It’s time for day two of my actual “awards”, and today it is time for me to focus on the most disappointing games of the year. Not so much terrible and bad, though they might be, but games that had the opportunity to do some truly great things. And then failed in the process. Time to honour more failure… Yup, the most disappointing games of the year. Now, here’s how I’m judging this. For a game to qualify, it has to be actually disappointing in some regard. This means that it might have had promise, or looked great on the surface, but when I got into playing it I felt an overwhelming sadness about it. Because it could have been so very much better, or brilliant. Disappointment can sometimes be worse than just being terrible; being terrible is memorable. Being mediocre and/or disappointing makes us want to forget you. So let’s get straight down to business…
It’s fitting to start the list with one of the earliest games released in the year; Amy is disappointing but not because it was truly terrible, regardless of the accusations levelled at it. No, what made Amy so disappointing is that there are elements of a good game trying to escape the monotonous, formulaic structure. Because truth be told, there’s a lot to like in Amy. The story isn’t half bad, the idea of protecting a girl who is autistic and the key to whatever is going on is quite novel and the setting is gloriously moody and entertaining at times. However, Amy is very much design-by-numbers; and very specific with that design. An enormous hole only a child can squeeze through eh? I could fit in there and I’m not a small man! And squeezing an adult woman AND a child into the same locker? For real? Come on, pull the other one. Add to this puzzles that only solve when all nodes are found, predictable scares and a generally pervasive sense of repetition and what you have is a great idea and some great little moments inside a game that just isn’t inspired, polished or good enough to carry them through to the end. Some claim Amy was once meant to be a full commercial release, not a Live indie downloadable. It makes you wonder if they had the time, could they have done better? Amy divides opinion, but it’s truly not that bad. Just painfully average, when it holds so much promise within.
9. Silent Hill HD Collection
Calling this an HD collection when it only comes with two games is a bit of an insult but that said, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 are two of the most brilliant survival horror games ever made. So how can you screw this up? Well, this is Konami we’re talking about. And they found a way to make this disappointing. The problems have been made very public, so let’s reel them off; new voice acting that was worse than the originals, basing an HD remake from incomplete code because Konami seemed to have lost the final build of the originals, meaning the games had to be put together quickly, an HD remake done on the cheap and adding modern textures and filters that only served to muddy and complicate otherwise perfectly serviable graphics, as well as fog issues that exposed the fact the game was running on limited hardware; and therefore the maps themselves weren’t even complete! Piers end without warning, wires stop in mid-air, cars aren’t even finished. Silent Hill 2 is the game that suffers this most though; Silent Hill 3 is quite claustrophobic so could get away with some really stupid design decisions. Silent Hill 2… well… it couldn’t. It was an ambitious game for its era, and they just didn’t have the time, budget or skill to lavish the love necessary on this remake. A perfect example of something I said earlier in the year. HD Remakes need to be fully funded. Otherwise you get… this. And it’s shameful.
NeverDead is a broken game, but you can still have fun with it. There’s something of an enjoyable game lurking in here, but it’s a game that clearly went through design stages and you can practically see sections of the game change gear and tone with an almost audible “thunk”. That’s a really bad thing. For the concept of NeverDead was great; an immortal looking for death. There’s enough comedy and wit in there to actually hint that some of the studio must have ‘got it’, but then you start playing the game. Escorting your companion around is a pain, later on there are “deaths” to be had and the design quality swings wildly from not bad to totally inadequate. But it’s that the game is likeable that is the worst thing about it; you can actually fall for this game. And then you come away and you realise that it’s truly a disappointing mess of a title, a game so inconsistent and desperate in spots that you pity it. In the right hands, NeverDead could and probably should have been a great, witty, wry take on the action game. What we were left with is a lot of lovely bits and pieces but unfortunately unlike Bryce, there’s no way to piece together the parts without ending up with an abomination that even Frankenstein would be ashamed of. NeverDead is an example of the concept overshadowing the design talent. But we cannot live on concept alone…
7. Assassin’s Creed III
Controversial! Look, I’m not going to stand here and say Assassin’s Creed 3 is a bad game. Of course it isn’t. But this isn’t a list of bad games – it’s a list of disappointing games, and Assassin’s Creed 3 is disappointing by the virtue of what had come before it, a series that used to be great now seems… dull. For all the fun you can have, the game never really goes anywhere. The plot is a little shallow and ultimately, Connor’s tale is utterly irrelevant to the overall game, despite being the main show. Once you get to that point, the design issues and bugs and glitches kick in, and just take the shine off it. Interesting events are skipped over without a care, rushing to reach a conclusion that neither satisfies nor makes any real sense. But the worst part about it is that three years on from Assassin’s Creed 2, we’re here with a game that has lots of good ideas implemented really poorly, where there’s a lot of interesting stuff but very little of it carries any weight for the whole game. It’s gone back to Assassin’s Creed 1, it’s a spectacle of a budget being dumped without a care in the world into a game but ultimately it’s a game that does too much, too little and not enough of anything of note to sing on its own merits. That’s just a crying shame, UbiSoft can do better – Zombi-U, for example. Not only that, Ezio was a much better character. But at least they got the civil war story right. So some brownie points for not being completely anti-British.
6. Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition
I didn’t want to do this. I LOVE Dark Souls. But the PC version – it’s… it’s just… why? How could you do this to Dark Souls? How could you ruin a perfectly good game and turn it into a living, breathing nightmare that sent me running back to Live? Oh right, this isn’t aimed at FROM Software. It’s aimed at the players. Yes, you read that right. Dark Souls: PTDE was hacked within hours of going on sale, and there was absolutely no rush from anyone to fix it or play fair. Which meant invading some people who were running immortality trainers was… well… difficult. With people running trainers for lots of souls, the Player vs. Player became utterly screwed and a bigger nightmare than the Live version! Except, you couldn’t turn the online part off in Games For Windows Live. So part of the blame must also lie with Microsoft for its shoddy design decision there. And a little must be attributed to FROM Software for not getting on top of this sooner, by leaving us with one of the finest console games of this whole generation and abandoning it to be savaged by the wolves, torn to shreds by some claiming it wasn’t pretty enough, didn’t have enough frames per second, wasn’t bright enough, was too difficult, couldn’t use a keyboard and mouse and so on. It’s sad. But it happened. We all watched it happen. One of the biggest clusterf**ks of the year. No-one came out of this clean. And that’s just depressing.
5. Resident Evil 6
Unfortunately this hasn’t been Capcom’s best year to date; they had the audacity to foist Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour on us, and they didn’t keep on top of Street Fighter X Tekken. But whereas Operation Raccoon City made sense only in multiplayer, Resident Evil 6… well… doesn’t make any sense at all. Resident Evil 6 is the epitome of a game with a limitless budget – they try EVERYTHING. Almost literally everything bar the kitchen sink, and at times it’s great – tense, atmospheric, witty and charming. And at other key moments, just utterly broken in every way, just as the Snow Sled segments proved. The game is split into four chunks with their own distinct casts, and the narratives weave through each other but ultimately nothing much of consequence really happens; Resident Evil 5 was ruined by early trailer spoilers. Resident Evil 6 is ruined by the virtue of it having literally no real surprises at all. Everything that happens you can see coming a mile off, and unfortunately it just congeals a game with a terribly schizophrenic design mandate into a solid, wobbly mass of a game that seems to be at an impasse – where they go from here, there’s no way to tell. Because there’s so much going on you can’t single one thing out. I’d optimistically say to Capcom that the only way from here is up… but that might sound patronising.
4. The Secret World
I’d been desperately waiting for this game for some time. Even the distinct smell of EA couldn’t deter me from it, unfortunately I probably should have paid attention and not gotten involved, because The Secret World is all talk and relatively little in the trouser department when you do finally unzip it. Which is a shame, because it starts off brilliantly and with a real verve and charm to it. There’s definitely something to like about it, but the deeper you go the more lazy and cliché it becomes, with sloppy glitches and bugs and issues that don’t really sit right in an MMO world. Some quests and puzzles are wonderful, but still feel like a brick wall design-wise – if they work at all, as some were bugged when I played it. And being the spiritual successor to Age of Conan, they brought with them an unnecessarily silly combat engine that just annoys more than it intrigues. There was little PvP there, and a whole lot of promises but then, I went through this with Funcom when I bought Age of Conan. The Secret World felt like reliving that frustrating time all over again; no lessons were learned, it would seem, and people started to leave and tell others not to bother. And that’s when your new MMO can only but fail in the grand scheme of things. It has since dropped the subscription fee though. Which is nice. But then, the in-game store was hideous then…
3. It’s a Tie! Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition/Darksiders 2 Wii-U Ports.
Whilst the Wii-U is a great console, these two are on the list for the simple fact that as ports, they are truly unforgivably hopeless and stupid and someone, somewhere should be ashamed of themselves and be handing their Christmas bonus to charity for foisting these games on the market. Arkham City AE is trying to do too much and ends up far bugger and messier and harder to control than the original in every way. Not to mention that the reason they gave people to want this, the actual Armour itself, looks so hideously ugly that it will make small children vomit up their Christmas dinner. Darksiders 2 will be on my best games of the year, but the Wii-U version, for all it does right, is killed in motion by one small technical problem; loading times. Darksiders 2 on the Wii-U has so many pausing breaks now that in some cases trying to pull a clever trick off on or near a cross-area zone point can freeze you whilst the game has a moment of panic, wondering if it needs to load a new area or not. In both cases, these are lazy and frankly insulting ports of otherwise brilliant games being dumped on Nintendo’s new console in the vain hope that we will buy into them again for the magical wonder of the U-Pad additions. And I would have. But in order to do that, you should make damned sure your bloody game works properly first!
2. Mass Effect 3
For the year BioWare have had, there is perhaps the small crumb of comfort that this was the only game they could be judged on this year, and that it wasn’t awful. But just terribly disappointing, and that is perhaps what divided the Internet into two distinct camps for the majority of the year. Look, we all know WHY Mass Effect 3 was disappointing and it comes down to the quality of writing, which unfortunately in the latter stages of the game had a moment of jumping the shark, a jump so spectacular and ballsy that you almost have to admire it before turning back to see the ruined mass that has landed. The game concludes with an arbitrary choice not based on anything you did before, not affected by your deeds and with no overall indication at the time of what each ending gave, which meant that the story was effectively solved entirely with a Deus-Ex Machina so profoundly blunt that I hear that the Doctor Who writers have started to sleep soundly at night. BioWare did TRY to fix this, but unfortunately only ended up further dividing an already divided playerbase, with endings that unfortunately were too perfect; endings which left the series nowhere else to go. They had, effectively, killed Mass Effect dead. It’s a real shame because there’s a lot to like about Mass Effect 3. And all we will remember in years to come is the ending fiasco.
1. Diablo 3.
There comes a time when even the mightiest will fall, when the weight of expectation is so great and so heavy that it will drag you down, and savage you for having the audacity to fall into their jaws. Diablo 3 is the epitome of this series of events; a game that could have – should have – been great. But wasn’t. And the disappointment came in waves. First there was Error 37, meaning people couldn’t play it. Then they could, but it was still limited to trial/demo areas. Then they could move onto the disappointment of the Auction House and the Real Money AH not working properly. Then there came nerfs. And later areas not working properly. Quests not functioning. Items not spawning. Then more class nerfs. Then more. Then hacking. Then people being too scared to co-op. And so on. Diablo 3 just kept failing, and whilst it’s still an alright game, its cheaper rival – Torchlight 2 – skipped merrily along, without missing too many steps in the process. That’s when you know a game has really let you down. When the pretender that was aping you a couple years ago is now the better game; a game that sells on the name and the nostalgia associated with that name has a lot further to fall than a cheap indie game that people were interested in as an alternative. Diablo 3 is, I stress this, alright as a game. But it was truly disappointing and kept disappointing. And that wins it.
And yup, that’s my ten most disappointing games of the year. If you feel I have missed anything, or misjudged a game, by all means feel free to comment and shout at me for getting it wrong. I stress again, sometimes good games can still be disappointing because they have so much more latent energy within them, and these are the ones that bitterly disappointed this year for their varying reasons. Tomorrow, we brighten up with my top 10 games of the year. Hooray! We’re finally out of the murky stuff! Good times are definitely NOT over!