2016 was a weird year for video games as a whole.
Brief highs, crashing lows but for the most part it was saturated in overhyped, but in the end average, games with little to nothing to get too angry about. If I were to include any of these disappointments, I’d have to put things like No Man’s Sky and Dark Souls 3 on the list and frankly I don’t particularly want to do that. Sure, No Man’s Sky lacked promised features and content and yes, Dark Souls 3 was a dumbed down attempt to make Dark Souls far more popular to more people, though that was clearly completely unnecessary. But both were still accomplished games in their own right, even if they weren’t particularly good overall and made me sad.
No, to make this list you have to do something pretty awful and it isn’t always as a result of the actual game. Sometimes, it’s the business behind it or the message it sends to the wider market. These are the sorts of games which are so cynical, so stupid or so utterly devoid of meaning that I think they could be damaging to the games industry as a whole. Games which send the wrong signals, or undermine otherwise talented developers and publishers in a period which is already buckling under increasing uncertainty and consumer unrest.
In short, these are games which I think should never have been released as is, or even released full stop. It’s time to delve into the icky, nasty world of terrible video games with a side helping of the dumbest, worst elements of the video game industry at large.
Do note that this list is my opinion. Also, it had to have been released in 2016, for obvious reasons (or I’d still be banging on about Ride to Hell: Retribution all these years later).
Simple conditions, and with that said… here we go!
5. HYRULE WARRIORS: LEGENDS
The Synopsis: Getting horrendously wedged between the 3DS mid-gen refresh, Hyrule Warriors: Legends is the sort of game which should have simply been delayed for the Switch launch, rather than trying to bridge the large gulf between the 3DS and the New 3DS.
More Detail: On the New 3DS, Hyrule Warriors: Legends is an okay but somewhat shallow facsimile of the superior Wii U version. On the old 3DS, however, this was a game which was unplayable, running at ten frames a second with horrendous loading issues and control problems. Simply put: the old 3DS couldn’t handle Hyrule Warriors: Legends. But it was not marketed as a New 3DS exclusive like Majora’s Mask or Xenoblade Chronicles were, perhaps because it has been known for some time now that the New 3DS sales aren’t anything special and that it needed to sell higher volumes in order to make any real sales dent.
That, to me, speaks volumes about the cynical business behind the Mid-Gen Refresh. Perhaps worse still for Bandai-Namco, Team Ninja and Nintendo, they all knew long before this game hit the shelves that the Nintendo NX, now Switch, was in the pipeline and perhaps could have been a better platform for an expanded attempt at Hyrule Warriors. With superior, easier-to-use hardware and more support, the fact this game was even pushed out for the 3DS is hilarious albeit depressing. It just doesn’t make sense why this was released, why this wasn’t a New 3DS exclusive or why they didn’t just add the extra maps right into the Wii U version – we got the characters, just not the content.
So much about this doesn’t make sense. So it hits my #5 slot. Moving on.
4. STREET FIGHTER 5
The Synopsis: Releasing unfinished and lacking even the most basic functions of a full-price fighting game, Capcom then proceeded to take ideas from other games without listening to the market and what it wanted. Sales suffered, and Capcom deserves that.
More Detail: Street Fighter is a legend in the gaming scene, and that it fell so foul of the consumer market is a stark reminder that brand awareness isn’t going to save you from poor business decisions, lack of content and not listening to your wider audience. You see, this is a game which many have already said is too damned slow – a criticism I do agree with – but to compound this, the game also has some of the weirdest hair models to date and launched with such little content that it was frankly laughable. It even lacked a basic Arcade Mode on launch – yeah, the most fundamental basic thing for a fighting game of this calibre, and Street Fighter 5 didn’t have it.
I get of course why Capcom pushed it out so early; they needed it out so tournament players could get some practice in for the Evo tournament. But it wasn’t worth the effort; fighting games have in recent years been sailing past Capcom’s magnum opus, with Super Smash Bros. now being the bigger draw with speedier combat, grander stages and more interesting mechanics and characters. Not happy with that, Capcom decided to steal Killer Instinct’s seasonal character pack idea, added in grindy optional costumes (the sort of thing that didn’t fly in Mortal Kombat X) and then later proceeded to finally punish quitters… badly, despite the fact it still happens even now. Not so much a deterrent as a nuisance.
2016 was a year in which even the experimental Pokkén Tournament had more interest from fighting game enthusiasts, netting higher unit sales than Street Fighter 5 at retail. This is a warning Capcom; Street Fighter is losing ground. The fighting game scene has moved on. It’s time to rethink Street Fighter 5.
3. MIGHTY NO. 9
The Synopsis: This years biggest KickStarter disaster, what many hoped would turn out to be a great 2D Platform game ended up a generic-looking and ultimately generic-playing side-scrolling game that we’ve all seen done better in 2016. And they had the cheek to try and crowdfund a sequel before they released this drek!
More Detail: Mighty No. 9 is likely to go down in infamy as the game which started turning many off KickStarter and crowdfunding, and that Keiji Inafune managed to succeed where the likes of Peter Molyneux failed makes me facepalm whilst laughing. The original interesting artwork and style ended up being scrapped for a bog-standard generic 2D Mega Man rip-off, with no soul and only really doing the most basic of things in order to just about get away with its inevitable release without looking like a big scam.
But we all know why this is at my #3; the business behind it. Months and years worth of internal political struggles and frustration, all of which kept simmering under the surface ensuring that the game had frankly no style and nothing to say. The launch, in which a translator decided to interject and bury Keiji Inafune under the words, “It’s Better Than Nothing”, a term which has become a meme unto itself this year. The fact they tried to crowdfund a sequel and spin-off anime thing before this game even hit the market, pissing off many who had waited patiently after numerous delays had plagued the project. The poor technical release, where it was running really poorly – and even reportedly bricking Wii U consoles. That they had issues getting the right codes to people, with some getting two game codes and some getting two DLC codes (yeah, this game had DLC).
This was a pile-up of disaster on disaster. And in what was a great year for independent studios and their game releases, having such a hugely high-profile disaster dominating the headlines gives off a grotesquely unfair viewpoint of the market. Keep the faith, indies. You’re doing fine.
2. GHOSTBUSTERS: THE VIDEO GAME
The Synopsis: A terrible attempt at getting something from the messy cinema release, this game is a technical train-wreck. Oh, it also bankrupted its developer. Activision still released it, presumably to have all the money. Guess Activision got upset that EA was getting all the righteous fury…
More Detail: Putting this game on the list isn’t going to shock anyone. That I even picked it up perhaps suggests I was actively looking to be disappointed. But I didn’t hate the movie – oh sure, the movie was garbage, but only in that there was so much missed potential in it. It tried too hard to make a point, and didn’t try hard enough on the comedy, and a comedy film without the comedy is only ever going to fall flat for me. But anyway, licensed games – especially in the wake of movie releases – have a reputation for being bad and yeah, this one didn’t really end up challenging that stereotype. Which one can argue is actually something to be angry about. Eh, maybe another time.
Two things though make this a massive fail though. One – the art style. Sure, it’s a cartoony look, but you know what? I’d swear that it steals art assets from Torchlight 2, which is a much, much better game (I think it’s the hairstyles). Aping something clearly so much more superior frankly never works, as you always stay in its shade. But most of all, the problem here was when it was reported that the developer of this affront to quality, FireForge Games, filed for bankruptcy three days after its launch. Which to me suggests that Activision, who published this atrocity, was not only aware of the financial issues the developer was suffering – for some reason, didn’t realise not caring cost so much – but went ahead with publishing the game knowing the studio was days away from going bust! The end result? More money for Activision, I’m guessing. And Activision had the sheer, unmitigated goddamned nerve to release this game at a full $60/£50 retail price! Yeah, if you wanted to play this on launch, you paid as much for this as Dark Souls 3, or OverWatch. Hell, World of Warcraft: Legion was cheaper than this garbage on launch!
Yeah, this… this just angers me so much. I mean, if it had been a sort of Daggerdale thing where it launched at £20 or so, it would have angered me but not enough to whack it on the list. We expect licensed games like this to generally be awful. But this – this was just toxic, not helped by a muddled reception to the movie and the months of nonsense leading into the movie. Activision is back in line for being the worst company of 2016. Guess they got fed up of EA hogging those headlines and all the righteous anger and fury. I get that. When your boss is Bobby Kotick, and you’ve spent years subduing your evil tendencies, it’s only a matter of time before the evil leaks out of your tear ducts.
And my number one least favourite game of the year… yeah, I think regulars knew this was coming.
The Synopsis: Capcom clearly doesn’t understand how to celebrate the storied success of Resident Evil. Unbalanced, ugly, utterly devoid of charm and polish – it’s just terrible, a repeat performance of last years worst game and no, that’s not a forgivable offence.
More Detail: The winner always should go to the game which pisses me off the most in any given year. Objectively speaking, Ghostbusters is a technically and morally worse game than Umbrella Corps – I get that. It makes me angry. But then I look to Umbrella Corps and I start shooting clots from my nose. I look at it and I suddenly have an urge to scream, to shout vulgar abuse at the top of my voice. It makes me want to send pictures of my middle finger salute to Capcom. It’s ghastly. And there’s one overwhelming reason for this utter rage…
This is just the same crap we saw last year with Alone In The Dark: Illumination.
Take a known brand, pare it down for some eSports scene which doesn’t want cheap garbage like this, sneak it out and delight in the misery. Make sure you don’t even put effort into the absolute basics of a game of this kind – a tactical cover-based third-person shooter with lame controls, unbalanced weaponry and objectives with no reason or rhyme to them. A smattering of game modes which are about as much fun as root canal surgery. Drench it in something approaching nostalgia – either the brand, or the locales. With no solid single player, no real multiplayer to speak of and just nothing even remotely tangible to hang a game on. That’s Umbrella Corps. It’s the same thing, different horror brand, and that it shares so many striking similarities with Alone In The Dark: Illumination makes me think this was on purpose. They went out of their way to actually compete with last years worst game for me. That… that’s a very special kind of stupid, the kind that makes me look at Resident Evil 7 and wonder how the hell a company this moronic can come up with something like that (well, they did just basically ape P.T. and a bunch of first-person horror tropes, so maybe I’m giving Capcom way too much credit here).
Compounding this, we told Capcom last year we didn’t want this game. Capcom tried pitching us this in teaser trailers, and even then it looked awful. Slow, sluggish and just kind of lame – their vain attempt at courting the eSports crowd who didn’t want it because it looked like garbage. And the fans didn’t want it either – Capcom has many variants of the Resident Evil franchise it can build on for fans, from a more sweeping Mercenaries/Raid Mode standalone game to getting their backsides into gear and HD Remastering the Outbreak games (which were way ahead of their time, it must be said). Capcom knew no-one wanted this game, and then after we all collectively dumped over Illumination… they could have stopped this. They knew they were about to release a steaming pile onto the market. Someone, anyone, should have had the moral fortitude to… oh wait, Lady Hunk, never mind.
That’s why this nets my worst spot this year. Far too similar to last years worst game, having known a year beforehand no-one wanted it, still releasing it knowing it was garbage and still not doing any of the things its fans actually might be in danger of giving a toss about. This is just the perfect storm of stupidity, laziness and greed that belies the talk that Capcom is once again back in the financial doghouse. Umbrella Corps stands as this years testament to those terrible games which serve absolutely no good to anyone, and should be shunted into the same unmarked grave that we buried Alone In The Dark: Illumination.
Seeing as they’re so similar, one assumes their zombie-like carcasses will get along rather well.
And that’s my worst of the year. In the coming days, my actual favourite games and a run-down of 2016. And when I say run-down, I’m talking with a ten-ton tank full of electrically charged sheep. 2016 sucked, but it’s over. It’s over. Take a deep breath.
2016 is over.