We’ve already covered our favorite games from 2015. How about the games that drove us mad?
We’re not necessarily talking about the worst games of 2015. Some of these titles are actually pretty decent in the grand scheme of things. No, we’re talking about the games that disappointed us.
These are the games that failed to live up to their pre-launch, marketing-fueled hype. These are the games that shipped completely broken. These are the games that duped us out of 60 bucks.
These are our most disappointing games of 2015.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Well, I’ll give Batman: Arkham Knight one bit of praise… it’s pretty. But enough about that.
I played this on console, so I can’t comment on the whole PC version debacle; however, know that the fact that this thing was unplayable for most PC gamers is a huge reason for its inclusion in this list.
I still walked away disappointed with this game. Most will complain about the Batmobile, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, my complaints lie in the game’s level design, which has certainly fallen a long way since Batman: Arkham Asylum.
If you remember that game, it felt so right and so good because Rocksteady didn’t have to worry about creating an entire cityscape. The branching dungeons were tight and small, allowing the development team to really hone it some genius set pieces. Batman would need precise timing to knock out a guard or else another one would see him, and explosives needed to be perfectly placed and detonated to knock out all enemies at once. Individual tools were so much more useful thanks to the limited inventory.
That game was a little too perfect in its layout to follow up on, and while the decision to take it into open-world was praised by many, it got a groan from me. I knew this would happen. In Arkham City, I began to notice that the larger scale city required a bit of sacrifice to that tight design. More focus on feeling like Batman, less focus on being a solid stealth and action game.
In Batman: Arkham Knight, this happens on an exponential scale. Batman is forced into brawls with dozens of thugs over and over with little thought regarding how the dungeons play out. It’s exhausting! Floor ducts also turn him into a sort of invisible one-man army since he can silently take out an entire room of unexpecting enemies with very little planning or memorization of enemy moving patterns.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and it also means that bigger games still fall harder. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a masterpiece of level design that felt like the developers respected the player to solve challenging room after challenging room. Arkham Knight sacrifices that for a generic open-world layout, repetitive sand-boxing and waypoint-hopping, and the “experience of feeling like Batman.”
Rocksteady deserves all the praise in the world for its presentation, but sorry, I’d take superior level design over that any day.
Just Cause 3
It’s easy enough to explain my problems with Just Cause 3 by simply reciting my experiences with the game.
“Oh crap, I died.”
*makes a sandwich and returns*
Why is this game still loading?! Just Cause 3 could be hiding a solid game behind all of its technical issues, but considering that this is an action game that encourages taking risks and being experimental, you’re going to be dying a lot. And if you need to wait up to three minute every time Rico needs a respawn, well… you’re going to be waiting a lot more than you’re playing.
This has since been addressed with a patch, but the loading is still far from perfect. Framerate issues and insane bugs still run rampant.
There are plenty of other issues too. The parachute/grappling hook combination is faster, but doesn’t feel as natural as Just Cause 2’s, and I’m not impressed with the size of a game anymore. Having a map that takes 9 hours to walk across just seems like excess to me, and it’s a surefire way to make me bored before I finish.
My biggest complaint comes from character advancement. Just Cause 2 is one of my favorite games of all time because it rarely, if ever, forces players into scripted events. Getting better gear and abilities requires merely picking up tucked away items and spending them. Nice and easy…
Here, Just Cause 3 forces players to complete challenge missions to unlock even something as rudimentary as ironsights precision aiming. Sorry Avalanche, but I play Just Cause to avoid such scripted pointlessness, not to be forced into it around every corner.
If Mad Max had come out a year or two earlier, I think people probably would’ve loved it, but it hit shelves in a difficult climate. It came out in the same year was the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road and on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the best-reviewed game of 2015. Thanks to a glut of open world games, we’re also seeing many people starting to get tired of all but the best of this sort of genre.
Mad Max does a lot of stuff right. It has brutal combat, a gorgeous (if necessarily brown) landscape, some fun and grotesque characters, and the same sort of car fetishization as the movies. It’s not a bad game by most accounts.
In the bright light of Fury Road, though, Mad Max all but disappears. The movie was an incredible comeback for a long dormant franchise, with amazing characters, great camera work and stunts, and incredible music. Releasing on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V was a bad decision, as well. Both are very brown-looking open world games about a scruffy dude and (sometimes) his dog. But one of those had the backing of a beloved game designer, a stellar game engine, and tons of hype. The other just sort of came out.
Mad Max isn’t a disappointment because it’s bad. It’s a disappointment because it could’ve been so much more.
The Order: 1886
The Order: 1886 set high expectations right from the beginning. Its first stunning trailer claimed in-engine graphics and showed off a very cool concept: King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, alive in Victorian London, fighting against supernatural forces in the shadows of the industrial revolution. There’s so much for a nerd to get excited about in that sentence, I get chills just writing it.
The game managed to deliver on the graphics, providing what is one of the best visual showpieces for the system alongside Driveclub, but they had to force the game into a letterboxed format to make that work.
The rest of the game, though, fell flat. The game had you fighting mostly human enemies with guns, utilizing an okay cover system and functional if unremarkable guns. The story had its share of twists, but none of them were terribly interesting. The game even managed to fit in the old “We’re not so different, you and I” cliché before the end of its tale. Then, just as things were getting interesting, the title ended. I called it a meticulously crafted bore in my review, and that’s still exactly how I feel months later.
Star Wars Battlefront
The most disappointing thing about Star Wars Battlefront is exactly how mediocre it is. This game is absolutely beautiful, it sounds incredible and, for the most part, it plays like a fun shooter.
Star Wars Battlefront is also insanely thin. There’s no single player campaign (which, I guess, is fine by today’s standards). The unlocks are uninspired, there aren’t enough maps, the weapons almost all feel identical, the ships are collectible icons rather than actual things on the battlefield… it all reeks of either laziness or rushed development, and I assume it’s the latter rather than the former.
The result is a Star Wars Battlefront that feels more like a budget project than a AAA effort. It’s not worth its $60 price tag, it doesn’t have the staying power of its predecessors and, quite honestly, its Season Pass is obnoxious. This thing came out the same year as one of the best Star Wars flicks we’ve had in decades. Battlefront needed to be more than mediocre.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
You have to feel bad for Tony Hawk fans. This franchise used to be one of the best takes on the skateboarding genre. Somewhere along the line, Neversoft stopped developing the games, Activision decided to go motion control with the atrocious Tony Hawk Ride and Robomodo was put in charge.
Enter Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. From its first unveiling, folks dubbed it a horrifically ugly game. Then, roughly a month before launch, Robomodo slapped it with a sort of cel-shaded look, and it appeared, at least visually, to be better.
Then we hit launch. The game’s first patch was bigger than the game itself, and not even that could fix the insane wealth of glitches and issues gamers experienced. One of the absolute best brands in video game skateboarding has crashed into the pile that it is today. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 could and should have been the game to tip the scales, instead it was an ugly, glitchy and, quite frankly, boring swipe at a classic.
Will we ever see Pro Skater 6? I’m started to doubt it.