The Just Cause franchise feeds on chaos. Each new installment ups the ante in terms of how quickly you can travel across its open world and how much destruction you can dish out. Just Cause 4 introduces weapon mods, deadly weather, and a new engine running it all. It should look and play better than ever, but repetitive missions, an empty story, and unsightly visual performance prevent the series from reaching new heights. As we spend more time with Rico Rodriguez, his missions have gotten more and more personal in each game. Here he’s searching the war-torn country of Solis for information about his late father, working with new and old friends to overthrow the Black Hand mercenary army. The action is always over the top, but the story in Just Cause 4 is sparse and takes itself too seriously. Some characters we meet at the beginning don’t show up again until the very end.There are times when missions do get a little wacky, like helping a zealous film director create outlandish action shots for her latest blockbuster, and this type of attitude is a much better tonal fit for the gameplay. Unfortunately, these missions are more the exception than the rule. You create an army by raising a chaos meter and recruiting your own forces.After completing a requisite region strike, you can deploy these troops and push the front lines of the Solis revolution forward. This opens up new activities like operations, which are the main story missions. You can view this front line in real-time, as soldiers and vehicles exchange fire on scorched terrain. It’s satisfying to track your progress region by region, but the actual front line functions as little more than background noise when you’re passing by on the map. Wild weather is the most noticeable update to Just Cause, and tornadoes, lightning strikes, and sandstorms are impressive when they cross your path.But aside from the few missions that deal directly with shutting down the technology that powers it, the weather never becomes a significant presence during normal play. The only lightning storm we ever faced was during the mission to stop them completely. We trudged through a few sandstorms and could see a tornado spinning in the distance, but these events never slowed down our progress or presented any kind of creative challenge. When you overcome them, you gain the ability to control them, but it feels like more could have been done with the extreme weather overall.Rico is his own force of nature, equipped with a parachute and wingsuit that deploy at a moment’s notice. Combined with a grappling hook, he can travel anywhere in the world without once needing a vehicle. All the guns in the game now have secondary fire, which often gives you an additional explosive that can really come in handy. Jet fighters and helicopters are good for quickly destroying bases and airships, or getting to your next objective, but it’s easy to just wingsuit wherever you need to go.Pilots can also drop you into locations you’ve already visited and deliver supplies like weapons, cars, planes, and more. The grappling hook is what separates Rico from every other soldier on Solis, and it has more options than ever. You can customize three separate loadouts and choose between air lifters, retractor cables, and rocket boosters. Each has a set of unlockable parameters you can tweak and mods you earn from completing side missions. You swap between loadouts with the d-pad, making it easy to create different grapple combinations. Air lifters are great for moving heavy objects or slowing down vehicles; retractors are perfect for sending helicopters into the ground; and rocket boosters can give you an extra burst of speed when you need it. These grapple upgrades are the best thing about Just Cause 4. They add functionality without making it cumbersome to switch between each type or modify them to your personal taste. The problem is that the game doesn’t always give you time to experiment. Lots of strike objectives are timed. You frequently have to cover fragile satellite towers or escort dimwitted escaped prisoners, and difficulty increases by the number of drones, helicopters, and special military units that are sent your way.It’s more tempting to find the grapple combos that are most effective, instead of taking a more playful approach. Even when you clear the whole map, there’s little incentive to return to each location to goof around. Aside from region strikes and operations, there are three additional tiers of missions. You can do stunts for director Garland King like wingsuiting through sets of rings, finding specific vehicles, and breaking speed records. Sargento needs you to train new soldiers, which often require assistance with transport or sniper cover. And Javi points you to ancient tombs that you can open by guiding massive stone boulders. These missions, along with quick random events, provide more than enough experience to unlock all the grapple mods in each category. Although the tombs are fun to explore, and some of Garland’s stunts are amusing, it doesn’t feel necessary to keep doing them once your grappling hook is all leveled up. It’s no surprise that the action in Just Cause 4 is done well. The parachute and wingsuit function almost exactly as before, and most of the structures you repeatedly demolish return from Just Cause 3. You can easily create spectacular moments that are impossible in any other game, and each massive series of explosions is sensational.But aside from the most intense action sequences, much of Solis looks terrible. The main cast, including Rico himself, looks bizarre when compared to protagonists in many other open-world games this year. Shadows will do weird things during cut-scenes, and returning Agency-man Tom Sheldon’s beard completely changes color. Whatever attention went into grapple physics or fire effects clearly avoided cleaning up the world’s terrain, including the way elements like smoke and trees pop in and out when traveling at high speeds. Light sources flicker on and off or shine through other objects. The AI of your squadmates can be frustrating, and the difficulty can spike in certain missions depending on how many enemies you have to take out, but the game does have an enjoyable, albeit repetitive, rhythm.The dismal visual issues remain constant however and confusing given the advancements made just a few years back with Just Cause 3. The good news is load times are brief, which saves the experience a bit. It’s quick and easy to recover or quickly change locations, so the pace of dominating the map stays brisk and rewarding. After the forecasted storms turn out to be little more than hot air and the sedated story fades into bland repetition, you’re left with little more than effective new ways to customize your grapple abilities and the same gratifying destruction that the series has nailed from the beginning. Just Cause 4 clearly didn’t get as much briefing as it should have before deployment. It’s rough edges are unmissable, and its structure weighs too heavily on the simple pleasures of blowing stuff up and funneling your own creativity into how you use the chaotic tools at your disposal. It’s still fun to start a revolution, but it feels like this series can do so much better.Easy Allies Reviews are made possible by generous viewers just like you. If you like what you see, check out patreon.com/easyallies to help us make more. For just $1 a month, you can gain access to weekly updates, spoiler discussions, and exclusive shows. .