My, my. We’re nearing the end of the seventh generation of consoles. The future is uncertain and many wonder if consoles are a dying breed. While that’s an argument for another day, I will point out that without such easy and specific boundaries set in time it will be far more difficult to catalogue the history of gaming. No longer would we be able to easily determine gaming eras as we have been doing for the last thirty years, and that’ll be too bad if it comes to pass.
For example, we wouldn’t be able to look at the worst of a generation without, well, generations. And what fun it is to do that. So let’s look back at what have turned out to be the worst game disappointments since 2005. (Note that PC games are included in this list, despite not being bound to console gens)
Bioshock was perhaps the first truly magnificent game we had for the 7th gen. Consistently pointed to as a game with meaning and purpose, Bioshock broke down the boundaries of the common shooter and worked heavily with atmosphere to produce something not seen before. It was tense, it was dark, and it was meaningful.
The sequel was a shadow of its former self.
While I admit there are those who may consider the level of disappointment on this title to be less than others (the game was at least competent), to me it reflected failure because it felt like a cheap cash-in. It relied on the popularity and coverage enjoyed by the first to create an experience that appeared to be similar, but ultimately lost everything that made the original profound. It was almost as if its developers made a list of all the things they could do to make the lowest common denominator (in this case I’ll call them twelve year-olds) would want to see in a Bioshock game. Play as a Big Daddy? Check. Obtuse Multiplayer? Check. Goddamn cutscenes? Mother@#$!ing check.
Oh boy, do I remember those happy, oblivious days before Sonic Unleashed was released. Early footage and screenshots revealed a game that looked to be the answer to the Sonic fanbase’s woes. It promised to return to the traditional days of the blue hedgehog, its level design seemed tight, and there appeared to be a perfect balance between 2D and 3D action. This seemed to be what everyone was waiting for.
And then… werehog happened. And suddenly, everything that was potent and grand in the speed levels was outdone by the ferocious stupidity and slow pace of the nighttime werehog platforming, which ultimately only served as a frustrating buffer between the parts that the player would actually ever enjoy.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until several years later that Sega would realize this method of interspersing its solid gold speed levels with dumb, uninspired platforming and action sequences was a terrible idea. So the fact that Sonic Unleashed helped to create a legacy of bad Sonic design alone makes it deserve a place here. Of course it helps tremendously that expectations were so high prior.
Oh man, this is a personal one for me. Spore was a game that went boldly in and then catastrophically out of the collective game enthusiast consciousness. It was hyped for years as the true golden child of game design master Will Wright. We saw the previews, and we played with the creature creator. All was going to be well. This was going to be a generation defining game.
Except it totally wasn’t. Yes it was reviewed well and it sold plenty, but Spore was a shell of our expectations. Few give it even a passing thought these days and the general consensus is that it was generally not worth our time. What went so wrong? Scope, namely. In a game intended to be about the evolution of life itself, the gameplay of Spore was too shallow and simplistic. Worse still, it split itself into five individual games, each without the proper depth to be considered exceptional. In the end, there just wasn’t enough to do and the epic story of life at our creation was neither profound or fun. And that’s really too bad. The Sims and SimCity are both some of the most endlessly addicting games I have ever played. Perhaps the fault in Spore was conceptual, then, as part of the fun of those other Maxis games is how immediately we can relate with them. Perhaps it’s ultimately more fun to play with a house of all your friends than it is to control the destiny of the winged zog monsters on the planet Gorb.
This generation has been starved of Star Wars games. Where last generations we had Star Wars Battlefront, Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy, Rogue Leader, and many, MANY more exceptional titles, this time around we really only got one. Sure, we all thought it was going to be the best game and more. And we were so enticed by the tech demos and that impressive shot promising the destruction of an entire Star Destroyer with the the power of the force. Too bad it just wasn’t all that fun.
What went wrong wasn’t the technology implemented. That was fine. It was the implementation itself. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was repetitive and bland, and too often felt overly simplistic. It was LucasArts refusing to invent a unique gameplay format and instead relying on a style of gameplay too reminiscent of God of War and Dante’s Inferno.
On its surface, it seems like a heartier followup to the Jedi Knight series. But where Jedi Outcast and Academy offered experimentation and player-tailored experiences, SW:TFU was much too linear and granted its players too much power. It was the epitome of player indulgence, and it ultimately suffered for it. Let’s hope Star Wars: 1313 does something to push Star Wars games forward (PLEASE).
I mentioned that we’re in a Star Wars game drought currently, and I can think of no greater casualty than this title. There is perhaps no sadder story this generation than the fate to befall Star Wars: Battlefront 3, a game I think we could all agree on would make the world a better place to live in.
And really, it comes down to the fact that the Battlefront games were some of my most memorable game experiences during the 6th gen. It was certainly the reason I bought an Xbox way back when.
But what really hurts is that Battlefront 3 was kept away from hungry consumer hands because LucasArts is clearly dumb and hates money. No matter that the game was basically done four years ago. Forget the fact that Free Radical should have never lost their license. LucasArts clearly and undoubtedly hates the idea of money and success, because quite honestly that’s the only thing a good, HD, online multiplayer-rich Star Wars: Battlefront would bring them.
And so we’re left with nothing. Without Star Wars: Battlefront 3, we can basically declare this generation a failure.
I’m curious as to what many of you, dear readers, think to be the worst disappointments in gaming from the last seven years. Think Brawl is the worst Smash Brothers? Were you actually anticipating the Kinect being anything other than stupid? Was Skyward Sword the worst Zelda ever? Sound it out in the comments.