Avalanche Studios is back with the fourth entry in their high octane Just Cause series, titled Just Cause 4. Like its predecessors, Just Cause 4 focuses on main protagonist Rico Rodriguez, a former member of The Agency, the fictional covert portion of the CIA. Also like previous entries, the game makes its bread and butter on highly impossible, physics-based action set pieces. This time around however, Avalanche has added a new weather-based system it calls "extreme weather." This system adds a whole new layer to the series that makes the action pieces genuinely thrilling, even if the rest of the game is pretty much just more of the same that fans have come to expect from a Just Cause title.
Just Cause 4 sees Rico thrust into a fictional country, Solis, located in South America, to depose an evil leader. This time around, however, instead of dictators and despots, Rico faces off against the Black Hand (previously introduced in the first Just Cause game and heavily featured in Just Cause 3) and its leader, Gabriella Morales. Morales and her Black Hand mercenaries rule Solis with an iron fist and there's a plot involving Rico's now-deceased father once working on Project Illapa, a superweapon that controls Solis' weather.
It's all a bit nonsensical and silly. It's like if Mission: Impossible and a science fiction B-movie got together and had a lovechild. Plot aside, the extreme weather system is one of the best features in Just Cause 4. Random tornadoes and lightning storms forces the player to plot their current objective around this not-so-natural occurrence or even use it to their advantage. It does nothing but add to the extreme action and adventure quality that Just Cause is known for and Avalanche was smart to bring a new wrinkle into the fold.
The missions themselves, including side activities, mostly avoid the overly repetitive tasks that plagued Just Cause 3. In fact, in almost every way, Just Cause 4 shows how much Avalanche learned from that game, which is arguably the weakest entry in the franchise. That's not to say that every mission in Just Cause 4 is worthy, as sometimes the side activities needed to unlock main missions can feel like filler. This is especially true of the Front Line system, which has Rico and his Army of Chaos rebellion taking over the map one piece at a time. In theory, this is a fun system, and Avalanche mostly pulls it off. Still, the system can feel downright grindy and, once again, added in to offer nothing but filler content until the next main mission can be played.
What helps is the smooth and refined combat system. Avalanche has had years to perfect the gunplay formula for Just Cause and it's arguably at its best here in Just Cause 4. Where previous entries felt uninspired and a little clunky in the shooting department, Just Cause 4 is a highly polished shooter. This and the game's traversal system are implemented so expertly that players will probably spend hours upon hours just zipping around Solis to kill random baddies.
Speaking of traversal, the system in Just Cause 4 is better than ever. While it was easily the best part of Just Cause 3, in the latest entry it has received yet another helpful upgrade. The grappling hook system benefits most from this, featuring customization options for all kinds of play types. There's a particularly useful mod for it that allows players to attach balloons to items and vehicles alike to move them out of the way or whatever other means more creatively-inclined players can think of. It's yet another nice addition by Avalanche, and the best thing about it is the customization system never feels like a burden or too hard to learn.
Still, Just Cause 4 is not without its flaws. While a highly polished experience, more so than any title in the series before it, there comes a sense of sameness. Everything in the game, extreme weather and setting aside, is just a better version of what came before. There's been little evolution to how Avalanche approaches an open world setting and sometimes, a lot like Just Cause 3, the vast world of Solis can feel utterly empty. Compared to other fantastic open world titles released this year like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin's Creed: Origins, Just Cause 4 feels somewhat like a game from five, even ten years ago. There's nothing about its open world that hasn't been a staple of the genre for years.
Similar to the other Just Cause games, the story in Just Cause 4 is nothing to write home about. The voice cast is certainly capable enough and there are moments where it almost feels like the game has some interesting things to say about corruption and global politics, but it never digs deeper than surface level. Gabriella is a typical stock villain who is seriously underdeveloped as a character. As for the protagonist, Rico, he gets some development but it's incremental at best and the game somewhat wastes a solid performance by voice actor Kevin Collins.
Most players who sit down to play a game in this franchise are not exactly expecting a heavy-hitting storyline with intricate themes and three-dimensional characters. These are the video game equivalents to mindless popcorn action films, and Just Cause 4 continues that tradition and it does it well. From heat-pumping action centered around its extreme weather system to a traversal system that will keep players entertained for hours, Just Cause 4 delivers an experience that's likely to make any fan of the series up to this point happy. More importantly, it's far better than the lackluster affair that was Just Cause 3 and sets the series back on the right track, even if both games still don't do multiplayer. And yes, there are also some Easter eggs to be found, including a hilarious nod to Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. It may not do anything new, but Just Cause 4 still delivers.
Just Cause 4 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $59.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for this review.