Just Cause 4 is insanely fun. In only a few hours of playtime, I’ve experienced some of the most fun I’ve had in a game for quite some time. Its blend of explosive chaos and diverse mechanics results in a truly refreshing open-world sandbox, but there’s something it lacks – and it’s quite significant too.
That missing piece of the puzzle is my friends. Just Cause 4 is a creative, action-packed toolbox full of things to do and most importantly, experiment with. Right now, I can’t help but feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible in Avalanche’s massive and diverse world. The map encompasses just about every biome and topography our earth has to offer, the vehicle roster is excellent with all the cars, boats and aircraft you’d ever need in a game, and the gameplay feels very robust. It’s fast-paced and instantly hooks you – literally because series protagonist Rico Rodríguez has his own grappling hook, a wing-suit and he always carries an onboard parachute. You can also switch between all these gizmos and gadgets on the fly – literally while in the air. I want to hate myself for using that word twice in one paragraph, but Just Cause 4 let’s you do just about everything except experience it with others by your side.
It’s such a missed opportunity too, because this is an excellent game – it’s the fourth entry in an established open-world sandbox franchise after all, yet it seems to have gone under the radar. Nobody talks about Just Cause 4. Is the internet even aware that this game exists? Do they know how fun it is? The carnage you can get up to is endless – but, in GTA Online you can co-op heists with your friends or take them on in stunt races, meanwhile sensational games like Among Us and Phasmophobia took the world by storm last year for their unique, but simple twists on cooperative gameplay. That freedom and the mammoth number of creative scenarios in Just Cause 4 no longer matter, because all of those other games can be experienced with friends. It’s a damn shame too, because it allows GTA Online to remain comfortable as the only live service, open-world crime sandbox on the market. While those players grind millions of dollars to afford the latest supercar, I just sent one sky-high with a pair of boosters before it got swept away in a tornado. At this point, I’m feeling spoilt by everything Just Cause 4 lets me do, I feel bad for not dropping a single cent on the game – I claimed it for free in an Epic Store promotion.
I’ve been playing Just Cause 4 on PC and it’s a silky-smooth experience. I can deploy as much devastation as my heart desires and that 60fps refuses to budge. It results in some truly fluid gameplay too, as Rico traverses the map from grappling rocky terrain, hijacking an airborne helicopter, parachuting onto a motorway, and stealing a civilian car – all in a seamless flow of animations. There’s no wait time and taking down enemies is a boot load of fun. Whether you’re using more traditional weapons like an assault rifle to gun them down, or you’re firing a rocket launcher at a military truck, there’s plenty here to choose from, but the real impressive aspect of combat to me is that it can be totally naval! Some boats equip themselves with homing missiles, others strap in machine guns, but it’s so easy to drive these boats and even use their onboard armaments simultaneously, it’s a real treat – one that feels so satisfying as you devastate the private militia’s arsenal, explosion after explosion. The fact that so many vehicles include weapons attached or air-boosters is just brilliant.
As evident from this story, taking part in these activities on the fly is a fun and rewarding time but with friends, the level of enjoyment to be had from Just Cause 4 would be totally interminable. Heck, all I want to be do is to experience it with others – the base game lends itself so well to natural encounters and sandbox fun that it wouldn’t require its developer Avalanche Studios to create scripted mission content. Sure, it’d be welcome, but it wouldn’t be a necessity. If anything, new toys to play with in the form of weapons, vehicles and gadgets would suffice and deliver countless hours of new gameplay. There’s plenty to already derive from Just Cause 4 that the internet would be full of viral stunt videos if that key multiplayer component were to be featured. This game is the definition of fun, but for many, it just isn’t the same without their friends.
Let’s hope multiplayer is being integrated into the inevitable Just Cause 5 as I write this. Publisher Square Enix has shown interest in the idea as its upcoming “Just Cause Mobile” title is centered around online play. While the game itself appears to share nothing in common with the core games, besides the name of course and returning characters, it does prove that online functionality is on the discussion table, but if it doesn’t make it into the next mainline entry, that’ll be a real slap in the face to long-time Just Cause fans. Heck, it’s already frustrating that the series’ multiplayer debut has been saved for a spin-off mobile game, but I digress. We’ve all established by now that Just Cause 5 needs to have multiplayer if it’s to remain relevant for more than a month, because if it doesn’t, then it puts the franchise’s long-term commitment into jeopardy – especially if that mobile game garners more popularity than the mainline entries themselves.
I expect we’ll all find out soon enough, as more recent Just Cause games have followed a three-year development cadence. Just Cause 4 launched in 2018, which means we’re due another new entry this year. Whilst the pandemic has likely affected development, one can hope they’re still on-track to launch before the end of 2021. Although, I just hope they haven’t binned any potential multiplayer plans due to the pandemic to prioritize the single-player experience. Considering Avalanche’s love for Rico’s storyline, it’s not something that’d surprise me either – but it’d certainly leave many fans feeling disappointed.
After all, Just Cause is a series about having fun and experimenting as far as your imagination allows – not a corny storyline. The only stories I value in this franchise are those I make through its excellent gameplay, and hopefully soon, that’ll also include my friends. Though perhaps finally, Square Enix has realized the importance of shared gameplay experiences after the runaway success of Outriders – a co-op looter shooter from the same publishing label, and that it’ll apply those learnings to its other franchises too. Maybe I shouldn’t be so optimistic.
A closing note: If you're on PC and you've got Just Cause 2 or Just Cause 3, then you can actually download a community-developed multiplayer mod for both games. Sadly this doesn't exist for Just Cause 4 because developer Avalanche Studios hired the lead mod developer and assigned them to work on Generation Zero, a four-player co-op shooter that was ultimately a bust. I don't need to say it, but that effort would've been far better spent elsewhere.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.