vehicles and now an actual roving tornado. Given the continual amount of fun I have had with JC3 since it was first installed I was confident I could ignore the rest of the Silly Season releases, this was the game to get me through Christmas and beyond.
I was mostly right.
Whereas JC3 felt light and open, JC4 feels dark and dingy. The island of Solis is a large and varied landscape to play in, but the colour palette and the design parks it well and truly in a South American setting. There is nothing wrong with that, but the red mud and often harsh landscape doesn’t stack up to the bright and beautiful Mediterranean feel we got from Medici.
The lacklustre story puts Rico into the role of growing a revolution on Solis leading by example and bringing chaos to the bad guys. In short destroy stuff or complete main and side missions to fill your meter, this gives you units measured as reinforcements, then apply them on the map to extend the frontline of the battle. Thus expanding your control of the map and allowing you to clear areas for bonuses and buffs.
As much as I like the idea, I find it gets lost in the over abundance of information. The UI is something of a Hot Mess, the map screen in particular is too dark and cluttered which makes navigating your way around and making sense of what to do a bit of a challenge. Once your regions start to expand it actually gets easier to find your way around, but I miss the ease of wandering around Medici capturing locations as a One Man Army. There are times this just feels like busy work.
Visually JC4 lurches and veers from being as stunning as expected to harsh colours, over–bright reflections and questionable character models. The latter being obvious during cutscenes, partly because Rico appears to have chubbed up a bit, seems shorter and has the glassy eyes award all locked up. Things that on any other day wouldn’t matter much, but 2018 is the year of the ridiculously good looking cowboy.
There has also been a great groundswell bemoaning the motion blur applied to graphics, in a game where you can be flying an attack jet, eject and wing-suit away, before grappling to a passing vehicle and getting into a chase scene any kind of motion blur could be distracting. This is beyond distracting, it is a good enough reason to stop playing for a while. The good news is that a patch is due this week to fix it up, but as both a player and spectator I can’t believe it got this far.
As usual Rico has more gadgets, weapons and mods that you could shake a James Bond stick at, but the absolute star is the enhanced Grapple. After getting to grips with tethering last time out we now have fully customised profiles that control how and when the grapple is used and what effect it deploys. Effects? You say. Well yes, the standard retracting grapple is terrific as usual and when powered up there are so many satisfying moments to be had, attaching a pursuing car to the ground or tethering two bad guys together...
Couple that with the Balloon and Rocket Boosters and you have an infinite number of possibilities at your disposal. Want to fly a tank over a tricky mountain and drop it into an enemy compound? Just tether a number of balloons to it and once it takes flight attach rocket boosters to the back end. At the tap of a D-pad the vehicle will be off and running into the wild blue yonder, but that’s not all – applying the grapple imaginatively is most of the fun and it soon becomes second nature to send an enemy flying off over the horizon with a rocket booster up their bum.
Overall, Just Cause 4 delivers more of the same madness that fans love, more importantly it is a game to be played instead of a worthy experience to um, experience. The damage Rico takes is forgiving and any death is temporary with a pretty quick restart not far away.
There are a multitude of puzzles and side missions available for the completionist and it is far too easy to get diverted and distracted by a few hours of these without touching the main story levels. It is a kitchen sink of a game and sometimes I find myself wishing for the simpler times of JC3, being dropped in an evolving war-zone is fun, but its nice to take a breather now and again.
While I expected the game to be my personal favourite of 2018, it slightly missed that mark, but I will be happily playing it for random acts of destruction. Rico is older and wider, yes, wider however we will be happily air-dropping tanks or derailing mountain trains together, the possibilities are endless and I will be grappling with them for some time. Yes, I went there.