The Problems with Just Cause 3

I've been playing quite a bit of Just Cause 3 recently. It's OK. But it isn't great. And I want to go into some of the reasons for that.

First off, let's start with the well known, the bugs. The bugs are the number one reason why you should not buy this game yet. The game is unplayable on "lesser" PCs and I can only play for about an hour before the memory leaks and slow down catch up to my PC. This means you have to restart the game every once and a while when playing. Bugs can be fixed, though. So - beyond the save game corruption bug - let's not dwell on the bugs and focus on what really makes the game suck: the challenges.

Oh, yeah, the save game corruption bug. Back up your save. It's in your Documents folder in "Square Enix\Just Cause 3". Just make a copy of that folder so you can restore it later. Xbox One and PS4 users can figure out how to backup saves on their own but you should be able to do it using the console's tools.

The Challenges

There are a ton of challenges to complete in Just Cause 3. A ton. The majority of them involve flying through rings. Or driving through rings. Or boating through rings.

And you're expected to do them perfectly. Getting the full five gears requires you to execute the course flawlessly.

And you need all five gears, because challenge gears unlock upgrades.

And you need the upgrades to be able to do the challenges, plus you want the upgrades for the fun part of the game. (Seriously, I'm pretty sure getting five gears on the boating challenges is impossible until you've already gotten nine gears to unlock the "turbo boost" option. I still haven't figured out how you're supposed to get five gears in some of the airplane challenges, I think you need a faster plane than the one they give you.)

These aren't fun to do. They suck and they aren't the reason people play Just Cause. But while they're "optional" they unlock upgrades that make the "real" part of the game more fun.

The Real Part: Freeing Medici

Just Cause 2 had a simple premise: you were airdropped onto Panau by the Agency for the express purpose of causing as much chaos and disruption to Pandak "Baby" Panay's dictatorial regime as possible, with the ultimate goal of unseating him from power. This meant destroying his (many) military bases, supporting the three different opposing factions, and generally wreaking havoc.

Just Cause 3 takes this basic concept and makes it — well, weird, for lack of a better word. It's the same basic idea: the Agency airdrops Rico into Medici to take on the dictatorial regime of General Di Ravello. However, this time, there's only one opposing faction: the rebels, which Rico is officially a part of rather than acting as a "free agent" causing general chaos. While in Just Cause 2 areas where either controlled by the Panay regime or they were controlled by the corresponding local opposing faction, Just Cause 3 simplifies that to "red versus blue." You're Blue, trying to wipe Red off the map.

Military bases work basically the same way they did in Just Cause 2, but this is where the weirdness sets in. Destroy all the specific "chaos objectives" and POOF! — the base is now controlled by the rebels. And I mean "POOF!:" it happens instantly. All the enemies despawn (to the point I once had a vehicle I was standing on vanish) and rebels spawn into the base the instant the last chaos objective object is destroyed.

The system made vague "who cares, it's a video game" sense in Just Cause 2: once you destroyed enough of the base, Panay's forces would abandon it. The whole "you destroyed the last fuel tank, now the rebels suddenly occupy the base" system is just weird in Just Cause 3, especially considering how much effort the game otherwise takes on making sure things don't spawn in front of you. (Behind you, sure. Nothing like clearing an area, walking through it, and then being shelled by a tank that wasn't there three seconds ago.)

Towns work somewhat better in some cases. Most (but not all) towns have a police station that you need to occupy. This involves entering the station, opening the gate to let the rebels in, and then wreaking enough chaos. This makes an amount of logical sense and makes taking over the town with the rebels seem like an actual team affair: you and the rebels throw out the local controlling force and then occupy the town.

Of course, in addition to taking over the police station, you still need to do the same "destroy all the chaos objectives" you need to do for military bases. Once you've done that, rather than instantly becoming rebel controlled, you then need to raise the rebel flag at the flag pole. Only then does the "instant rebel spawn" happen and rebels gain control of the town.

So, why are we freeing towns and occupying bases? Well, ultimately, because at various story points you're forced to but mostly it's to unlock challenges. Those challenges mentioned above? You unlock them by taking over bases and freeing towns.

Unlocks to Unlock Unlocks

Just Cause 2 had a fairly simple upgrade system: some upgrades were obtained simply as you gathered collectibles hidden across the map. Others were unlocked using various "weapon part" of "vehicle part" tokens that were gathered from around the map. This meant you could pick a few favorite weapons and vehicles and concentrate on upgrading just those.

Just Cause 3, on the other and, moves the upgrades behind challenges, and adds a ton more of them. Rather than upgrading a single weapon's damage or ammo capacity, you get general upgrades that affect everything. There are both fewer upgrades (you can't upgrade weapon damage in Just Cause 3 and the only ammo upgrades are for explosives and special weapons) and more upgrades (but now there are a ton of upgrades for everything else).

This makes the process for unlocking some of these upgrades capturing a base to unlock a challenge and then completing the challenge to unlock enough gears to unlock an upgrade.

And the challenges aren't all that fun, making the entire system an annoying slog. There are times when you'll realize that to get a specific upgrade you need to take out a specific military base to unlock a specific challenge that gives the gears you need for that upgrade. It's needlessly convoluted and not all that much fun.

No, You Can't Just Not Do the Challenges You Hate

I've mentioned that you get gears for completing challenges. What I haven't explained is that they're locked to the specific challenge types. For example, if you want to upgrade the number of Fast Travel flares you carry, those are locked behind air races. You can't decide "I hate air races, I'm going to do auto races instead." Sorry, but if you want to be allowed to fast travel more than once before needing to hunt down an extremely rare flare restock point, you must do the air races.

Auto races, on the other hand, are the only way to upgrade the number of times you can get "rebel drops" before you need to hunt down the restock locations for those.

Wing suit courses are the only way to upgrade your parachute and grappling hook "traversal" skills, but upgrading the grappling hook's strength requires a third challenge type.

Want to be able to look down the sites of your gun and carefully aim it? That requires "shooting range" gears, and those require completing story missions to unlock. (Except, of course, for the one that requires freeing the capital.)

If this sounds pointlessly convoluted and annoying, that's because it is. It detracts from the game and is the reason just about every review of Just Cause 3 will tell you that the game is fun when it lets you have fun.

Not to Mention the Online Junk

And I haven't even gotten to the "asynchronous multiplayer" online junk. Just Cause 3 has leaderboards for the dumbest, stupidest, "I couldn't care less" crap. There's no way to turn it off, to the point where a serious recommendation for PC players is to just block JustCause3.exe in the Windows firewall to force the game into "offline mode." Doing this decreases load times and improves performance at the cost of a feature no one cares about. Seriously, I do not care that xXxSayanGokuJedixXx managed to beat my score for longest vehicle power slide. It's annoying and distracts from the fun of the game. Hopefully they'll add a patch to just disable it.

Just Let Me Have Fun

There's fun to be had in Just Cause 3. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of boring, terrible, horribly unfun stuff that you need to complete to be allowed to get to the parts that are fun.