10 Most Disappointing Games of the Generation
As we prepare to usher in the new generation of console gaming, I thought it would be a good idea to look back and examine what might be the most frustrating aspect of our chosen hobby, the let downs.
Every year there are brilliant development teams hard at work to give us the best products that we could ever hope for and every year there are overzealous marketing departments that will go to the end of the earths to tell you how your gaming life is about to change—sometimes there is just Peter Molyneux.
Now, the games on this list aren’t necessarily bad games, these are just the games that shrouded themselves in more hype than they could ever hope achieve—due to cost or time constraints or maybe just excessive hyperbole. This is dedicated to those game developers that shoot for the stars but sometimes fall flat on their faces.
10) Assassin’s Creed (The Original)
Ah, Assassin’s Creed, it was such a breath of fresh air in an industry that has become watered down in homogenized shooters. In retrospect, it is amazing that a game company would green light this 20 million dollar experiment in parkour video gaming. The investment has obviously paid off, spawning sequel after sequel and becoming a yearly cash cow for the publishing giant Ubisoft.
By almost any metric, the original Assassin’s Creed was a great success. It explored an as yet unrealized time and place for video games, being placed in crusades era Middle East; its gameplay was almost perfectly realized for being the first to truly explore this new type of platforming, this only being enhanced by the gorgeous level design of each of the games cities; and even selling over five million units. The problem was that the game failed to deliver a consistent experience, with gameplay being relegated to a series of mini games around each city. It was a game that aspired for more than was reasonable and unfortunate time constraints kept it from living up to the lofty expectations. Thankfully, Assassins Creed II built upon the solid foundation created by its predecessor, giving us one of the greatest franchises to come out of this generation of gaming.
9) Dead Island
Who could forget this trailer.
Dead Island made one of the biggest splashes that any new IP could hope for with the premiere of that gorgeous teaser. It’s not often that game companies are able to construct such high quality videos that so universally demand our attention. The video managed to do exactly what it intended; it got us talking and speculating for weeks before we knew anything about this game.
Unfortunately for Dead Island, there was no possibility that this hack-and-slash zombie RPG could live up the expectations that were now roiling around it. It wasn't that Dead Island was a bad game, it was just kind of… meh. As a first project for the development team, it was a fantastic effort. If expectations were not elevated to stratospheric heights we would most likely be lauding it as an amazing gem of the generation.
8) Grand Theft Auto IV
This is more of a personal entry on this list than a general feeling of the gaming community (but this is my list dammit and I'll do what I want!).
Grand Theft Auto IV was a meticulously crafted game and should be praised for giving us the most perfectly realized game world, which is still unmatched by any subsequent games. The sheer detail that went into creating a living, breathing, New York City makes me want to weep for whatever game designers were in charge of the QA for such an ambitious undertaking.
That being said, I feel the game forgot to include a game with its game world.
Grand Theft Auto IV improved on every aspect of the series but slapped all of that in the face with the inclusion of the least inspired story and missions in GTA history. To top that off, it included one of the single most annoying features of the generation with the “friend” system (If I ever get a call from Niko’s fat, obnoxious, cousin again it will be too soon). When the highpoint in the story was being happy when Roman was finally killed off then you know someone screwed the pooch in the “emotional investment” part of the narrative.
I could have forgiven the annoying side features if the missions were at least fun, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. The majority of the missions were drive to point A, kill everyone, and drive back. Now, you might be saying “but Mike, this is GTA. That is all you EVER do in GTA!” However, my response to that is “Not true you sexy disembodied voice you! While it is true that much of other games consisted of this, they were broken up by innovative, fun, missions such as plastering the city with porn flyers for your movie studio, the vault robbery in San Andreas, or my personal favorite, motorcycle parkouring around a city to put a giant boob spotlight on a skyscraper!”
7) L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire might have been the most ambitious game of the generation. Just describing it to myself makes me want to fall asleep though: a game where you are an LA detective investigating crimes through… evidence collection and interrogation. It was a game with strict focus and heart, giving us a revolutionary motion capture feature for facial expressions, allowing us to read guilt on a suspect's face.
L.A. Noire was closer to a point-and-click adventure game than it was a hardboiled detective novel. Trying to figure out what random evidence the developers thought constituted damning evidence was a chore, making a strategy guide the only efficient way to make it through the game. To compound upon that, asking an actor to act as if he is lying turns out to be a shitty gameplay mechanic. Rockstar made it, so of course, it had to have an open world, but this was completely pointless and was used as a way to pad gameplay and frustrate the player when they were admonished for causing traffic accidents--you know a game has poor driving when it actively encourages you to be chauffeured around by your AI partner.
The game also had a hero complex issue, constantly reaffirming the player that Cole Phelps was “the greatest detective the LAPD history” before the big reveal that you were wrong literally 100% of the time. The game removed all satisfaction, pulled your pants down, and poured water on your head, but hey, it was pretty.
6) Most of the Wii’s library
The Wii arguably won the last generation of console gaming. Selling 100 million units worldwide, it crushed the sales figures of both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Those massive sales numbers never actually translated into quality titles that interested the non-casual game consumer. Yes, Nintendo released great, high-quality, first person titles—the same titles that come with every Nintendo console mind you—but the Wii failed to delivery on any major third party titles.
Why the Wii failed is a mystery to me. Did developers just not see a market in those 100 million people? Was it not worth the effort to create a game specifically for a non-traditional control setup? Maybe it’s reasonable to say that the only game people wanted for the Wii was the game that came with it, Wii Sports. Who knows the why, but what we do know is that the Wii’s library is bogged down by poor ports turning popular franchises into mini games, and title after title of zero effort shovel ware. It is sad that things went the way they did for Nintendo and even sadder that it does not look like things will get any better in the future with the Wii U.
Does anyone else remember the hype surrounding this game?
This game LOOKED amazing. At the time of its premiere, it was probably the most gorgeous game that console gamers had ever seen. Gaming sites swooned over the art and stunning graphics of Lair.
Looks can be deceiving, though. This was one of the first PS3 games made and it was made with the purpose of highlighting the six-axis control scheme of the PS3 controllers. Yes, the same six-axis controls that continue to be ignored by third-party developers because of how terrible they were.
So, what do you have when you put a beautiful game behind terrible controls? A Metacritic review total of… 53. Reception for this game was so bad that Sony actually sent reviewers a “Lair Review Guide” for how to review the game. Mind you, this was already after the reviews were out. Lair is one of the main reasons that Sony’s Playstation 3 looked like it was destined for failure in that first shaky year after release.
4) Mass Effect 3
This is probably the best game on this list. It was the final installment in, what might be, the finest new franchise that this console generation spawned. It was everything that any sci-fi nerd/RPG fan could want: wide sprawling universe, meticulously crafted backstory for dozens of alien species and worlds, and a universe sized epic of a story. It has been described as a space opera—and I think that is the most fitting term for the series.
As I played through the final game, there were literally moments that brought me to tears. Mordin Solus sacrificing himself, while singing Scientist Salarian, to cure the genophage that he created still gives me tingles to this day (OH THE FEELS). What places Mass Effect 3 on this list is the sheer disrespect that Bioware showed to the series in the final moments.
As I'm sure you probably already know, all of the hundreds of choices that Commander Shepard had to make throughout the three games was eventually capped by the least satisfying conclusion that this thrilling masterpiece could have delivered. It was a punch in the gut to all faithful Spectres out there when we were forced to choose between our favorite colors to decide the fate of the universe. Worse yet, the explanation for these endings completely contradicted aspects of the story you had experienced in this very game.
It wasn't even the ending that was the reason this was a disappointment, it was that we were promised so much more. Bioware promised us a conclusion that would encompass all of the choices that we players were forced to make. We were meant to be shaping the story in a way that fit our own vision of universal salvation. When outraged gamers everywhere voiced their frustration over the conclusion we were handed, a new term was coined, gamer entitlement. It was supposed to be an insult, but it showed that every Commander Shepard out there had given their heart and soul to this story and weren’t going to allow Bioware to forget the promises they made.
Honestly, I get a little emotional over this subject and I’m starting to sound a little preachy so let’s move on.
3) Sim City
What the hell EA! How do you screw this one up?
Sim City is one of the most beloved franchises in existence and EA had to go force needlessly restrictive features on players that fundamentally broke the game in a way that removed all enjoyment.
It’s a simple enough concept; take a big, empty, plot of land and build a city. You need power? Build a power plant. You need water? Plop down a water treatment facility. But no, that wasn’t good enough for EA. EA wanted to make sure you couldn’t play the game without them knowing it so now you have to be continually connected to EA servers. Then EA decided that they needed to validate this decision so they made each city unplayably small, removed most resources, and forced it to be played in unison with other cities in the same region. What’s worse is that when confronted with annoyed gamers they simply started to lie about everything.
2) Dragon Age II
Dragon Age: Origins stands as one of my favorite games of the generation. The heir apparent to one of my favorite series of all time, Baldur’s Gate, it filled a niche in my heart that I didn't know existed until after it had been filled.
Dragon Age II, on the other hand, was a rushed mess that takes every feature I loved in the original and twists into a horrible abomination (see what I did there?). Recycled levels and a forgettable story do a disservice to the game that preceded.
There really isn't much to say on this front compared to some of the others. Dragon Age II is simply a lazy and forgettable experience.
1) Duke Nukem Forever
Nah, I'm just kidding. Nobody actually expected this game to be any good.
Nobody would blame you if you don't remember this title from early in the generation. Haze was supposed to be THE blockbuster title that validated the purchase of the ridiculously expensive PS3. Maybe this game was overhyped because, at the time, Sony was getting decimated in sales by the 360 and Wii and they were desperate to have something to latch onto.
This game had such promise. Made by Free Radical, the guys who brought us one of the most fun and original series ever, Timesplitters, Haze was supposed to reshape our outlook on single player shooters. The game was severely hampered by terrible AI, one of the famed games were your allies would simply walk in front of you to die. The most interesting feature going into the game was supposed to be Nectar, but it was uninspired and unsatisfying.
The reason this game is number one is because of what it was supposed to do. Haze was supposed to be what Call of Duty ended up being. Haze was supposed to be the reason parents bought their kids PS3’s and Haze was supposed to make children scream in excitement whenever Sony announced the [then] inevitable sequel.
Fable 3, Diablo 3, Gears of War: Judgement, God of War: Ascension... there seems to be a correlation between deep sequels and disappointment here.
There are so many games that could have made this list. If I missed something, or if you feel like something is more deserving of this list, then leave me a message in the comments.