Life is full of disappointments. So is gaming. For every peak, there’s a valley. For every time you push some fools off a ledge in Overwatch with Lúcio, there’s a moment like realizing that shooting lasers at rocks really is all you do in No Man’s Sky.
We like to focus on the positive, but it’s good to step back and take a look at where games fell short of expectations so that we can temper ourselves in the coming years. So we can resist the lure of pre-orders and the whistle of the hype-train as it leaves the station.
Not all of these games are bad. Some of them are excellent. But even an excellent game can find ways to offer up notable disappointments.
There’s time left in the year, too. If one of December’s releases happens to be super disappointing, we’ll add it to this list. If it’s even more disappointing, we might even give it its own post.
Off we go!
The Division – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The Division, for the first 15 hours or so, is actually better than it has any right being. Ubisoft did a great job blending a tactical shooter with MMORPG mechanics and made a game that I enjoyed playing, and the game looked great – even after the visual downgrade from its original E3 2013 trailer.
But shortly after finishing the campaign, I put the game down and never picked it up again.
The multiplayer aspect of the game, unfortunately, had a short life that couldn’t compete with the likes Destiny, and the risk-reward of betraying the randos you meet in the streets of the Dark Zone quickly became more risk than reward. The Division‘s release on PC was just one of many botched PC releases this year, but it differs from the others in how catastrophic and obvious the mistake was. Ubisoft chose to store information about multiplayer characters on player hard drives instead of the server, and it wasn’t long before cheaters found a laundry list of ways to exploit the weakness, making the player-versus-player aspect of the game unusable.
What should’ve been a long-lived multiplayer game had, for most of us, a life of just a couple weeks or maybe months at best.
Homefront: The Revolution – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Despite the original Homefront being a pretty lackluster game, excitement swirled around the sequel. The game was moving to an open-world format and was in development with a new team – Crytek UK – following the closure of the previous publisher, THQ. Then, Crytek UK stopped paying employees, and the game was sold to Koch Media and Deep Silver, who would eventually finish it.
Whether it’s a painting, a song, or an entire video game, any piece of art that gets interrupted and shuffled around is going to struggle to do anything coherent or interesting. While Homefront: The Revolution was considered to have been competently developed despite all this, it lacked any spark in the characters, setting, or gameplay. A game we expected to be disappointed by got our hopes up and then, ultimately, disappointed us.
Mighty No. 9 – PC, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Mighty No. 9 was supposed to be Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s final salute to former employer Capcom. This tribute title was to make all those Blue Bomber fans happy, and all of that potential swelled into a Kickstarter campaign that brought in a whopping $3.8 million.
That’s $3.8 million for a 2D action platformer.
Mighty No. 9 was funded, and then it saw delay after delay after delay. It finally released in June of this year, and it was met with a reception that I’d describe as mediocre at best. Fans knocked it for flat gameplay and uninspired character design, its marketing was terrible and its mechanics labeled dull and repetitive.
Mighty No. 9 represented a lot of hope for Mega Man fans. Capcom hasn’t been kind to that series in recent years, and this was going to be the release from the legendary creator. It turned out to be so much less.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC Gaming
Mirror’s Edge was an incredible game. The DICE-developed first-person runner was ahead of its time in terms of parkour style, and it offered some of the most unique AAA gameplay mechanics seen anywhere in the late 2000s. It’s gone on to stand as a cult-classic worthy of all praise.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, then, stands as the sequel EA and DICE seemed doomed to make. That is, fans were begging for a revival, and EA essentially boardroom-tested the crap out of ideas until they had a product that felt more designed by committee than a successor to its original.
Catalyst was open world, and it was rife repetition and boring side frills meant simply to tease out content. By most accounts, it’s an open world game that suffers from a lack of actually enjoyable content.
In fact, its open world nature is why a lot of fans of the original stayed away. Well, that and EA’s marketing. The game flew under the radar as it approached release, and launch day went by with many in the gaming world not even noticing. That shows that not even EA had much, ahem, faith in this title.
No Man’s Sky – PC, PlayStation 4
No Man’s Sky, if this list was ranked, would likely scoop up the dubious honor of earning our top spot. This is, without a doubt, one of the most disappointing games of 2016. I’d go so far as saying that No Man’s Sky is one of the most disappointing games ever. Talk about a letdown.
Between the marketing machine that was PlayStation (the side of this story that doesn’t get enough heat, if you ask me) and the brazen over-promising of Hello Games’ Sean Murray, No Man’s Sky was supposed to be the video game answer to all of our wildest sci-fi fantasies.
It wound up being a shallow resource gathering expedition with silly planets and a thin veil of purpose. No Man’s Sky is hollow when compared to the effort it was promised to be, and that makes it downright disappointing.
Quantum Break – PC, Xbox One
I love Remedy games. Max Payne, Max Payne 2 and Alan Wake are easily among my all-time top games. Led by creative director Sam Lake, Remedy has developed a combined flair for cinematic action and engaging characters that gets me almost every time. It was with bated breath that I awaited Quantum Break from its announcement alongside the Xbox One in 2013 up through its eventual release this spring.
Unlike Alan Wake, which we spent something like four years waiting for, Quantum Break didn’t end up living up to the hype that preceded it.
It’s not a bad game – don’t get me wrong. The action is solid, and the visual effects created by the rift in time that fuels the story are nothing short of excellent. But the television show that accompanies it, a four-episode adventure from the perspective of the Monarch Corporation that Jack Joyce is fighting against, ended up being a cheap-looking and ultimately inconsequential affair. Nothing it added to the game couldn’t have been done with a few minutes of cutscene here and there. The very thing that was supposed to make the game innovative ended up being the primary point of disappointment.
Without the TV show hanging on for the ride, Quantum Break might’ve been a good or very good action game fondly remembered by gamers and Remedy fans like myself. But an extended development cycle resulted in a short game and a boring live action show, bringing us Remedy’s most disappointing efforts to date.
Star Fox Zero – Wii U
Personally? I blame the forced motion control here.
In a lot of ways, Star Fox Zero is exactly what I wanted in a Star Fox game. It ditched a lot of the stuff that’s been bloating the series since the N64 classic, and it feels like a game that’s much more true to its roots. The art design, the story, the sound, the voice work, all of that feels like classic Star Fox.
Then we had to go ahead and force motion control into the picture. You aim by tilting and moving the GamePad all around. If you want a precise reticle, you have to take your eyes off the TV screen and place them on the GamePad itself. This hobbles play horribly, and it took the really fun Star Fox gameplay loop and hurt it.
What a bummer.
Street Fighter V – PC, PlayStation 4
Street Fighter V wasn’t finished. It’s as simple as that.
After approximately 470 different versions of Street Fighter IV between 2008 and 2016, fans were ready for a big refresh. Street Fighter V came with the promise that it would be the last Street Fighter we’d ever need (until Street Fighter VI inevitably comes along). No more Ultra Super Arcade Turbo Edition EX Plus Alpha updates to the original. A relief, right?
Street Fighter V shipped with little aside from its threadbare online multiplayer mode. You could play versus casual or ranked, and there was an equally threadbare training mode. That a local multiplayer mode was included seemed like a miracle. Despite this, Capcom asked for a full $60 for the game while reminding players that paid DLC characters would come along the way. The online modes were touch-and-go for weeks before finally stabilizing; Capcom didn’t figure out what to do with rage-quitters until long after.
When game patches started getting bigger and bigger, we all fretted about the idea of unfinished games, and Street Fighter V was exactly what we worried about.
Titanfall 2 – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Titanfall 2‘s single-player campaign, despite having a pretty hammy story, was excellent. Full stop. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
What’s disappointing about Respawn’s second take on their vast, mech-fueled universe, is how they and publisher Electronic Arts mishandled both it and its predecessor, leading to some major problems with the game.
The first Titanfall, despite being good, had a pretty limited audience. It came out on Xbox One and PC, but was mostly seen as an Xbox One game; the PC version never picked up much of a fanbase. The sequel was seen as a second chance for a good game, but decisions at EA and Respawn kept that from happening.
The biggest problem is the time during which EA saw fit to release the game. Battlefield 1 hit a week before, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered hit just a week after. Three weeks of military shooters that owe lineage, in some way or another, to Vince Zampella and Medal of Honor.
In other words, we were in shooter overload and Titanfall 2 was a relatively small fish in a very large pond. What we’ve seen since is a game whose multiplayer is often underpopulated and otherwise populated in large part by hardcore Titanfall players, a relatively small crowd that knows the game inside and out. It’s not exactly friendly to new players unless they’re already pros.
Titanfall 2 is really cool, but those poor decisions will keep it from reaching the audience it should’ve and having the playerbase it deserves.
Special Award for Excellence in Terrible PC Ports:
Every year sees a few bad PC ports, and few are as bad as Batman: Arkham Knight, but we wanted to call out some of the particularly troubled PC ports from 2016. Whether it was simply poor engineering, a “design decision,” or limitations of Microsoft’s UWP software package and their Windows 10 store, these are the games from 2016 to look at twice before you pick them up on PC. Most are fixed at this point, but they didn’t start out that way.
- Dishonored 2
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Windows Store edition)
- The Division
- Mafia III
- Quantum Break
- Forza Horizon 3
- No Man’s Sky
- Rise of the Tomb Raider