The last two years have been rocky for blockbuster video game releases. Just about every major title released throughout the year has had a rocky start. The trend of “broken” games slipping past QA testers and onto store shelves (or digital marketplaces) seemingly started with the releases of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Halo: The Master Chief Collection in November 2014. Both games were horrendously bug ridden, and in the case of Halo, partially unplayable. The Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer portion, arguably its biggest draw, barely worked at launch. It would take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour for players to be matched into a game, and even then things didn’t run smoothly. To make matters worse, 343 Industries was unable to make the game run smoothly until many months after its initial release. This angered consumers, as they were sold a product that obviously wasn’t ready to be released until much later.
The PC version of this year’s Batman: Arkham Knight was so miserably broken that after a slew of negative reviews and refund requests it was removed from sale soon after its release in order to be “fixed”. How the game was approved for sale in the first place is remarkable, as it took several months after its initial release for it to be deemed worthy for sale again.
It has become the new norm for developers to release games ‘on time’ only to require gamers to download bulky patches on release day. Halo 5, which released last month, required an additional 9GB download on its release day for gamers to be able to access the multiplayer portion of the game. Patches have gone from a legitimate means to fix issues with a game to an excuse to release shoddily crafted games in exchange for $60 from consumers with the promise to finish a games development by the time the game actually reaches store shelves. There are several problems with this. As apparent with the release of The Master Chief Collection, developers can seriously underestimate how long it will take to get a working version of a game to consumers. It can take days, weeks or months before you finally get exactly what you paid for. Imagine buying a car at a dealership for full price and only receiving the frame, with a vague promise that you’ll receive the engine and tires and an undetermined future time. Who in their right mind would do this?
The requirement for a patch to complete a game especially punishes those without access to broadband internet. Many games are incredibly inferior without their day one patches. The Evil Within, for example, ran at a lower framerate and at a lower resolution without its day one patch, as Kotaku reported. Someone who bought the disc version of the game without internet access would be stuck playing a version of the game unfit for release.
This week’s release of Just Cause 3 proves that developers are not going to change their ways anytime soon. The console version of the game is apparently plagued with issues causing the game to perform worse than one would expect of a AAA title. One of the draws of Just Cause is the ability to trigger extreme explosions during chaotic firefights, yet these trademark explosions are apparently causing extreme dips in framerate on the console versions of the games (as low as 20fps on the Xbox One according to VG247). Not only that, but gamers are reporting load times anywhere from two to five minutes, which in modern gaming is an eternity. Having to wait as long as five minutes to respawn after a death is not enjoyable, and gamers are rightfully expressing their annoyances on Reddit.
The general consensus on how to express that gamers are fed up with sub-par releases is to speak with our wallets. Don’t pre-order games, and don’t buy them on day one. Gamers are often excited for new releases in their favorite franchise years prior to a game’s release, and we often can’t wait to get our hands on these games. Yet buying these unfinished products without even thinking just encourages developers to release games as soon as they can, whether it’s ready to be played or not. Their goal is to generate buzz and make as much money as quickly as possible. It isn’t until the buzz has died down that problems with the games start to become apparent, but by then the developers and publishers have made most of their money already.
With all this in mind, I should know better than to purchase Just Cause 3 the week of its release, right? In theory…and yet, I still couldn’t resist. All of the videos I’ve seen of people playing the game made it look too fun to miss out on. I’ve read about all of the issues, and I kept telling myself not to part with $60 for a product that is going to underperform until it’s fixed at some point in the future. IGN gave the PC version of Just Cause 3 a respectable 8/10, while the console versions earned a bleak 5.9/10 due to the various performance issues. Very few games earn such low scores these days, especially AAA titles. Even the recent Mad Max game, generally considered well made but rather boring, earned an 8.4.
I don’t often base purchasing decisions on review scores, but for such a highly buzzed about AAA game to be rated so poorly says that the performance issues are significant. All intuition and research were telling me not to buy Just Cause 3, not yet at least. Just Cause 2 is backward compatible on the Xbox One, I should just play that until Just Cause 3 is fixed.
In the end, I ended up purchasing Just Cause 3 last night. I’m a part of the problem. I can’t help it. I’m sorry! Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy the game, despite the performance issues. We’ll see. Worst case scenario I’ll just play more Fallout and dabble with Just Cause 2 (I never played it) until some more patches release. It’ll be fixed, I’m sure. I hope.