Hope you all had a stonkingly good Christmas, and now I am about to utterly ruin any feelings of joy and goodwill you may have by descending into the turgid, insipid and frankly disgusting games of the last twelve months. Here, for you, is my ten worst games of the year – there may be some moderate language ahead…
It’s somewhat depressing that this year saw a raft of mediocre crap.
However, mediocre isn’t good enough for this list. No, to earn a place on my ten worst games of the year a game has to be one of three things;
1. Fundamentally broken in some way.
2. Insulting or just plain disgusting.
3. Be worth less than the CD it’s piled onto.
For you see, crap games can be fun. There’s nothing WRONG with crap games per se; a little bit of what you don’t fancy can be just as good for you. So to make it onto my worst games of 2012, a game has to actually make me recommend people avoid it, or make me so uncontrollably angry I break something. That is how I denote whether a game is just a bit pants or genuinely, unashamedly horrid in every single way. Please note tomorrow will bring my ten biggest disappointments of the year – I differentiate for good reason, as you will see.
Before we begin, I want to make some dishonourable mentions;
* Bloodforge; It was truly terrible. But not quite terrible enough to make this list. Because it was barely playable.
* The Expendables 2; A movie tie-in that was snuck out on the quiet. Bad? Sure. But not bad enough.
* Orion: Dino Beatdown; One of the worst indie games of the year. So I cut it a little slack on that front.
* Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock; One day they will make a decent Doctor Who game. This isn’t it.
* Men In Black: Alien Crisis; Again, truly shoddy. But not quite shoddy enough to make the list.
So yeah, I’ve had to miss a few deserving names off the list, but that’s because the ones that will follow are worse than these games in some regard. So, with all that said… let’s get this train wreck a rolling, eh?
10. Ninja Gaiden 3
There is something genuinely disturbing about how people think they know best. Or how they will take a successful brand, once a darling of the gaming community, and brutally homogenise it and dumb it down to the point of being unrecognisable. That, my friends, is Ninja Gaiden 3 – the easiest game in the franchise, and the worst because of it.
Without the complicated and satisfying combat, the slightly referential wit and the steep difficulty curve, Ninja Gaiden 3 is exposed for how shallow and insipid it really is, barely providing anything in the way of a challenge. Which in itself may not be bad if the narrative was somewhat above par; but in that rare moment of human darkness, the story in Ninja Gaiden 3 also happens to be the very worst thing about it. There’s no narrative consistency, no charm, no grace and some of the things the game does or makes Ryu Hayabusa do are so shameful, so disgusting and so truly horrendous that you wonder how this game got a release when the comparatively tame past games like Manhunt 2 and Saw got through. It’s a shameful, horrid blend of Dynasty Warriors and Shinobi, a game that thinks the way to broaden its appeal is to go dark, so evil and get truly terrible whilst making sure everyone can play through it and see just how utterly awful and terrible and rank it is right down to the core.
The Wii-U “remake” of this is going to add the challenge back. But if it doesn’t do anything about the narrative, then it will likely end up on next years list as well.
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
I suppose this is something of an obvious inclusion but there is something to be said for a stripped down portable FPS on the PS Vita. There’s something quite appealing about it. It’s just a shame that whilst Black Ops 2 was alright, this frankly laughable crap was also released to let the side down a bit.
I’m not joking when I say that you can fail missions randomly for no reason, that enemies kill themselves in the most comically stupid of ways – lobbing a grenade at a wall when you’re not even in sight, as it bounces back and kills them. Or trying to shoot through a car until it explodes. Or falling through something that used to be solid – and that as the game progresses, it becomes buggier and lazier and more and more depressing. Nihilistic may not have the best of reputations but this defies even the lowest standards of the Call of Duty series; whilst the main games actually seem to be taking a risk, trying something a bit bolder and braver, this game is licensed tat. It’s the kind of brand recognition sale that we thought we’d outgrown years ago, where they expect it to sell because hell, it’s Call of Duty. No-one will notice if it’s an unplayable, buggy and seriously overpriced piece of tat on a handheld console that is getting a market mullering, right?
Wrong. We noticed. And we are not amused. Stripped back means we can see where corners are cut. And a LOT of corners were cut here…
8. Game of Thrones
But then again, when it comes to selling based on name value alone, this is perhaps an example of trying desperately to punch above your own realistic weight. Game of Thrones is a popular TV series with spectacular production values; Game of Thrones the game is a game done on a shoestring by people rushing it to the market.
Which is a real pity because the market is screaming out for good, decent RPG titles and they wheel this out. The game is poorly made and poorly optimised; the voice acting cuts out intermittently, which is a saving grace in disguise as it is delivered with the deadpan conviction of early PS1-era games like Resident Evil. There are far too many loading screens and they take an age to actually finish, and when they do and you’ve had a few minutes to enjoy what game there is, hello another loading screen or dialogue that you can’t hear! Unfortunately, the whole game is kind of like this and whilst there is a competent story in here, it is walled behind poor workmanship, shoddy character models that look great on first glance and then act like marionettes and loading screens by the lorry-load. It’s a game that requires a godly amount of patience and understanding, for relatively little overall reward at the end of it. And that’s just not good enough.
Best advice here? Stick with the TV series. At least you can record and fast-forward through the ad breaks…
7. Silent Hill: Downpour
I’ve tried to like Silent Hill: Downpour. I’ve tried very hard to like it. And then I play Silent Hill 2 or 3 in the poorly done HD Collection (which will be on disappointment list because of the shoddy porting!) and I suddenly realise that Downpour is frankly an insultingly bland mess of a game that never really gets anywhere.
It’s a game that isn’t scary – get in close and the enemies are so comically cartoon-like that you almost fall over laughing. There are lots of puzzles and side-quests told in such a vague fashion that a walkthrough isn’t really the worst of ideas. The combat is still a bit pants, the atmosphere still not quite right. But my overriding issue with Downpour is that for a series that is famed for its writing, even in its worst moments, this is easily the worst-written of them all. Everything is circumstantial, and nothing quite clicks together at any point. Unfortunately, this goes for the endings – four endings with not much differentiating them, but worse than this crime is that the ending that makes the most contextual sense of them all, the ending that somehow feels the most ‘Silent Hill’ of them all is classed as the worst ending you can get – from dying in the final scenes. Yup, that’s right, the ending that works the best is the one they thought was the worst. What were you thinking?!
Don’t even bother with the other endings. My advice? Don’t even bother at all. Downpour is a boring horror game. And that’s worth a spot here.
You must have seen this one coming. The video game based off the movie that is based off the game that is based off the board/pen and paper game that we all know so well was never really going to win any awards for quality, but even considering how bad we knew it was going to be, it doesn’t mean we can’t be deeply offended by it.
It’s almost a little hard to know where to start with Battleship, because whilst it’s an Activision game and it clearly apes Call of Duty at times, it’s also aping Halo and Metroid and a host of sci-fi shooters across a bland, boring and depressingly short single-player campaign that really should have been canned before its release. There are ship combat bits (nothing like Battleship proper though I’m afraid!), and some tactical parts but it’s just so depressingly vulgar, cheap and nasty in feel and design that you could easily replicate this entire game by buying the DVD, snapping it in half, putting it in a blender and leaving it on until the whole thing is nothing but ash and rubble. Then you can put that mess into the toilet, flush and do the world a favour. And you’ll also have had more entertainment and enjoyment than the game is capable of providing. There’s really nothing much to say about it other than it’s terrible. But we knew it was going to be.
Nothing about this game makes a lick of sense. And there’s supposed to be a sequel planned. Sometimes I do despair…
5. Kinect Star Wars
And here’s this years first – and not last – entrant into the worst list from the stable of tat that is the Kinect. And it would of course have to be Star Wars. Remember how cool that E3 demonstration looked? How everyone wanted to be a Jedi? Yeah, it’s not that. Not even remotely close to that at all.
Kinect Star Wars is perhaps one of the better demonstrations of why the Kinect doesn’t actually work; it’s a game that relies on reading your body movements and positions and it never really does a good enough job of it in the heat of the moment to feel like you’re doing anything at all. When it does, it’s too late and when it does work, you’re overjoyed that it realised what you wanted it to do. This is NOT the right sensation to get when playing anything on the Kinect. Seriously, I’m not joking. The podracing is alright, but a bit lame. And the frankly hilariously bad “Star Wars Dance-Off” will have even the most hardened of fans turning the system off, taking the disc out and hitting it repeatedly with a frying pan until it shatters into a dozen pieces. Star Wars is notable by the reality it sold out a long time ago, but even by those standards this is a long, long way down from its usual standard. It’s simply insulting to those who have supported the franchise for so long.
Star Wars fans, I know we may not see eye to eye, but seriously. Sit with me. You deserve better. You really, really do deserve better.
4. Ridge Racer Vita.
I struggled with this one because I was thinking it might be more appropriate for the disappointment list, but there’s a very good reason why Ridge Racer Vita earns a spot on this list; it shipped with less content and features than a blank DVD-R. And that was simply the reason it ended up on this list at #4. Because it was so unfinished.
Some fans have since tried to justify to me that Ridge Racer Vita was a demo, a sort of example. But for a full-priced game, I don’t WANT a game that feels and plays like a demo, no matter how pretty it is and how slick the frames per second are. With overpriced DLC included, six tracks and ten cars are at your disposal. Come on, even the F1 games do better than that. Even the 3DS game did better than that. Hell, indie games can do better than that. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, Ridge Racer Vita was shockingly minimal in content, not that inspired in design and was more interested in the technical demonstrations of the Vita hardware than in actually being a game worth the money people were paying for it. And you shouldn’t HAVE to justify a purchase like this. Especially not by saying it’s a paid-for demo. Seriously? Some of you really think that’s acceptable in this day and age? Charging full retail price for a game that feels like a demo than a full retail game?
Please, just don’t do it. We should expect better from our games these days, not justify their stupid decisions…
3. Fable: The Journey.
Okay, breathe. I’m not going to mention him yet. I’m going to talk solely about the game, about how utterly broken it is and how stupid it was to take a series with promise despite its past failings and in one year teabag it into the ground so hard there is naught left but ash and dust, to be carried off by the wind.
It’s the same story as any failing Kinect game though – the harsh reality of this game is simply that you try to make the game do something and it doesn’t seem to understand what it is you want it to do, so you flail your arms about wildly hoping it will somehow pick something up and eventually, when the stars align, it might do something – and then it’s a d20+4 roll to determine whether or not it is the very thing you want it to be doing in the first place. And when it sort of does get going, you then end up doing anything to want – the game in points simply plays itself, somehow going from not doing what you want to playing itself with the kind of reckless, offensive abandon that seems to denote the worst excesses of the Kinect stables. It’s an expensive production that simply cannot hide how fruitless and empty the promise of the Kinect really is, and drags down a perfectly serviceable game franchise just to attempt to appeal to the gamer crowd. Who could see this coming a mile off.
Peter Molyneux fled Lionhead Studios. Presumably to put some distance between himself and this piece of crap.
2. Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse
This was almost so easy to put on the list I hesitated; do I really include this game? It’s not been out long, and from what I heard isn’t likely to last very long on the market either. And then I thought; no, actually I do need to put this on the list. Because it’s frankly the most stupidly hateful pile of crap I’ve played this year bar one.
It’s the sort of unclean disgust of it that hurts most; this is the most vulgar of games, a cynical cash-grab from a dying TV show that never quite moved with the times. It’s the trashiest of things, with anti-Semitic jokes, homophobic jibes, sexist comments and quips and quotes ripped straight from the last ten years of the TV show. And that’s when it’s actually ‘okay’. The questing, platforming and general action of it expose the cheap, tacky mess that this really is. It looks cheap – it actually looks cheap and tacky. I found my jaw on the floor for all the wrong reasons, because after a half hour with this game I needed an hour in the shower scrubbing the disgust off me like when Rupert got humped by New Brian – yeah, see, I can refer to the TV shows as well, Mr. MacFarlane. And I can refer to it appropriately without the need for tireless dialogue, segues or generally going off-piste in an attempt to pull of a joke. Family Guy is stuck in a gigantic clichéd rut. This game is just the summation of that situation.
The sad thing is, South Park isn’t any cleaner. But at least the writers try to make a point. Kind of sad, really…
1. Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour
There really was no debate when it came to the very worst game of the year, because this is the one game that most of us – from passionate blogger to seasoned veteran – can all agree on; Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour is not just bad. It’s physically unplayable. This is a game which demands a product recall and refunds and an apology from all concerned.
Capcom may not be the most popular company right now, but in a bad year, to publish this – from the chaps at FROM Software, they of Dark Souls – is easily going to be a low that Capcom will never be able to revisit, because it’s a surprise to everyone how they even got down there in the first place. Blending together controller and Kinect, it goes wrong from the very beginning by being impossibly hard to even get out of the tutorial, let alone play the bloody game! You can wrestle with it all you like, but at every turn there is a brick wall as the game feels like it doesn’t want you to play it. And that’s the impression it left me with – it simply didn’t want me to play it. And it didn’t want to play itself. So what is the point? The old Steel Battalion might have been expensive with all the control additions and stuff, but at least all that looked really cool! Heavy Armour is meant to be “cheaper”. But unfortunately ends up being just plain cheap, broken and embarrassing for everyone involved.
Easily the worst game of the year. There’s nothing so depressingly pointless than a game that you simply can’t play…
And that concludes my ten worst games of the year!
If you think I missed any, or that I am wrong with any of my choices, feel free to comment below and argue the toss about it. Not that I think you’ll change my mind, but I will admit, there was a LOT of rubbish this year. So much that I’m sure some might have missed my radar. But what can you do? I can’t play every crap game out there…
Well… no, actually I can’t. Cloning isn’t legal.