Can Avalanche get the Just Cause franchise back on track? With this week's latest series entry, the developer is stepping up his ambitions for the game: even more crazy physics, more diverse tasks, more action-packed missions, and the arrival of adverse weather conditions across four different biomes. Given how much the last game fought on consoles, has the developer bitten off more than he can chew? It may be against the odds, but the truth is that Just Cause 4 can do it – the game is much more demanding for console hardware and yet the performance is an improvement day and night over its predecessor.
What we like about the series remains in effect here – the open world is huge and Rico Rodriguez can explore it at will to find his own kind of explosive justice – but much more is being done to push the systems of the game to an even more spectacular one Effect. Boosters, airlifters, and retractors add value to the gripping system, and are not only on the rise in terms of destruction, but also open the door to some basic puzzles. New weapons show some insomniac levels, and this time the iron visions are open from the beginning, giving the blast a little more precision. Vehicle handling This is also a focus for Avalanche, with much improvement over the last game.
The emergence of adverse weather conditions is also a highlight. Twisters can rip through cities, towns, and bases, break bridges, tear up all destructible landscapes and vehicles, while the high-speed wind evolves during a sandstorm until the end of the game. Destruction even further. And depending on the console you play, everything runs smoothly – for the most part. Yes, Square-Enix promised to focus on smooth performance during development, considering how much a foul-smelling frame rate could affect Just Cause 3 and how often gamers were affected by poor CPU performance. It's easy with today's Jaguars To see the chances of the continuation here particularly pessimistic, especially when the physics is so strongly pushed.
How did Avalanche do it? There is no free lunch in real-time rendering, but at the same time, much optimization work is in place. Initially, most of the game was re-encoded to improve performance, with a particular focus on moving the Havok physics system to penetrate all available CPU cores. Second, Avalanche has done a lot of graphics work, reducing the impact of large explosions on GPU performance. At the same time, a dynamic scaling of the resolution was introduced on all systems. Here a trade is made – especially notable on the basic machines.
Of course, this is the first title of Just Cause, which was also included in the life of the extended consoles. Both offer significant CPU frequency upgrades over their vanilla equivalents – along with much more GPU performance. In terms of core specifications, the Xbox One X takes a leading position here. It delivers a top-end 3840×2160 resolution, but more commonly in the 1440p range when the game engine is under heavy load. Square-Enix tells us that the scaler here can go down to 1080p, but if it does, it's very rare – it's by far the cleanest representation of all console versions. PlayStation 4 Pro scales between 1080p and 1440p, but we've found that the lower end of the scale is more common in action scenes.
Square-Enix also says that we expect a maximum of 1080p and 900p for both PS4 and Xbox One, but both of these machines can reach a minimum of 720p – and often enough, both of which are very grainy for much of the duration to give. PS4 has a resolution advantage – as the comparison shots on this page show – but it is a clear descent compared to JC3 for both machines. The resolution is the price paid for a smoother performance by Just Cause and the key trade Avalanche made, but it is surprising that of our Pixel Count samples, only Xbox One X actually has a variety of different resolutions from the DRS system supplies.
I would say that the price for the pixel count is to be paid in total, since the performance increase compared to JC3 is enormous. The smoothest version of the package is PlayStation 4 Pro, which barely moves from the 30 fps target, no matter how intense the screen action is. This is closely followed by Xbox One X; Yes, it has a great visual advantage over the Pro, and although it is usually locked at 30 frames per second, occasionally dropped frames pop up – mostly invisible during the action. Next is the base PlayStation 4 game. As you would expect for a machine with the highest installed base, this is effectively the leading platform, and in terms of performance, it mostly withstands the same as the upgraded machines, only occasionally slowing down.
This leaves the standard Xbox One at the bottom of the stack. The basic Microsoft machine still offers a big improvement over Just Cause 3's frame rate, but it's expected to experience frequent performance drops. You may expect the drop in resolution to be more than enough to balance performance with the PlayStation 4 version of the game, but to achieve high-bandwidth, high-performance effects virtually eliminates the need for ESRAM available is the latest games.
Avalanche's plan is to improve the use of ESRAM in a future patch with the goal of improving performance. However, the embedded memory seems to be the most likely reason why the Vanilla Xbox One is starting to fight – and not just in this regard, but also a number of new releases. With the advent of the enhanced X console, three of the four console targets now have unified, high-bandwidth GDDR5 storage – a more convenient setup for developers.
Based on what we have seen in all consoles out of the game so far, the performance is clearly a big step up, and I hope Avalanche continues to improve. A little more polish would also be welcome – the texture streaming system can occasionally come to a standstill and leave low-resolution art on the screen, while I've noticed that Rico is trapped in tight environments a few times until I'm blown back in freedom through enemy fire. The menu system is also slow and somewhat delayed to respond, while the pop-up for geometry and shadows in height can distract a touch. But some of the other weirdnesses and curiosities that I experienced during the game are self-evident for a just-cause game, and some of the physics-based glitches can be weird.
All in all, what I've played with Just Cause 4 so far seems to bring a game that lives up to its promise of more ambition, more variety, and more physical destruction, without the compromises in performance that affected its predecessor. The icing on the cake? Load times are also significantly improved compared to fast 10-15 second transitions between levels – and no long wait times if you fail a mission. It's another example of how Avalanche responded to feedback on the last game and returned with a faster, smoother sequel. However, Just Cause 4 is technically not perfect: the dynamic scaler seems too aggressive on PS4 and Pro, while the performance of the base Xbox One requires some work. The fun factor is here but in all sharpness – and this time the game engine is not the thrill in the way.