Another year is coming to a close and, as always, not everything has lived up to expectations. Over the last 12 months, games disappointed us by being too short, too buggy, or simply too ordinary to measure up to the hype. After waxing lyrical about the games that made our years, a few of the more cynical members of staff here at Power Up Gaming have decided to touch on some of the games that didn’t even make our afternoons.
Thief (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
So, reboots; the “we’ve run out of new ideas” option for game developers. This isn’t to say that they’re intrinsically bad (Tomb Raider and Wolfenstein: The New Order taught us that), but let’s face it: updated graphics and the ‘re-imagining’ of characters don’t always work.
Take Thief, a series that relied on a snarky protagonist to liven up levels large enough to get lost in. The franchise was butchered this year by a reboot that turned Garrett into a dry and depressing straight man, and was blighted by so many loading screens that we spent more time watching swirling smoke than creeping around on rooftops.
The AI was a mess, the dialogue was uninteresting and the levels were small, yet still difficult to manoeuvre – with die-if-you-drop drops indistinguishable from the you-can-get-down-heres. All in all, Thief was a guide on how not to do a reboot, and was especially disappointing for the fans who wanted a Garrett fit for the next generation.
Titanfall (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
“Prepare for Titanfall”. The trailer turned us into squealing little kids; the very phrase sent a thousand nerves of pure adrenaline into motion. A shooter with giant fighting robots set in a futuristic world? Yes, please! Naturally, when Titanfall premiered there was a strong reaction from gamers worldwide.
That reaction for many was largely, “Meh”.
Titanfall looked nice, it sounded nice, its controls were excellent and it was a ton of fun to play – that is, unless you were playing single player campaign mode. Granted, a game with fighting robots doesn’t need the most stellar storyline or engaging characters on the planet, but any semblance of a story that was shoved in there felt like watching Space Marines: The Soap Opera. Players were either a rebel military faction fighting against the organized good guys, or vice versa, and that’s about it. The “story-mode” dropped players into random matches with people, with some excess cutscenes to try to build on the “story” inbetween. For all intents and purposes, they got the same exact experience as if they had just done an online attrition match – but with terrible acting.
In spite of Titanfall looking nice, it also looked like, well, just about every other science-fiction shooter out there. The environments themselves were fun to move around and battle in, but there wasn’t really a lot of creativity thrown into them; it was all just the same cookie-cutter scenery with giant robots lumbering around and soldiers snapping each other’s necks at random.
Titanfall was not a bad game, by and far. It provided that simple delight one gets when jerking a pilot out of their Titan and throwing them to a gross, gooey death on the ground. The combat was fast and engaging, and the overall experience, personally, has been fantastic. The disappointment lies in how much more Titanfall could have been, and the areas where corners were not only cut but decapitated.
WWE 2K15 (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Following the collapse of THQ and the subseqent acquisition of the WWE license by 2K Games in 2013, the future of the pro wrestling sim franchise seemed to be bright. There was a general consensus amongst longtime fans of the series that its gameplay was becoming stale, with the publisher content to trot out yearly updates by developers Yuke’s that did little in the way of innovation.
Not to worry, though, because we were safe in the knowledge that 2K15 would be something truly different. Afforded the privilege of a full development cycle, 2K paired Yuke’s up with its in-house Visual Concepts team, with the aim of reinvigorating the brand in time for its next-gen debut. With promises of face-scanning technology and revolutionary core gameplay mechanics, it looked as though fans would finally get a wrestling sim to contend with the likes of the classic No Mercy on the Nintendo 64.
However, as WWE’s release date drew ever closer, things didn’t seem quite right with the development of the title. 2K kept their cards close to their chests when it came to the the release of gameplay footage and previews for the game, with the first screenshots only surfacing several months out from launch. Although they looked stunning in still form, when leaked footage finally did emerge, it was revealed that the title’s clunky, last gen-style animation let the otherwise polished graphics down severely. Fears were compounded when the game’s release on Xbox One and PS4 was pushed back by a month.
When WWE 2K15 finally arrived, it was met with universal disappointment. The ‘revolutionary’ gameplay changes promised seemed to consist of stripping the game almost entirely of its trademark character and match customisation options, changing up the timing of reversals (an integral part of WWE gameplay) to a counter-intuitive system, and re-introducing a much-despised stamina system from several years prior. And that was only on the current-gen consoles. Last-gen gamers had it even tougher, with the lack of a career mode and regressive, face-scanning-less graphics being amongst its disappointments.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U)
Why would any gamer have their hopes up for Sonic Boom? Even on paper, it sounded like a terrible idea: a cartoon tie-in in which Sonic and co. are given not-so-edgy makeovers with gameplay that harked back to the lacklustre attempts of Sonic Heroes. However, what gave fans a slither of hope (if you can call it that) was that Sonic games, besides Sonic ’06, have largely been average at worst. What made Sonic Boom disappointing was that it wasn’t even a mediocre game; it was instead a shambolic affair that failed to meet even the lowest of fan expectations.
While the game ostensibly looked and felt charmingly like its TV counterpart, as Sonic expressed his overabundant joy at the acquisition of rings… with the same piece of dialogue… for the fifth time, the realisation quickly set in: it was just as bad as you expected. Sonic Boom was a bug-riddled mess of a title that sank the franchise to even lower subterranean depths.
Its problems were almost endless, but let’s start with a few: bad camera angles, poor repetitive combat, a broad deserted hub world, an infinite jump cheat, terrible multiplayer, shaky controls, environments that you can fall through, awful minigames, simple bosses, and a blatant underuse of Shadow the Hedgehog.
This awful mess is something Sega needed to avoid, especially when Sonic: Lost World had caused their shaky recovery to wane. The company looked like they finally had the makings of a decent formula with Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors, so what’s most disappointing of all is that they would allow this once-powerful franchise to fall off the tracks yet again. Releasing a poor, disappointing spin-off is a luxury that Sega can ill-afford, and is something that no company should ever consider.
Watch Dogs (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, WIi U)
Ultimately, the downfall of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs was due to the fact that its hype began at E3 2012. After almost three E3 showings (it finally released in May 2014), and numerous awards prior to its release, Watch Dogs ran out of steam and failed to deliver on content.
The story started quite slow, and largely continued that way, with little substance to hold everything together. There was a promising premise, promising players the opportunity to explore how a hacking underworld fights against government wrongdoings. But it didn’t eventuate due to minimal amount of main characters and the overriding factor of Aiden Pearce’s personal vendetta.
Furthermore, there were those tacky mini-games, labelled Digital Trips. The Spider Tank game was fairly impressive, but the ‘game within a game’ idea didn’t work out in this instance. Don’t even get us started on the drinking games…
Overall, Watch Dogs is a pretty but forgettable title that didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other modern open-world games. Furthermore, the main protagonist was a complete dick; Aiden couldn’t decide whether he was a hero, thief or murderer.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
With a lacklustre plot and Ubisoft’s second most unlikeable protagonist of the year, in many ways the worst part about AC: Unity was that it wasn’t completely awful. There were touches of brilliance: the city of Paris, for example, was one of the most beautiful game-scapes ever produced, and the co-op missions were a nice idea – at least when they weren’t chugging along like a tugboat.
Unity was a bug-riddled game that used the twin jetpacks of hype and franchise history to float briefly around the light fixtures before crashing headlong into the floor. And then through the floor. And then into the dirt beneath the floor. It was a case of good ideas implemented extremely badly, and fun mechanics rushed to meet a deadline that no one but a bunch of French-Canadian executives thought they could reach.
It may not have been the worst game of the year (we stress the may), but it was, for Assassin’s Creed fans, the biggest disappointment; and, on current form, one that Ubisoft seems likely to repeat.
Contributors: Georgie Catto, Chris Mawson, Amber Colyer, Hayden Waugh.