Bottom Five Games of the Year… So Far.

Bottom five games. Get out your turd polish!

And here’s the B-Side. Still clinging on for dear life to Mark Kermode’s tails (I will not let go I will never let go!), my homage continues to him in my bottom five games of the year so far. And what worries me is that this is going to be considerably easier than the top five list. Uhh… that’s a little scary.

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And yes, here’s the bottom five.

Now, before I start, I’d like to say there have been some cracking games so far this year. But sadly, so far this year I’ve also played my fair share of utter crap as well – and I worry that the crap is starting to outnumber the really quality stuff out there. This list was easier than my top five. Like, considerably easier.

But of course, you want to know some of the also-rans, huh? Well, sure, let’s talk over a couple. Like the god-awful HD Remastering of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 – a bit like digging up a dead girlfriend from days gone by and expecting us to love her for what she is. Yeah, there are laws against this kind of thing – and if not, there bloody well should be! Blades of Time, a pretty bland game that excited me as much as girls and boobs can when they’re distracting you from the realities that there’s not much game underneath to keep those boobs pert and attentive. And AMY – the game everyone has loved to hate, I liked it but I agree with many that it was far from the game it could have been and wasn’t a stand out performance at all.

The actual top five are worse. Much, much worse.

5. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 (PC, X-Box 360, PS3)
Episode 1 gave us the brief and sadly bitter feeling of hope that SEGA and Sonic Team might finally have started to pay attention and actually make a decent, side-scrolling 2D Sonic game. And then Episode 2 landed and all notions of hope were crushed under the ten-tonne weight of abject disappointment and failure. Tails doesn’t work. He just doesn’t. Couple this with stupid level design, terrible bosses and a general pervading feeling of half-arsed design and general I-couldn’t-give-a-toss balancing issues and what you have is a truly, unbelievably terrible Sonic the Hedgehog game. And it is 2D. Which means even the previously SAFE realm of Sonic the Hedgehog is now under assault from this crap! If I was Alan Sugar, I’d say; “You’re fired!”

4. Ninja Gaiden 3 (X-Box 360 and PS3)
This is the recipe of how to take a beloved franchise like Ninja Gaiden and ruin it beyond recognition. Step one; take one beloved cult favourite game, in this case Ninja Gaiden 3. Step two; remove everything that people previously loved about it – the combos, the challenge, the general pacing. Step three; use buzzwords to justify this like “expanding the audience”, or “our interpretation of the series”. Step four; add in a basic combat system that is cheap and tacky. Step five; censor it by ensuring heads and limbs don’t detach. And Step six; make the hero of the piece all emo because he is being possessed by some ancient and unspeakable evil that no-one understands but him. Congratulations, you have now successfully ruined a much loved game! Now’s the time to start running.

3. Bloodforge (X-Box Live)
It’s hilarious that people were hoping this would be released on the PS3, because what you have here is, in essence, a God of War clone. Except it doesn’t have anything in it that is remotely redeemable, charming, enjoyable or lovely. The camera is atrocious. The mechanics and extras are formulaic at best. Predictable boss encounters that just repeat themselves ad nauseum. No block ensured that this was about movement and grace, and yet the controls were terrible to the point of ridiculous. It’s undoubtedly pretty, extremely pretty in fact, but this book cover simply hides the fact that no thought or planning went into it beyond the stellar visuals. It’s a shallow, hateful experience. Please do not play. Please do not pay. Please avoid.

2. Silent Hill: Downpour (X-Box 360 and PS3)
Oh Silent Hill. I dreamed of that town, so long ago. And now it is in ruins. Literally, the series is in ruins. Downpour is neither a reboot nor especially imaginative, its enemies generally look too hilariously bad to be considered scary, the atmosphere isn’t there, the puzzles and sub-quests go on forever and ever, and generally speaking the only ending of any real note and worth in the game requires you to deliberately kill yourself in the “final fight” of the game. It’s not just that this isn’t scary – it’s a game that requires you don’t kill stuff for endings. A game that judges you based on karma, and how many side quests you do and how many things you have to fend off, or kill. It makes utterly no sense at any point, and not in a good way. Truly, utterly dire game. Rest in peace, Silent Hill.

1. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (X-Box Kinect)
And to add to the hate for this game, yup, I’m saying it’s the worst game of the year so far. I didn’t even buy it, I played it at a friends place for about half an hour and I walked away wanting those thirty minutes of my life back! To say there’s nothing redeemable about this game is an understatement – it controls like a pig, controller AND Kinect and neither working properly? That’s truly dire. It looks okay, but nothing exciting or stimulating. It’s just the kind of experience that leaves you completely cold on the subject of core games for the Kinect. They haven’t worked yet, and on the back of this and from From Software, they of Dark Souls, I’d say Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is the definitive proof that you’ll never see core games work on the Kinect. It just doesn’t cut it. Sure, it’s cheaper than spending £250 on the pedals and pads and boards required for its predecessor to be playable, but at least they respond and work and look kind of cool. This just has controller and Kinect and requires you look and sound like a total arse for its duration. Microsoft needs to stop beating this dead horse. Kinect is good for dance games and some experimental games, but core gamer games? Nope. Time to stop trying to convince us. Every example so far has failed, and this one has failed harder and more spectacularly than anything that has come before. Play to its strengths, and stop trying to sell it as the future. Otherwise it won’t have one.

Of course, these are my worst of the year so far and I could have done a top ten really, there’ve been some right stinkers this year (and sadly quite a lot of them are HD Remakes/Remasters). I figured it would be kind of cruel to add the Vita though, because I think that’s (a) not really a game and (b) struggling to find its feet enough that it doesn’t need me stamping on its toes.

And again, Amy is not in this list. I liked it. I am not sorry for that. You want old school horror games, that’s what you’re asking for. Progress is a wonderful thing, huh? Makes Resident Evil 5 look more tempting, doesn’t it?

As always, send me your worst games of the year so far. I’ll look into them if they’re cheap and I have time. I do like bad games in a sense – because otherwise, how would I know what is good?

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