Just Cause 4

A Rage Quit Review

FBT is back as Rico Rodriguez, in the adventures of how TF do I exit the menu?

Just Cause 3 was an odd game. JCI & II weren’t concerned with the laws of physics but they were fairly straight open-worlders that saw CIA Operative-meets-Desperado type Rico visit banana republics and usurp their corrupt governments. But JC3 was a drunken mash up of Saints Row 3 and Far Cry 3. It didn’t quite pull off that heady mix, but it gave you the tools and the freedom to be creative with your mayhem-spreading and island takeovers. JC4 then, should be perfection, expanding on JC3’s Looney Tunes havoc. You can’t muck up following JC3, can you Rico?

Rico is in Solis, an island known for its extreme weather. There, he discovers the corrupt El Presidente type has his own private army and a way to control the weather, which he’s testing on the island before selling to the highest bidder, which might include Rico’s own employer. Rico teams up with the locals to stop the Pres and bring freedom to Solis.

Where to begin. The menu, naturally. It’s like a 1980s text adventure. There’s menus within menus, I even found secret menus. Hours I spent in here. Getting around them can require different keys, sometimes the mouse, but never Escape. And some menus are dead ends you can’t escape from. The in-game control keys are split between ten - TEN - separate menus, and the key presets are beyond idiotic; Map is ‘1’ for example, but if there’s a clash when you reassign, it doesn’t tell you where that clash is and won't let you assign the key, so it's off on an adventure to find what's been assigned to the key you want, and with this many menus EVERY key has an assignment.

And some you can’t reassign. 1 for Map it is then I guess, never liked Tab anyway. Rico’s batshit crazy Grappler has three loadouts now, which allow for customisation but ... it has to be built within three sub menus and it makes so little sense you just give up trying to alter it to your playstyle, because you’ll never escape the menu to have a playstyle.

I’m not even finished with the keys yet. How you caress a key is critical. Often you have to press a button to make him perform an action. Fine, but when you’re in the middle of the action, you don’t have time for a careful, pressure-sensitive prod. I was killed several times trying to activate a door switch because I couldn’t quite poke it how it liked to be poked. Too hard, soft, not fully, too fully, too long, too short, who knows. If you need a parachute, chances are you’re falling; not the time for gentle, careful key strokes. He opened/closed his parachute so many times it looked like a peacock was falling to its death.

It’s the same with reload. I assumed he was out of ammo but no, I wasn’t teasing the button correctly. Using the Grappler to tether things becomes insanely frustrating because instead of recognising a tether command he’ll just zip toward the object, ruining a plan or leaping into an explosion. This becomes particularly annoying when he gets upgrades such as an infinite supply of helium balloons you can attach to things. Looks to be hilarious, isn’t. Same with the rocket-propelled tethers. More hassle than they’re worth – a promo shot showed Rico astride a container with balloons on top and tether rockets propelling him through the air; awesome, and too much ballache. Who really has time or inclination to do crap like that?

So, out of the menu how does it all look? Like Far Cry 3 in safe mode. From a distance it’s amazing; huge rivers, villages and winding roads with cars, wildlife and locals milling about, while dotted around are violent clashes between your rebellion and the army. But up close its ugly, basic and buggy. And then you try to get about and have some fun…

The game’s environment and tons of ways to destroy it actually works against you. Cars explode just by looking at them and they, along with almost everything else have no weight or resistance, causing things to fire off into the distance, collide or crumple, including the car you're in; remember pinball mode in Carmageddon, it’s that. A bug means Rico loses the ability to exit a vehicle if it lands in water, but that’s if you make it far enough to reach a river – driving is horrible, Planes are all but impossible thanks to twitchy controls, and choppers manoeuvre so slowly it’s no fun at all to engage in air firefights and will ricochet randomly.

And both the army and NPC population have AI we’ve not seen in decades. They’ll ram their cars into buildings until they explode, walk into traffic, against walls, and the army’s search mode is wildly inconsistent. If you do steal, or clobber an NPC, the private army is on you like flies on this shit game. Boats, helicopters, armoured trucks, cars, tanks, battalions of troops, they all just spawn and keep spawning, it’s like going from one to five stars in GTA with no Pay n Spray yet I’ve been surrounded only to hear ‘target lost, keep searching’ and they all wander off. Of course, they never ever miss when they do fire. It’s impossible to get away, even if you duck under the water and swim half a mile, you still get shot in the face the millisecond you pop up.

I have an infinite number of hot air balloons in my wrist but two guns is the limit? He can barely manage a firefight’s worth of ammo either, and since you’re always in fights, you’re always running away. For some insane reason Rico no longer has throwables or a sidearm either, and the grappling hook just doesn’t do enough to replace them.

So what am I doing here? I have no idea, I rage quit way before I got stuck into the story, but there’s an utterly infuriating and unnecessary war strategy element too. Solis is broken into areas controlled by the army, and as you do random stuff you gain squads of rebels. Those you assign to a border and they’ll start fighting, pushing back the army and unlocking more shit to do. I don’t know if I’m supposed to go help, if its automatic, what’s actually happening because the game cryptically explains random aspects of gameplay and forgets to tell you critical elements. Like what you’re doing here.

Missions appear on the map but they’re locked, and you’re not sure why. Some randomly unlock when you explode something, others require side missions to be completed although you’re not told that - there’s three side-mission givers; doing their missions unlocks Grappler upgrades (oh god not that menu again) but most are boring, old-school quests like pilot a plane through hoops - which then unlocks a main story mission; why and why?!

I resisted playing this for nine months; it’s day one reviews were brutal, and Avalanche promised to fix it. Early patches fixed some of the graphical issues that made it look so flat, but no tweaks to the dated gameplay, nonsensical mission progression or the boss-fight of a menu. JC4 was blatantly released unfinished and it still is. That pisses me off. This is a Triple A game, it’s offensive to ask folks to pay for this. It’s not dated like Duke Nukem Forever, or ill-considered like Fallout’76, it’s just broken and that’s appalling.

But, even if all this was fixed, it would still be a crap game. I never even got to see the weather effects, and judging by some player reviews, I’m not missing much. ‘Lone wolf dismantles the bad guy’s operations’ is a very familiar gaming narrative, but JC3 made it interesting by being completely insane and letting you play the same way. JC4 just over complicates and confuses stuff like it tied its own shoelaces together.

When it works it still doesn’t work because it feels derivative and tired. That horrible strategy element that could be cool if it fed into the free-roaming, or setting it in a persistent war zone where you had to be more tactical about how you managed your rebellion, but no. Even if this ran smoothly it would be a clown of a game.

At one point the game’s menu would not let me leave until I pressed a certain button to trigger a skirmish. Now I don’t know if by this point I was too angry to caress it appropriately, or if - as happens - it’s telling me the wrong button to use or not updated after a key change but I can’t get out of the menu. The only thing I can do is crash my PC, restart and then I’m faced with redoing the entire mission, which was crap the first time.

As I stand there staring at horrible graphics, in a world filled with mindless NPCs driving horrible cars, with crap missions to do, and no idea what’s going on, I realise I don’t care and this game is making me angry. This is the most frustrating game I've played this year, doubly so because it could have – should have - been just an insane, mental, wicked bit of physics-denying fun. Rage Quit. First time I’ve rage quit at the menu.