Nine of the biggest gaming disappointments of all time

29 Jul
July 29, 2010

With the decade coming to a close in just two months, we can look back at a glut of super polished, extremely satisfying gaming experiences across all of the platforms that have graced our homes in recent years. In this time of reflection, though, let us not forget the underachievers, the disappointments, and the outright failures. The abominations of the gaming industry, if you will. Things those of us who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to live through won’t forget. Sit back and take a journey through — in my opinion — nine of the biggest disappointments the videogame industry has bestowed upon us.

9: Scribblenauts (DS)

What we were promised: A game limited only by your IMAGINATION!

What was delivered: A game limited only by shocking controls and a poor gameplay concept.

Scribblenauts caught the attention of the gaming press back in E3 09, with its small-time developer 5th Cell delivering a unique and entertaining concept. A popular YouTube video showcasing God on a skateboard using a shotgun to fight off the Kraken seemed to only confirm this game’s awesomeness. 5th Cell caught on to this unexpected attention, and proceeded to feed hype to the overly eager games media machine, leading to a huge release that unfortunately failed to deliver. While the word list in Scribblenauts is impressive, it ultimately means nothing when pretty much every puzzle can be solved with the use of a handful of items (Jetpack, rope and T-rex come to mind). This made the actual ‘game’ part of the game, which had you solving puzzles to find ‘starite’, very forgettable. Couple this with horrible controls and the most fun part of this game became pitting monsters against each other in the title screen. A sequel Super Scribblenauts recently released and improved on the original in almost every way.

8: Spore (PC)

What we were promised: Be GOD! Create LIFE! Control every aspect of an entire species from
micro-organism to the SPACE AGE!

What was delivered: 5 half-assed blatant rip-offs of much more popular and successful games (flOw, World of Warcraft, Ages of Empires, Civilizations and Freelancer) taped together with overly complex customization.

Spore, like Scribblenauts, rose to the attention of the gaming press at E3. This time it was E3 06, where the queue to have some hands on time with Will Wright’s latest blockbuster rivaled the queues outside Apple Stores when the iPhone launched. Pretty much every major media outlet immediately chose it as their ‘pick of E3’, and Spore was destined to be the last game we would ever play. Unfortunately, shallow mini-games do not make a great game, and no amount of Robin Williams making silly noises could change that. On top of this, there was the spectacular DRM fiasco that many associate with Spore. Don’t get me wrong; Spore was still a good game. It just wasn’t what we were promised. EA is soon to release an action RPG spin off, Darkspore.

7: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (PC, Xbox)

What we were promised: The Sequel to KOTOR 1, which is still one of the greatest PC games of all time. KOTOR II promised to build on everything the original established, and make it bigger, better, and more badass.

What was delivered: A bland, unfinished copy of KOTOR 1.

KOTOR II somehow managed to take all of the bad from KOTOR … and make it worse. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment instead of BioWare, KOTOR II was simply all of the gameplay and UI elements from the first game, touched up enough to make the changes barely noticeable, then thrown around unlikeable characters and an incoherent story with an ending so bad and sudden that many of us thought the game to actually be unfinished when it was released. Turns out we were right, and a fan-made effort to restore missing content was put into motion that took years to finish. LucasArts have yet to greenlight a third entry, instead deciding to make “KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, 7” and beyond as one game in The Old Republic MMO.

6. Fable (PC, Xbox)

What we were promised: “It’s gonna be the best game ever.” – Peter Molyneux

What was delivered: A reality check for Peter Molyneux

It’s impossible to compile a disappointing game list without Peter ‘The Hype Master’ Molyneux. Molyneux hyped Fable up so much that it would not have been surprising if he had announced playing Fable would cause attractive women to flock to you in real life. Dozens of promised features, including the ability for the main character to have children, not to mention the infamous “plant an acorn and watch a tree grow”, failed to make the final cut of this bland fantasy RPG. Miraculously, it still managed to spawn a franchise, and while Fable II and III showed far less hype and far more gameplay improvements, everyone will still remember Fable as the game that claimed Molyneux’s last morsel of credibility. Until Kinect’s Milo & Kate.

5: Far Cry 2 (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)

What we were promised: Track down the mysterious Jackal in this vast open-ended experience. Make your own way through Africa!

What was delivered: Track down the mysterious Jackal in this series of boring side-missions and scripted events.

The first warning sign for this game was when they announced that it would not be sharing the plot, characters, game play or setting with the first game. At first, I wondered why they would even put the Far Cry name in the title, but then I realised tricking fans of Far Cry was the only way they could have sold this mess. The original Far Cry was developed by Crytek using their revolutionary CryEngine technology, but the sequel was handled by Ubisoft Montreal and used the Dunia Engine, seen in titles like Assassin’s Creed while Crytek went on to make Crysis for EA. I had some high hopes when I started out, I believed I was getting myself into a GTA, or Fallout style universe, where I could make my own way and do my own thing to try and capture the mysterious Jackal. What I was given was a mess of boring, repetitive gang related side missions, a joke of an ‘open world’ and scripted events. But that’s not all; the absolute biggest slap in the face comes when at the end of the game, *spoilers* the Jackal CHOOSES to reveal himself to you *spoilers*. Yes, you read right, all of your efforts into tracking him down were completely pointless, and the illusion of being able to make your own way through Africa is completely shattered.

4. The Wiimote (Wii)

What we were promised: 1 to 1 motion controls. Make a gesture with your hand, have your character mimic it on screen. Trailers for Red Steel and Metroid Prime 3 consisted of half gameplay footage, half real life footage of white-clad twenty-somethings making cool hand motions.

What was delivered: A wagglefest.

The Wii has been a console plagued with disappointment, right down to its very name. Someone in Nintendo Japan’s marketing who obviously doesn’t speak any English had the bright idea to change the consoles working title from the much cooler sounding ‘Revolution’ to the thoughts-of-urine-inducing ‘Wii’. But the hardcore managed to look past silly names and graphical capabilities because the Wiimote was set to change the very way we played games. I almost feel sorry for them. It doesn’t help that when Nintendo finally got around to making the Wiimote how it should have been at launch, they charged us $50 for it. The Wii MotionPlus add-on was recently built into the controller, and re-released as the Wii Remote Plus, which will now come bundled with new consoles and software.

3. Daikatana (PC)

What we were promised: “John Romero is about to make you his bitch (suck it down)”

What was delivered: “John Romero is about to lose his credibility”

We all knew this was coming. Daikatana is the textbook example of a disappointing game. Developed by Romero, one of the Wizards of iD, responsible for classics such as Doom and Quake, Daikatana would have been impossible not to hype. Unfortunately for Romero, his fans, the gaming industry and humanity as a whole, Daikatana was released after numerous delays and was absolutely, positively, complete rubbish. Terrible game play, worse AI and game-breaking bugs were just the beginning of this tragedy in gaming.

2. E.T – The Extra Terrestrial (Atari 2600)

What we were promised: Being able to experience the magic of Spielberg’s touching story of alien friendship on your very own Atari 2600!

What was delivered: The almost death of video games. Forever.

Many of us younger generation gamers don’t remember E.T, its 1982 release date was well before our time. What we do know, however, is its long term implications. E.T is often cited as the direct influence of the Video Game crash of 1983. It was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ so to speak, the latest in a line of shockingly low quality games at a high price that caused the market to self- destruct. You know your game is a disappointment when you have to bury thousands of unsold copies in the New Mexico desert.

1. Hellgate: London (PC)

What we were promised: A Diablo-style dungeon crawler through the futuristic, demon infested subways of London. With MMO-like features!

What was delivered: A rushed bug-fest through bad servers and even worse gameplay. With MMO- like features!

Hellgate: London was developed by Flagship Studios. This immediately showed promise as Flagship was founded by defectors of Blizzard’s hugely successful Diablo franchise. Overhyped, over exaggerated CGI trailers had us wielding a combination of swords and guns, with several unique, distinct character classes in a familiar quest of glory and loot. Hellgate: London, which was rushed to meet an October deadline, was instead released with more bugs than an anthill. Several classes were completely unplayable, which would have been more devastating if there wasn’t so little variation between them. Servers suffered tremendous issues which led to people losing levels, items, and sometimes complete characters. I’m told that many of these issues were eventually fixed, but it was a case of too little, too late. I pity those poor, poor souls that shelled out for a lifetime subscription. Flagship eventually wound up dissolving in late 2008, and the Hellgate property was acquired by Hanbitsoft, with a sequel/redo called Hellgate: Resurrection going into development for Asian territories.

Written by: Steven Bogos

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