Friday Roundtable: The Most Disappointing Games of the Last Five Years

Games are wonderful. They allow us to do things we can scarcely imagine, be it fighting on the beaches of Normandy, zipping through space at faster-than-light speeds or uncovering a global conspiracy. It is interactive escapist bliss at its finest; truly, no other medium can compare, and it seems only to be going from strength to strength.

But, things can (and do) go awry. Be it down to lack of focus/funds/time/interest on the developer’s part or zealous over-hyping on the consumer’s, games can disappoint, and tragically so. Can a game set its own bar too high? This Friday, Pascal, Armand, Sebastian and Chad look over the past five years and discuss what they consider to be the most disappointing games. Have a tissue ready: it’s heart-breaking.

* * *

 

Pascal:

I try my best to stay away from bad games.  If something looks unappealing, boring or just plain bad, I avoid it.  I’ve been lucky – most of the time.  But I guess I’m just not quite strong enough with the Force to end up with fun and worthwhile gaming experiences all of the time.  A few stinkers inevitably get through.

Pascal isn't amused, Altair.

But how to pick the most disappointing game of the last five years?  Sure, there are a few obvious contenders, like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.  The game took away the fun of subjecting a defeated enemy to a violent, grisly ‘Fatality’, which was what always set the MK games apart for me.  Then there was Final Fantasy XIII, which received a single raised eyebrow from me right away when a baby chocobo popped out of Sazh’s afro – WTF?  But to be fair, it’s hard for me to call the game disappointing, as I simply haven’t played enough of it.  I’ve enjoyed both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises; that is, up until I played the garbage that is Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.  There were only a handful of Aerosmith songs I enjoyed in the game; where were most of the Top 40 hits?  Mama Kin wasn’t enough without Livin’ on the Edge; Sweet Emotion needed to be paired with Dude Looks Like a Lady or Amazing. Pink, I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, Cryin…the list of missing hits goes on and on.  Also, what a terrible investment I made with DJ Hero‘s turntable controller: ugh, there’s only so many remixes of the same tracks I can take (if I never hear Rihanna’s Disturbia again, it’ll be too soon!).

But these games have something else in common, apart from me not liking them: I wasn’t honestly expecting them to be that great to begin with.

The award for biggest current-gen disappointment goes to (drumroll): the original Assassin’s Creed.  This was a game that promised an awesome experience.  Sadly, what I got was a repetitive open-world wannabe.  The game is a mash-up of stealth and platform elements, and the story attempts, at times, to offer a bit of a conspiracy, but it came down to the repetitive gamplay in the end.  Each time you get a mission to eliminate a new target, the same pattern must be followed: Visit the assassin’s bureau, obtain info on your target, then follow up on leads scattered throughout each city to develop a tactic to eliminate the mark.  But all these steps consist of the same missions: pick a pocket, run a race, jump someone in an alley.  It feels like a connect-the-dots, where you’re forced through the same linear actions again and again to get the big picture.  To make it worse, you’re forced to return to your hub city between assignments!  At least there is a fast-travel option you can use once you’ve discovered a location already.  The “open world” landscape doesn’t have any interesting side-plots or optional missions, other than collectible flags and hidden Templars to find and kill.  Graphic-wise, it’s pretty, but not big on giving you anything interesting to do while riding through it.

The disappointment works two ways. Assassin’s Creed failed to live up to expectations, but now that we’ve seen the much higher-quality sequels it’s produced, it makes it painful to think back to the first entry in the series.  ACII and AC: Brotherhood showed us what the first game should have been, and I honestly prefer to block it from my memory when thinking back on this series!

 

Sebastian:

Oh my sweet lord of Zimbabwe, I hate Assassin’s Creed. Unfortunately, it can’t be my most disappointing game, because I vehemently told anyone with half an ear it sucked, and I was never interested in it beforehand. But Assassin’s Creed is by far the worst, most frustrating game I have ever played.

As much as I’d really like to continue talking about how much I hate Assassin’s Creed in all its shittiness, I have to get to the point before Martin cracks the whip (*Whip crack* – Ed.). My most disappointing game of the last five years? Well, it’s a tie: Super Mario Galaxy and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle.

Enough with the bubbles, Mario. Sheez.

Both suffer from the same inherent problem. Super Mario Galaxy was fun for a minute, then got really, really boring, to the point where I didn’t even bother to continue playing. Mario was floating around in bubbles and I was helping to feed stars and I just didn’t freaking care anymore. Maybe it’s time. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with game stories I care about. I bought Galaxy on day one, and I was legitimately interested in playing it, but I rapidly grew tired of playing the same game over again. Eventually enough time passes where I think to myself, “Why didn’t I finish this game?” Then I pick it up, play it, and remember why I don’t give a damn. I beat the hell out of Super Mario 64. But that was new, I hadn’t ever played any game like that before. Super Mario Galaxy felt like a sequel that did the exact same thing in a different environment, with no reason for me to continue playing.

(And honestly, I know I’m probably the only one that doesn’t care about this, but if I have to hear one more time about that Tanooki Suit I swear I will lose my mind. I played Super Mario Bros. 3 when I was a kid. It was fun. I liked it. But why does everyone care so much about it now? How is it that in other games we require an in-depth trailer before we even consider the game, but Mario can somehow get away with literally showing a costume and everybody is supernova-ing over it?)

You're just... not the same.

As for my second disappointment, No More Heroes 2, let me make it clear that I absolutely loved the first one. For a very, very long time it was the only reason I kept my Wii instead of eBay-ing it, and it certainly made me look at motion controls in a different, more favourable  light  (and not just something for Wii Sports). Then, NMH2 came out. I was so excited, I was outside Best Buy before they even opened. I played it through, and found it decent. The final boss was god-awful, but everything from NMH1 was still there, but:

  1. I was expecting (and rightfully so) way more bosses than I actually got.
  2. The bosses that were there were boring. Where was my “Bad Girl”? Where was someone like the final boss of NMH1? Those were fights.
  3. Where did all my fourth-wall-breaking go? That was one of the best parts, and it got stripped away for some reason.

Suda took one of my favorite games and removed all the good stuff and instead replaced it with crappy characters. Super Mario Galaxy took a game I really loved as a kid and made it boring enough for me to not bother finishing it after sinking hours into it.

 

Armand:

Man, what’s with all the Assassin’s Creed hating on here? I really enjoyed it! <covers head to avoid thrown objects> Seriously though, all the points Pascal raises are very valid, but don’t take away from the experience being a fun one overall. And the one take-away from that game which I remember: it’s the only game that my non-gamer girlfriend looked interested in… ever. Sure, the interest was for about a minute, but oh man, that was a glorious minute.

The game comes complete with a long cut scene where important things were discussed that I paid no attention to, thanks to this crotch shot.

As for my most disappointing game of the last five years…  actually, maybe my most hated game of all time: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. I can’t really express in words how much I hate this game, but I will try. It offered none of the old school M&M experience which I loved, nor anything from the likable Heroes of Might and Magic series. Instead, what I got was a shitty FPS with a shitty gameplay mechanic that let you “use your environment” to help defeat the baddies. Now, when the main hook of your game (environmental killing) is as silly and broken as this game was, I just don’t get it. Let me play out one scene from the game for you:

You’re escaping a castle that, moments ago, was held by your allies, but suddenly goes to hell and is instantly controlled by your enemies. On your way out, you travel through one area that has a sort of waist-high hedge-maze. What appears to be a paper thin fence made of leaves turns out to have the force and power of a ten-foot thick steel barrier fifty feet high. You can’t leap over the hedges, you can’t jump through them (seriously, a baby should be able to crawl through this). Instead, you have to find your way through the maze, all the while fighting an endless stream of identical bad guys whom you can kill by pushing them into a small campfire, a conveniently placed wall of spikes (every castle courtyard needs one of those) or what I did, which is to slash at the baddies over and over again with my crappy dagger because carrying them to the “environmental traps” was just plain stupid. “Oh look, this guy’s trying to kill me! I can fight back in a button-mashing frenzy, or I can run around until I position myself in just the right way where a kick might send him to a flaming death.” If your troops die every time they accidentally stick an armored foot into a tiny cooking fire, maybe you’re not quite ready to take over the world yet.

Stop *eyeing* me up, Spore.

Add to this the worst representation of female game characters ever, and you can start to see why I can’t stand the game. The women in this game seemed designed for a thirteen-year-old boy in an all-boys Catholic school and about three brain cells in mind. I can go on and on about this point (and many others), but will leave that for another time.

But really, the truly biggest disappointment of the last five years is easily handed out to Spore. I loved The Sims (no, not the new one. That may be my second biggest disappointment), and I was really, really, really looking forward to Spore, a game that was supposed to be the ultimate god game/sandbox ever created. It had a pretty neat creature creation tool that let you design everything from realistic animals to giant walking penises, and they all more-or-less worked well, minus some ugly clipping issues. But instead of a game that turned the idea of evolution into fun gameplay and an exciting sandbox, we ended up with five mini-games poorly realized, next to unplayable, all the while encouraging a creationist magic-hand-of-God approach to evolution worthy of the worst Bible-preaching public schools in Kansas. I can weep at how disappointing this game turned out to be, and can’t believe all the positive reviews it received from the major review sites. Were we playing the same game?

 

Chad:

A lot of the games mentioned didn’t affect me much, because I had no interest in the Assassin’s Creed series and by the time Final Fantasy XIII hit, I had long been burned out on the series. No, for me, my two biggest disappointments came from the real-time strategy genre. First off was Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. I grudgingly accepted the previous game’s B-movie camp aesthetic, but Red Alert 3 took it a little too far, to the point that it became grating and impossible for me to play. Perhaps the game’s only saving grace was Tim Curry as the Soviet Premier (the guy has never shied away from roles in games, and I admire him for that). And the less said about Tiberian Twilight, the better. In a similar vein, I played StarCraft II for all of an hour before I basically said “I can’t take this anymore”. The game was just too stylistically different and ridiculous in the story department. But then, from a company that derails its lore on a weekly basis with World of Warcraft, why am I surprised?

What the... the hell is this?

Finally, there’s Rainbow Six Vegas, which is the biggest example of an in-name-only sequel I have ever played. Replacing the planning and one-shot kill tactical tension of the original Rainbow Six games with mainstream FPS gameplay? Regenerating health? What?! Shame on you, Ubisoft.

If I can reach into the future and possibly set myself up for criticizing a game that hasn’t been released yet…XCOM. Just…XCOM. I would have been mildly upset at them removing the hyphen, but even worse, it’s basically going to be BioShock with aliens. I like BioShock, don’t get me wrong, but X-COM is not a shooter, it doesn’t take place in the ’50s and…do I have to go on?

 

Pascal:

Many of the games mentioned here I’m familiar with only in name.  Maybe there’s a reason I haven’t played any of the others (could it be I stay away from games that will let me down?).

Chad, I have been burned by the Final Fantasy series a few times too, and I now approach a new FF title with guarded caution, as opposed to the fanboy jubilation I used to feel in my heart when a new release date neared.

It’s interesting that you bring up Spore, Armand.  I remember hearing much hype about the game in the time leading up to its release and immediately afterward, but then it “mysteriously” seemed to disappear.  Hmm…

Sebastian, I couldn’t help noticing that the two games that let you down did so for opposing reasons.  No More Heroes 2 was way too different from its predecessor, while Galaxy was too much the same.  Since I’ve never played either game, these could definitely be valid reasons, especially for NMH, when everything that wowed you in the first game was broken in the second.  I hate that!

But as for Super Mario Galaxy – we’ve recently had some discussions about retro games, and how they sometimes nailed the fun “sweet spot”.  Mario games have always been fun to me, and I think it’s because the gameplay was so finely tuned and appealing, and it hasn’t been “revolutionized in new and exciting ways” too much since then.  This, to me, is a positive: There’s a reason I liked Mega Man 2, and 3, and 4, even though the formula and gamplay stayed exactly the same.

BnB writers have shared their thoughts, and now it’s your turn. What do you think: too much disdain for Assassin’s Creed; an unjust criticism of Galaxy? What are your most disappointing games of the last five years?

The table is yours.


Comments
13 Responses to “Friday Roundtable: The Most Disappointing Games of the Last Five Years”
  1. Joe Walker says:

    What a bunch of negative nancies. 😛

    Also, I don’t think Sebastian and I can be friends anymore after what he said about Mario Galaxy. >_>

    • Sebastian Force says:

      Haha, My favorite games are in order, Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy X, and Killer 7. I will be surprised if you don’t hate at least one of those, and offer a much worse criticism than anything I could say about Mario Galaxy. I never called it a “bad” game, because it really isn’t.

      And you know my absolutely admiration for Super Paper Mario and Warioware, so i’m sure there’s some common Nintendo Ground.

      Also, Ocarina of Time 3DS. I’ll buy that bundle when it comes out.

      • Joe Walker says:

        The only one of those I’ve played is Final Fantasy X, and I loved it. In fact, I wrote a whole article about how Tidus is the manliest Final Fantasy character. 😛

        But I didn’t like Galaxy as much as Super Mario 64 (which is my all-time favorite), and I agree, it wasn’t revolutionary, but it had a lot of really great gameplay elements and some fantastic level design. Anyone who says Mario games are for kids REALLY needs to try the purple coin levels. Those were absolutely killer.

        I don’t know, I’m so used to people saying “It’s the same thing over and over again!” about Nintendo games then going out and playing Madden and Call of Duty that I tend to get defensive. 😛

    • Scott Carmichael says:

      Mario Galaxy was far from great but still playable. It felt like Mario 64 for people with ADD. In my opinion, it was down at the bottom of Mario games with Sunshine.

      Mario Galaxy 2, however, is just an awful game. It was a repackaged Mario Galaxy 1 in almost every aspect and Nintendo didn’t even bother to try and hide this fact. And it’s so repetitive and content in being more of the same. No excuse for a AAA game in 2010 to be almost identical to a game in 2007.

      Nintendo simply called it “Mario Galaxy 2” to make it a “proper” sequel so they could slap a $50 price tag on it. MG2 was glorified DLC at best…but wait…the Wii doesn’t do DLC, does it?

      • Joe Walker says:

        Whaaaaat? Did you play Galaxy 2 beyond the first couple of levels? The gameplay was similar (as it is with most sequels) but really… new powerups (Rock Mario and Cloud Mario, plus the Spin Drill) were all used in really innovative ways, plus Yoshi was added, and even HE had new powerups (the chili pepper, the lamp fruit) that had levels designed around them… if ANYTHING, Galaxy 2 took what was great about the original and expanded on it further. Not to mention ALL the new levels. It was an entirely new game, not “glorified DLC.”

        I really don’t get why Nintendo is always hated on for perceived complacency, yet no one bats an eye at the sea of first-person shooters released on a yearly basis.

  2. Chad M. says:

    For what it’s worth, I want to say that XCOM isn’t necessarily going to be a bad game. It’s developed by the same fine folks that did BioShock 2, which I loved- and in spite of it having nothing to do with the X-Com series other than having aliens- I’d be lying if I said I’m NOT looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

    Whether it turns out to be snark bait or a slap to the mouth of naysayers, we don’t yet know. But I at least like the Mid-Century modern architecture more than BioShock Infinite’s steampunk (which has to be my most hated visual aesthetic…I don’t know why. I just hate it.). Basically what I’m saying is it could be a better BioShock game than the actual sequel. We’ll see.

    • Scott Carmichael says:

      The thing with XCOM is that this isn’t the first time that series has went out in left field. I mean, XCOM fans should be happy people are even giving that series any attention (regardless of genre/style) when so many games of yesteryear are doomed to be ignored forever.

      As long as there is a legitimate effort to connect this new to the old I think the game will be okay.

      Then again, just last year we had Castlevania Lords of Shadow and FF XIII prove yet again how easy it is to wreck a series by not acknowledging the source material enough.

      • Chad M. says:

        That’s the chief problem, so far we haven’t seen anything resembling the original X-COM. They both have aliens and you fight them, that’s about it. X-Com fans aren’t happy because it has nothing to do with UFO Defense, Terror from the Deep or Apocalypse (the only three that matter IMO). It begs the question…why use the X-COM name if it’s not gonna be an X-COM game?

        X-COM fans have been burned by FPS games before. It’s a legitimate concern.

  3. Chris C. says:

    To be honest, I found Spore to be amazing. It was one of the best games (at least in that style) that I have ever played. The only other one on that list that I have played was Mario Galaxy, and I’m afraid that is sitting, collecting dust – though not because I don’t like it, but because, like the rest of my video games, they aren’t getting the love they deserve.

    • Armand K. says:

      With Spore it was more failed expectations. The build up was so long, and my hopes so high. I honestly think a lot of us just expected a sort of ultimate god game. I’ve still spent many many hours playing it, just wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

  4. Steerpike says:

    Great choices, all! Don’t forget to add Far Cry 2 in there somewhere. Unless I missed it. 🙂

  5. Armand K. says:

    “Also, Julian Gollop. Honestly, I would probably never buy a launch title for a new platform with words “Ghost” and “Recon” featuring heavily in it (because I hate Ubisfot is why, you nosy pricks) but Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is the new game made by a man who gave us X-Com and there’s no arguing about whether you should own it. Sure, it features a silly storyline and, stereoscopic 3D aside, looks like an ugly DS game, but here we’re talking heaven when it comes to modern turn based tactics.”

    This is from this article about the 3DS at Tap-Repeatedly. It’s not X-Com, but I bet it’s closer than the FPS game.

    http://tap-repeatedly.com/2011/04/03/what-i-hate-and-love-about-nintendo-3ds/

    • Chad M. says:

      If I had a 3DS (which I probably won’t, because it’s expensive and I don’t particularly like handhelds), I’d be playing that.

      On the other hand I can stick it out until the indie X-Com inspired Xenonauts is released (for PC! Mouse and keyboard YAY!).

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