I thought about this, and I decided to take a few categories away because some of the worst games of the year were not inherently bad per se, but bitterly disappointing.
2011 may have been a year filled with great games, and bad games, but it was also a year filled with abject disappointment. Games that could have, should have been better – and yet, were not. Rushed, buggy or just plain average, here is my rundown of 2011 in disappointment.
10 – RAGE (PS3, X-Box 360, PC)
id Software has a reputation, and RAGE failed to live up to that reputation. It was a fairly solid action game mired in technical issues, and worse still for id, a company that built so much on PC Gaming, the PC version was a cavalcade of errors, forced handicaps to allow it to compete with console versions and issues of a more technical nature. What a waste of a potentially good licence.
9 – LA Noire (PS3, X-Box 360, PC)
Whilst I admire LA Noire and all it does, the only real thing the game does brilliantly is the facial animations, but when everything else is so wooden and stiff, you have to ask – why did this take so long and cost so much money? And for all the creative risk, the treatment before and after of Team Bondi did more than enough to break this potentially good games kneecaps. Poor show.
8 – Gears of War 3 (X-Box 360)
I’ll accept Gears of War 3 was the best game in the franchise, but for someone who is really into plot, Gears of War 3 was a reminder of the worst excesses of the industry – it was so much about the spectacle, so much about the lead characters and one of them dying to save the rest, that much of the plot – like Metal Gear Solid 2 – rushed onwards abandoning all the good stuff it had prepared earlier. In that, Gears 3 felt half-baked and a little awkwardly done.
7. Hunted: The Demons Forge (PC)
Proving even the best of them can make a shoddy game, Bethesda before we got our hands on the delicious Skyrim released earlier this year Hunted. And it was… well… a bit pants, actually. It’s certainly enjoyable for a while, but the generic-ness of it, riddled with cliche and poor mechanics, just renders the whole exercise a tad on the naff side. Which for Bethesda is awful. But then, this isn’t the worst Bethesda game of the year – watch the top 10 games list for Brink. Wow.
6. The OddBoxx (PC)
This is bittersweet, because I love Oddworld. But the rush to get The OddBoxx out onto the market in a relatively buggy and shoddy state hurt me so deeply that I still have nightmares. Just Add Water are doing a great job of trying to rectify the awful buggy and broken states of it, but requiring third-party commercial tools to run the 360 controller in-game is just unacceptable in this day and age. And none of them are in HD. BOO, I say. BOO and HISS!
5. Splatterhouse (X-Box Live Arcade, PSN)
Take a game that was good many years and generations ago, bring it up to date and in the process, make it unbearably average. Splatterhouse is the kind of retro game that should fit into the modern take on demons, monsters and over the top violence; instead, it’s a clunky button masher with no real scares and a relatively shoddy framerate. Shame really. It could have been so much more.
4. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
There’s not much to say about this, except this proves without a shadow of a doubt you can’t shoehorn in an alternative storyline running parallel with the main franchise decades after it was written. J.R.R. Tolkien must be spinning in his grave over this. The whole thing just fell flat, it didn’t feel inspired enough, interesting enough or nearly epic enough to work in Middle Earth. A spectacular waste of time and effort really.
3. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (3DS)
This annoys the bejeezus out of me, because The Mercs 3D should have been fan-service up the wazoo, but for some reason Capcom bottled it at the last hurdle and all we got was a relatively basic, clunky and limited exercise in annoyance. With so much to tap into, so many games and spin-offs and even Dino Crisis, The Mercs 3D was simply too shallow. Couple that with the PR gaffe of not being able to delete save data, and it just ended up on the shelf.
2. The Old Republic
Some may argue this as being too soon, but for me, The Old Republic is the exact opposite of what Rift: Planes of Telara was at the start of the year – a game mired and constrained by the past, full of technical problems, riddled with unnecessary mechanics and an uninspired graphical style that just doesn’t work. And as of typing, The Old Republic has been subjected to its first round of nerfs to boot. It’s a shame, because the old Old Republic games were rather good. The Old Republic, on the other hand, is a game that feels two years too late.
1. Dragon Age 2 (PC/PS3/X-Box 360)
And completing an achievement for BioWare, Dragon Age 2 is my most disappointing game of the year.
The problem with Dragon Age 2 isn’t merely that it feels unfinished – because the game just is. It’s that, especially for the PC version, there is no sense of wanting to make it better. Modding tools are notoriously absent, meaning that fans can’t really make the game better even though many of them so obviously want to.
Couple that with DLC that felt ripped from the main body of the game, dialogue which effectively predicted the death of BioWare’s dialogue wheel, a camp sense of “gay” that pervaded the whole thing and a generally erratic and confusing storyline, as well as recycling the same maps over and over to pad out the game, and you just have an RPG that should have been so very much more, but feels so half-baked and doughy that it renders the whole thing more or less indigestible.
And now BioWare state that Dragon Age 3 will take lessons from Skyrim.
Dear Universal Powers That Be, stop them. Stop them now.