With the Red Faction series being dormant, Just Cause 4 has taken the reigns as gamers’ destruction series. I’ve always been rather reluctant with the series, as running around and blowing up everything in my path has just never really been my cup of tea. Needless to say, there’s no game on the market right now that relies on this exact gameplay loop more than Just Cause 4, so I opened my heart and hoped for something that would really convert me at this year’s New York Comic Con.
Unfortunately, I left my hands-on demo feeling the same as I’ve always felt about Just Cause. During my time with the demo, I kept thinking to myself, “What’s new here that’s bringing me in?” I’m mostly critical here because there’s just so much to play this holiday season. With open-world giants like Red Dead Redemption 2, Nintendo’s classic Super Smash Bros., another entry in the Fallout series, and Bandai Namco’s Soul Calibur VI, Just Cause 4 has some mighty competition this holiday season. And to be honest, I just don’t see what this game has going for it that makes it more worthy of your money than the others. I hate to write that; I don’t like bashing games, especially when I’m not reviewing them.
That’s not to say everything I experienced was bad; I think fans of this series will be rather happy with this entry. I played the PC version of the game and thought it looked really good, albeit there were plenty of times the game crashed, but the development team assured me that this was the Gamescom build and many bugs would be ironed out by launch. I understand that, and to be fair I don’t understand many things in game development, but I’m just a dude who gives you the details on these things that I get to play.
Just Cause is a series that’s all about its individual moments, that characterize the experience for every player. In many cases, this is the whole foundation of modern-day open-world games. That foundation is still here with Just Cause 4 to an extent, at least based on my experiences with the short demo I played. I was riding around in a tank-like vehicle, chasing down a mega-storm that was lifting, and destroying everything in its path. As I exited the vehicle I was sucked up by the storm’s heavy gusts, but luckily the game’s protagonist, Rico Rodriguez, is prepared for these situations. So I deployed my wingsuit and used the storm as a way to remain elevated. If you use the wind correctly you can keep yourself afloat and ride around the storm, you can even launch yourself by using wind gusts correctly. This was definitely the coolest moment for me, as I quickly attuned myself to the game’s control scheme and used it to my advantage.
It’s everything else I experienced in the demo that left me yawning. But really, during this mission, I was supposed to destroy these canons that were stopping the storm from moving forward. There were plenty of guards protecting them. So I gunned down the guards, destroyed the canons using explosives and kept going. These in-game moments were so mindless for me though, and I wasn’t really having any fun. I wanted to interact with the storm that was ahead of me, but my goals were these canons. Shoot the weak points, kill the mindless NPCs, rinse, repeat.
It’s not that one dull moment will define an entire game experience, I just know that that’s what the Just Cause series has always been about. Explosions are great fun, and Just Cause 4 offers some of the most visually exciting destructibility I’ve ever seen. But a game needs to draw me in with more than that if it hopes to consume multiple hours of my life. Of course, there’s a story here; there’ll be missions, minigames, vehicles, weapons, etc. I just wonder how varied and interesting they’ll be.
I left my preview event thinking that Avalanche Studios has the talent to be doing something more groundbreaking than this. Take the series off-world, get a little wackier with the locations. Just Cause 4 will be hampered by its real-world location as it’s far too similar to the previous two entries. After a game like Mad Max, I know this studio has the team and resources to make something special, I just don’t think Just Cause 4 is that game, and it worries me in such a high-profile holiday season.