KOGBlog – 2013: A Bad Year?

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I tried to phone it in again…

So, we’re a few more weeks from this generation being, to a point, “officially over” (in spite of Dark Souls 2 being released on PS3 next year).

It’s been a rocky few years and yes, there have been some stinkers. However, laughing with a friend over the whole Day One: Garry’s Incident thing, we did ask ourselves a question; in any given year, has it really been this hard to truly nail down just ten of the years worst games? I mean, I’ll hold my hands up here; I now believe that Aliens: Colonial Marines – as awful and nasty and vile as it was (and it’s getting a SEQUEL! I mean, seriously SEGA, really?) was the tip of the iceberg, and naming just ten of the worst games of the year is going to be a Herculean task.

I’ll put it this way; most years, there’s some debate and/or discussion about what the best games are and what games make those list – and usually, what games didn’t. There’s also times when we talk about the most disappointing games of the year; games which are not terrible, but by definition didn’t match up to expectation in some way. Disappointment is subjective after all. I totally accept many were quite happy with Assassin’s Creed 3. I just wasn’t. We’ll agree to disagree there; contentious opinions are contentious.

However, I don’t think I’ve seen a year quite like 2013 – one where the biggest debate may not be who ends up in the top ten games of the year, but who and what deserves to be at the bottom. That we’re in a position already in October that bloggers, journalists and commentators are already having to debate the whole nature of what constitutes a terrible game is frankly alarming; moreso that we’re so close to the PlayStation 4 and XBox One, consoles which we already know will have highly compromised cross-gen games, forsaking resolution and framerate for performance and stability. Arguably a sound compromise, I’ll agree, but hell – if I’m paying £400 for a new console, I do NOT want compromise. At least that’s one area the Wii U can be happy; we didn’t need to worry there. It just happened. The jump was huge. It’s done. And life goes on.

Usually some try to sneak some horrible little examples under the radar around this time of year; Halloween is usually the spot where someone tries to dump out a vaguely-indie horror game in much the same way the movie industry cynically tries to dump a horror movie in the theatre around this time. It’s never great; but hey, it’s Halloween! So we buy into it. Then you have the Christmas rush; there are always a couple of casualties in the pipeline. And of course, linking the two we have a bunch of launch titles as well for two new consoles with the potential to stink the place up. I said earlier this year that it would horrify me if a game managed to be worse than Ride to Hell: Retribution. The scary part is that I believe that if it hasn’t already happened, it may very well happen!

I mean, does this not terrify the pants off anyone? The real horror at this time of year is having the realisation that people are getting away with this!

Look, my personal list of duffers this year includes the following;

  • Ride to Hell: Retribution
  • Star Trek: The Game
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Dark
  • Fast and Furious: Showdown
  • Final Fantasy: All The Bravest
  • The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
  • SimCity
  • Neverwinter (For crimes against wallets!)
  • Citadels
  • Flashback 2013 (I used to love this game, too!)
  • RIPD: The Game
  • Orion: Dino Horde
  • Infestation: Survivor Stories (Formerly The WarZ)
  • Doodle Jump for Kinect (There’s always one!)
  • Impire
  • Game and Wario! (Nintendo don’t always get it right…)
  • Freefall Racers
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Wii U version for removing multiplayer, silly UbiSoft!)
  • Fuse

… and all of this is scratching the damned surface!

I mean, I can’t say that there won’t be worse years in the future but we’re having to come to terms with one thing; this year, for video games, has been pretty bad. Even the really good games have had real issues as well; either overestimated sales figures to justify inflated budgets and exorbitant marketing fees, or just been technically flawed in some way. That so far this years shining beacon of perfect gaming is an HD version of The Wind Waker that was made in six months is somewhat troubling to me; I mean, I applaud the HD remake and celebrating it. But in terms of out-and-out quality, that a re-release of a decade-old game should be competitive to a number of games this year is… well, it’s a failure of the market, that’s what it is.

And all of this at a time when we’re supposed to have hope and foresight in what is to come in the coming weeks and months, as new consoles attempt to take root?

Don’t get me wrong however; this years highlights – games like BioShock Infinite, Pokemon X/Y, Wind Waker HD, The Last of Us, Saint’s Row 4 and Payday 2 – certainly do an amazing job of compensating for the growing piles of crap that the market are being spoon-fed; but I keep thinking back eight or nine years, when there was so much more hope and interest. As much as I want it, I can’t see Capcom doing an HD re-release of Haunting Ground; it was considered a failure when it was released, and they never bothered to market it. And even though it’s now a cult title talked about in hushed tones because those of us who have played it talk of it in reverence, an HD re-release would still, to Capcom, be too risky. Anything that doesn’t sell a million units these days is a disaster.

But yet, Resident Evil: Revelations HD was also god-awful (maybe should have put that in the list. Still debating that one… Lady Hunk should be noted is the worst DLC ever devised and I want to slap the people at Capcom who greenlighted that!). So Capcom isn’t perhaps one to talk.

Last year’s worst games was pretty easy; this year, I believe a lot of people are going to have very different sets of lists. There is no one defining moment of truly awful this year; awful just happened, and quantifying what is worst is perhaps just being a little facetious. And perhaps some would argue that’s great; that at least we have to think about it this year, rather than collectively nod at each other knowingly. But indeed, that we’re having to pick ten terrible games from a pool of a good thirty so far denotes that really, something is very wrong somewhere.

And I’d like to say it; developers, I get it. I know not everything goes according to plan. I know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I know you’re all trying to be ‘different’ and ‘left-field’. I have a lot of respect for what you do and how you do it; I know critique isn’t always pleasant to hear, but – as is the nature of it – when put to you sensibly, you should learn from it. If your game is a terribly buggy, broken mess, then perhaps in future work on there being 50% less bugs, eh? If the story is awful, perhaps invest in a good writer next time, eh? (I have reasonable rates!) We may laugh and joke, but it’s a serious problem. We’ve never really had to think so hard about the absolute worst games of the year because they always sort of stood out; now, with so many vying for that position, I feel quite saddened by it all.

Still, for all of the above, that this year has seen some of the most grotesque abominations of the generation is cause for serious alarm; moreso the suggestions going around that some may be rather comfortable taking on the title of having “Worst Game of the Year”. Kind of like Razzies, there’s a deeper train of thought now that hey, an award is an award so why care if it’s for excellence or being a stupid, lazy bunch of deckchairs? Worryingly, some may even be trying to attain the moniker of “Worst Game of the Generation”, and that’s mind-blowing to me. I don’t understand the motivation to be truly awful. I don’t get it. It’s an alien concept to me. I like to think we all strive to be better; why sully the pool?

Still, for what it’s worth, I would like to say that even Ride to Hell: Retribution didn’t offend me nearly as much as Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale did a couple years back. But then, I’ve also yet to play this mysterious Day One: Garry’s Incident. What worries me is that I will; and it will be so awful I will cry. I try to be optimistic… but if everyone is telling you that those wellies are full of nasty rank slimy smelly sludge-stuff, perhaps it’s best to heed their advice now. If these people genuinely want to be seen putting out this crap, perhaps the only solution is to stop giving them the attention that they so crave.

And it’ll be sad to do that; worst games lists have always been a chance to reflect on where things go wrong, and why, and if not that – then to just enjoy a little schadenfreude at the end of the year, to bury the past and move on into a new year – and right now, a new generation. But it’s not quite the same if people actually want to be there.

There’s nothing quite so cynical as a fake blooper, after all…

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