I remember when I was a child, and my biggest thrill was going to the local supermarket to rent a video game for my NES. Without the internet or even access to magazines at the time, I had no idea if I would be picking up something marvelous or just plain awful.
Considering that this was the NES, I had a decent chance of picking out something that would ruin my whole weekend. At least I would have other games to fall back on, but all I felt was the sheer disappointment of a lousy title.
Today, it’s not like that anymore. We have the world at our fingertips, and we have every scrap of information needed to make an educated guess as to which games will be amazing and which games will be terrible.
The only problem is that bad games still find their way onto the shelves of millions of gamers. And this isn’t just a ruined weekend anymore. A terrible game can destroy a franchise, bankrupt a company, and will be labeled as horrible for the rest of time.
Company’s that pump millions of dollars into a game obviously need it to sell well to make ends meet, so we turn to the internet hype machine to sell the software before its reputation gets out of whack.
Amazing trailers, fun demos, previous experience making great games, established franchises, years of anticipation.
For whatever reason, these are the big ones. Joey Davidson and I (Ron Duwell) are about to explore the ones that stung the most. The ones that could have been great if what we had been sold came true.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Talk about a major letdown. I’m a massive, gargantuan, huge, nerd for the Alien franchise. I love the flicks (even the bad ones), and I’ve been dying for a proper entry in the gaming arm of the series. Aliens: Colonial Marines was going to be the best thing to ever happen to the Alien world.
It had Gearbox at the helm, a studio that had proven itself capable with Borderlands. It showed up at press conventions with gorgeous “live demos.” It was hyped beyond belief, and it looked wonderful.
Too bad it was a steaming pile of mess. Aliens: Colonial Marines was not just a bad game; it was a bad game that was built on entirely false marketing. The demos were fake, the hype was fabricated and the game itself was a poorly written, horribly executed mess of bugs and mistakes. I wish we could just flush it out into the vacuum of space.
Armored Core V
Once upon a time, this used to be the premiere mech-combat series. You wanted to build your own mechs and take them into combat, then Armored Core was your best bet. This popularity continued into the PlayStation 2 era, and custom mechs were only a few years away from being able to duke it out online.
Then something happened at developer FromSoftware. HD gaming took a toll on the quality of their games, and many of their popular series began to drop sharply in quality, Armored Core among them. Armored Core IV was the first to hit 1080p and full functionality online, but critics didn’t seem to agree with the approach. It was quickly sent to the discount bin.
FromSoftware saw a major resurgence in 2009 when their sleeper hit Demon’s Souls took the world by storm, and many were hoping that FromSoftware had finally figured it out and would bring this newfound genius into Armored Core V.
Nope, the game still tanked, and FromSoftware still has not yet been able to harness the genius they created and put it in their other franchise.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Bring the noise, CoD fans. This was the game that turned me off of the shooter franchise for good.
A painfully short campaign teeming with cliches and bad writing met a multiplayer mode that felt entirely recycled and unoriginal. Remember Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? What a game that was! It took the multiplayer FPS genre and completely flipped it on its head. Heck, games have been emulating the design choices made by Infinity Ward in Modern Warfare since its release.
By the time Modern Warfare 3 rolled around, the series felt old, tepid, stale and rehashed. I know it still sells millions and millions of copies. That doesn’t mean a huge chunk of fans weren’t disappointed by it. Some say the beginning of the end was World at War or Modern Warfare 2. For me? This series showed me where it was bound and determined to stay with MW3. Such a shame.
Disney’s Epic Mickey
You’ve already read me gushing about my dorky love for the Alien franchise. Remember how jazzed I was for that game? Multiply that feeling by a billion, and that’s how pumped I was for Epic Mickey.
I’m a Disney nut. I love the movies, have been to the parks far too many times and grew up with Mickey Mouse on my brain constantly. When Will Spector and Junction Point started showing off a Mickey game with steampunk aesthetics and a dark premise, I don’t think I can even properly quantify exactly how excited I was.
Then it released. The Wii’s graphical limitations kept the game from being too pretty. The gameplay itself was rather boring. The camera? The camera turned the game from just awkward to almost horrific. This was a big letdown, and it’s definitely something that I would have died to love.
Duke Nukem Forever
Would ya look at that! The second game from Gearbox to make the list of biggest disappointments. Maybe they’re not quite the heroic studio everyone thinks they are.
Oh, Duke Nukem Forever. The greatest mark you’ll leave on the video game industry is the formation of one of its most unsettling terms: vaporware. This game was in development for more than a decade. It was being made by a handful of studios, and no one wanted to bring it to life.
Gearbox snagged the rights, got 2K to publish the experience and put Duke back out on the market to rake in the money and then throw it at strippers. The game? Oh, the game was horrible. It was a relic of old shooter philosophy wrapped in layer upon layer of bad mechanics and horrendous jokes. The worst joke of them all? That someone at Gearbox decided to finish the game.
Final Fantasy XIV
Does this one even need to be introduced? There have been some fairly catastrophic launches in recent years, but none even come close to how badly this game tanked. For a game that is currently tearing one of the biggest game companies in the world limb from limb, it should have a lot more haters.
Wait, nobody played it, so how could they?
For all intents and purposes, Final Fantasy XI is actually a fairly decent MMORPG. The idea of playing online turned off a lot of longtime fans to the series who were used to single player campaigns, but overall, those who got it found a grueling yet satisfying RPG world to explore and create your own legend in.
Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand actually digressed in just about every aspect from graphical quality to gameplay decisions to just overall satisfaction. Square Enix was unable to convince gamers to move from XI to XIV, and eventually they had to just scrap the whole thing and start over from scratch.
We’ll see how this new build holds up in the world, but we can guarantee that it will be better than this piece of junk.
Gran Turismo 5
Look, I’m not going to sit here and suggest that GT5 was a bad game. It wasn’t. It was a quality racing game from a series that almost always delivers on its promise.
However, consider the hype Sony put into the product. Consider the fact that this thing was in development for a long, long time. Now consider that it had horrific CPU AI, poor damage physics and shoddy screen tearing and lag.
In terms of sheer disappointments, Gran Turismo 5 was a big letdown for extreme fans of the game. Still good, still worth buying, but it should have been so, so much better.
The PlayStation 3 launched, and Sony already had one solid FPS series under their belt when Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games cranked out Resistance: Fall of Man. However, the series didn’t sell half as well as Sony had wanted, and they decided to look elsewhere for their “Halo Killer”
The hopeless project was gifted to an already established developer who was responsible for the Timesplitters games. Free Radical Design was no stranger to FPS, but what they were a stranger to was the next-gen technology. Why make something for new hardware if you aren’t going to take advantage of it?
This is Haze. Muddy graphics, simplistic design, cheap gimmicky mechanics and a flat story that failed to capture the epicness of its rival. Most offensive though were the meathead soldiers assigned to be the heros squad mates.
It was an all around mess, and Free Radical, a once promising FPS development team, had to be saved by Crytek to further make games.
Factor 5’s Rogue Squadron series achieved widespread acclaim over the years as carrying the torch of popular Star Wars space-combat games like TIE Fighter and X-Wing into a more casual market.
When it came time for them to make the jump into HD, a lot of pressure was put on their fledgling project, Lair. The game was one of the first big exclusives for the PlayStation 3, charged with showing off the console’s graphical powers and their foray into motion with the SixAxis Controller.
The game was a total mess. Graphical glitches made it nigh unplayable and the complicated motion controls killed the rest. You know something is wrong when a company has to send out a pamphlet telling critics how to fairly review the game.
Factor 5 eventually released a patch that allowed for analog stick controls after heavy pressure, but the damage had already been done. This dragon flight action game toasted Factor 5 into oblivion.
Metroid: Other M
Metroid: Other M was promising for a few reasons. It was bound to give Samus more character, complete with full voice acting. It was being developed by action aficionados Team Ninja, and it was set to take on a third-person perspective for unique combat.
While not necessarily a bad game, Metroid: Other M missed the mark by several inches and feet on almost every count. The voice acting and plot work were both really bad. Team Ninja created gameplay that felt imprecise and boring, much like the gameplay of the next game on the list.
Other M was a mistake. Especially when you stand it up next to the Prime series in the Metroid franchise. Those games were all incredible.
Ninja Gaiden 3
For longtime fans of the series, the writing was on the wall for Ninja Gaiden 3 before it even released. This sloppy game was the first in the current era of Ninja Gaiden entries to not be directed by the famous Tomonobu Itagaki, and that fact showed.
Ninja Gaiden 3 lacked the depth and challenge that made the previous games in this series so stunningly good. When compared to other modern action titles, it was downright boring in terms of its plot and mechanics. Even worse, it’s woefully imprecise. Precision was a hallmark of this franchise while Itagaki was driving. Now that he’s gone, things have gotten pretty grim.
Resident Evil 6
We should have immediately noticed something was wrong with Resident Evil 6 once Capcom announced the game would have three separate campaigns. The internal conflict became obvious with developers and publishers.
Some wanted to please action fans. Some wanted to please horror fans. Some wanted to try something new. Some wanted to make money by appealing to the casual military shooter crowd.
Rather than being responsible adults and compromising on a single solid campaign, they decided to spread their resources thin and deliver three appallingly weak concepts. When your biggest innovation is having the ability to let your characters roll around on the floor a bit, you know that not a lot of thought went into improvement.
Resident Evil 6’s biggest flaw is that it lacks the heart of the other games. It’s one designed by committee and lacks a strong vision from a talented director like Shinji Mikami.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The closure of LucasArts has had an affect on a lot of long time fans, but one has to stop and think when the last time they actually released a good game had been. The SCUMM geniuses had moved on and Star Wars was mostly being outsourced to other studios. Most of the displeasure has been a lot of misplaced nostalgia.
The LucasArts of today was responsible for games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a lifeless title cashing in on the writing of George Lucas to tie the trilogies together.
Granted, if you bought into the idea of George Lucas’ writing saving this project, then you deserved to be disappointed because you never learned your lesson after The Phantom Menace.
Still, the idea of playing an outrageous Sith with unworldly Force powers sounds fun on paper, but in execution, meh, it doesn’t turn out to be so much of a joyride. Kratos, Dante and Ryu Hayabusa all provided a blueprint for Starkiller, and all proved to be more fun.
They even made a sequel for this turkey which somehow proved to be even worse.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
I suppose Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor wasn’t really much a hyped game for anyone but Kinect owners. For Kinect owners? This was going to be the one. A tank/mech game that put players inside a virtual metal box with nothing but pretend controls and comrades ready to die for one another.
The characters and art style were all fine. Heck, part of the game was even well made. The Kinect bits, though? Holy heck, they just plain didn’t work. I don’t mean “didn’t work” as in “occasionally finicky,” I mean they didn’t work.
The other Steel Battalion titles were about complication and precision? This one stood on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, and it was a major slap in the face for the tiny portion of gamers hoping for something more hardcore on the Kinect.
I remember a bet in college I had with a friend, and he believed Too Human would be bigger than Mass Effect. Well, he was wrong.
Editor’s Note: That friend was me, Joey. I was so wrong, and Ron never let me live this one down. To be fair, I bought into the hype, hook, line and sinker.
Too Human is the result of not only huge ambitions spread thin across a decade of developmental issues, but also straight up dishonesty. Deranged CEO Denis Dyack was recently found guilty of breaching a contract with Epic Games for misuse of the Unreal Engine, and was forced to destroy every remaining copy of the game.
The game itself was not horrible, but also not the epic series planned for the entire span of a generation. Even those who enjoyed it are left with a cliffhanger ending which will never be concluded.
And yet people still call Silicon Knights geniuses for making Eternal Darkness. I wonder how that works.