So here we are. 2019 has arrived, bringing with it for me a newfound sense of optimism and hope that feels kind of disorientating after the long, protracted wet fart that has been Generation 8, and that means it’s time to look back at the year that has been and gone and praise and ridicule it in equal measure.
And the ridicule is what I’m going to be focusing on here, because 2018 felt like a long year for video games in general. A rough, bland, insipid year on the whole – it amazes me that bookended by good games, the majority of the year was just so… beige. Magnolia, even. An uninteresting haze of a single block colour that just gave you a fuzzy and confused feeling inside your own head. But we’re not here to talk about the mediocrity – we’re here to talk about the monsters you’d find if you went looking. Or found us, in some cases.
The usual rules apply here. No experimental score systems this year, just three qualifiers;
(a) The game was released between January 1st and December 31st 2018.
(b) It wasn’t a re-release, port job or remaster.
(c) I didn’t like it. At all.
These rules thankfully exempted much of Square-Enix’s crap this year but I’m sure we’ll be talking about that soon enough, it’s not like they’re getting away from this list entirely… speaking of which…
5. SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER
(Eidos Montreal / Crystal Dynamics / Square-Enix)
Let’s kick this off with an entry that will antagonise a lot of people. And I think that’s a good thing because those are the very people who should dislike this game a lot more than they seemingly do.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is… just so trite. I spent a lot of time trying to work out exactly what it was that made me dislike it so passionately and I think I have found a reason that should work for everyone – think about it this way; can a game survive if you remove/replace the lead character and change the title to anything else? In short – can it stand on its own merits once you’ve removed the otherwise identifiable features?
I don’t think this game could. Lara Croft is now so utterly lacking in character and personality that it could be literally anyone – you could replace it with another lady, hell, a male character and it wouldn’t really change anything that radically. Without Lara, it’s not a Tomb Raider game either – so what you have is a bland, by-numbers action adventure that wouldn’t have any defence if it wasn’t for “It’s got a strong female character”. Which New Lara decidedly is not, by the way.
And that’s the problem; Lara SHOULD be a Strong Female Character. That has been her entire basis for existing. So without that, what we have is a little girl who still looks nothing like Lara Croft (sorry not sorry) playing dress-up in an adventure that feels like watered-down Uncharted. Breath of the Wild plays better than this Tomb Raider, and that game is almost two years old now.
This is just a sad shadow of the Tomb Raider (narf!) that I grew up admiring and enjoying. And in this they have done something Core Design never managed; it’s made Tomb Raider… boring. Agonisingly boring. I can scarcely believe such a feat was possible, but it’s just not that much fun. This just replaced Angel of Darkness, because at least I could see misguided ambition in that one…
Maybe I just hate this more than most. Maybe this is here more out of frustrated disappointment. But three games into this reboot and they removed the Natla Letter thing from the ending so you know they have more of this to come… dear oh dear… just stop, please, you’ve killed Lara. Don’t do that ghoulish thing where you prop her up and pretend like everything is okay…
I was prepared to give Hollow a pass early on this year, on the basis that (1) It was a rare thing indeed – a first-person horror game on the Nintendo Switch and (2) it was cheap – I paid less than a tenner for it. And for the majority of the game… yeah, it had issues but I’ve forgiven games for far more pernicious issues. And I tried to convince myself that the grainy visual filter actually lent it some B-Movie charm; it was still generally a nice looking, if somewhat generic horror game and that it wasn’t really that bad.
… and then I got to the latter quarter of the game and it fell apart. Situations with no real explanation on what you’re meant to be doing. A story that just collapses at the slightest touch, and a final encounter which… is broken to all hell. The final encounter took me a week or so of trial and error because it kept bugging out, leaving me effectively fighting off wave after wave of enemy and ultimately unable to progress to anything that looked like an actual ending.
That’s why it’s here. I can forgive many things – but when I have to trawl the Internet for solutions to a problem and spend hours of my insomnia-laden nights piecing together a resolution to a technical issue that really shouldn’t be there; you make my list. This is why Overblood 2 and the EU Release still remains one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Finishing a video game like this… tends to be kind of important.
I mean, I did finish it – eventually. But I can’t get out of my mind how frustrating this whole thing was. If it didn’t have that – I perhaps might have been able to delude myself that it was at the very least “okay”. But with all of those end-game problems? No. No forgiveness here.
And this did well enough to justify a sequel. I… urgh… I can only hope that it’s a technically better game than this.
3. DYNASTY WARRIORS 9
(Omega Force / Koei Tecmo)
In a time when open world games are lush, vibrant and interesting affairs – see Breath of the Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2 (though not on my Games of 2018 list bite me) and even God of War if you squint a little – we expect better than largely flat scenarios with ugly buildings and a ton of pop-in.
And that’s what Dynasty Warriors 9 thought it needed to stay “relevant” in 2018. A cut-and-paste open world where many structures have bits that float in mid-air, devoid of any identifiable thing in the distance to create a believable world. That’s not the ONLY reason it’s on my list; just that it’s critical we point out how far behind the times this really is. This reminds me of the botched launch of Vanguard more than anything, a game which helped to cripple Sony Online Entertainment.
The combat is clunky, nothing like the smooth combat of the series. Character models are kinda bland. Weapons? Stripped down to the very basics – if you want any of those lovely classic weapon types for your iconic characters? That’ll be part of the very expensive Season Pass, thanks muchly. It all looks so cheap and half-arsed and bland.
Put that against Fire Emblem Warriors. Or even the re-release this year of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition. Games dripping in style, visual flair, content and variety of combat techniques. Dynasty Warriors 9 looks like something from a generation ago in comparison.
There’s a reason Dynasty Warriors 8 was released on Switch instead. Sure, the Switch could run 9; it’s not that amazing. But why would you when there is so much better on the system? May as well put the decent 8 up than this mess. At least that has a fighting chance against such strong game releases.
Kinda sad when you think about it, isn’t it?
2. FALLOUT 76
(Bethesda / Bethesda Softworks)
… and here’s to the entry that literally everyone and their grannies will be shunting into their Worst Games of 2018 lists. And whilst I don’t usually like to join in with the crowd… yeah. There’s no denying this was terrible.
Fallout 76 is a bad video game. A survival game which frankly pales even compared to Metal Gear Survive (that we can say that with a straight face is reason enough to put it high on this list), it lacks any of the identifiable features of a Fallout game. Gone are the NPCs, the arching stories, the interesting backdrops and discovering what happened in the numerous vaults scattered around the place – that we start in a vault where nothing at all happened is kind of depressing really – replaced with a big open empty space with a bunch of monsters scattered about.
And whilst I admire the many people still trying to bring some sense of life to this barren dystopia, the fact is… that’s not really our job.
What Fallout 76 has done is, effectively, to shatter the illusion that Bethesda have cultivated over the last fifteen or so years. Suddenly, people are like – why should WE have to fix this stupid game? Can’t Bethesda ship a product in a finished or complete state (I fear the answer is ‘no’)? Why is it that the audience always has to keep rushing to the rescue of a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars? A company that can employ some of the finest development talent in the world?
Without that, the next Elder Scrolls game will be… well… fascinating to behold. And the Creation Engine – Todd Howard, it’s time to concede that this ageing old bit of software is long overdue its retirement in the bin. idTech has stuff you can use, for crying out loud. Ask them. Beg them. Perform humiliating things to get it from them. Whatever it takes, because if you can’t fix bugs in this engine – it’s officially time to throw it into the fieriest of furnaces.
Future generations will thank you. And maybe then you can finally put out a product that plays like an actual finished title, rather than this kind of stuff.
And I didn’t even get to comment on the rest of the crap surrounding this game. This is the gift that will keep on giving, but there’s no point pinning it all on the game. It’s just bad enough as it is.
Which leaves us with… surprise, surprise…
1. THE QUIET MAN
To be honest, I had always known this was going to hit the top spot but for the life of me I couldn’t actually work out WHY I’d always known it was going to be here. Somehow my subconscious had justified a passionate dislike for this game long before my rational brain had time to catch up. Even as I sat down to write this, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to write about The Quiet Man. However, taking a moment and looking at the also-rans, I stumbled on a justifiable reason for my dislike and the more the realisation took hold, the more my blood began to boil.
This game… this… this –thing-… pushed Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn out of my five worst games of 2018 list.
Think about that. And it gets worse – not only is Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn a better fighting game in almost every way – man, this is physically painful to type – but the FMV sections are so terrible and laughable that it made me think, you know, Super Seducer probably wasn’t THAT bad…
I mean… how?! How can you make a game which pushes two terrible games out of my list? That’s a special, almost magical, level of cock-uppery that should be recorded so that in a hundred years, people can look back and marvel at such a monumental achievement.
The saddest part of all of this? The Quiet Man thinks that it’s being high-brow here. It thinks it’s being artistic, with its silence and removal of any story. Also words, because Square-Enix sort of seemed to think deaf people can’t read or something and wow that’s offensive in ways that just blew a few hundred brain cells. It’s an awful, embarrassing video game in an age where FMV games are good – see The Bunker, or Late Shift, or even The Shapeshifting Detective. And where fighting games are making their comeback – roll on Streets of Rage 4, baby!
Hell, Square-Enix could have revived The Bouncer, given that an HD update, thrust it out for less than this and still had something tangibly better than The Quiet Man.
A while back I talked about games whose very conceptual basis is flawed. The Quiet Man is the epitome of that. Everyone who worked on this must have believed in it – that’s why it got finished and released. But the end product just doesn’t work on any level at all. It’s a Faberge Egg; perfectly ornate on the outside but utterly hollow within, with a thin enough skin that it could be punctured by the lightest of taps. A lot of effort goes into it, but it just doesn’t stand up to even the most basic of interactions…
Absolutely utterly bloody awful. The Quiet Man wins my Worst Game of 2018 and with that, I suddenly feel the urge to go and have a shower….