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Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Biggest video game let-downs

Mass Effect: Andromeda – a definite let-down (pic: EA)

GameCentral readers discuss their most disappointing video game moments, including Resident Evil 6 and the Wii U.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Grackle, who asked whether the let-down was primarily the company’s fault or because of unreasonable expectations.

Although the games named varied greatly a lot of them ended up being relatively late entries in long-running franchises, such as Mass Effect, Resident Evil, and Grand Theft Auto. Although in many cases a subsequent sequel did manage to repair the damage.

Nasty surprise
An easy one for me this, as I immediately thought of Mass Effect: Andromeda. The problem wasn’t just that it was a bad game but that I had no idea it was that bad. There were very few previews, most of which praised the combat (which is good and I guess all you really get a feel for in an hour or two) and I just blind pre-ordered and assumed the best. Which wasn’t as naïve as it probably sounds now, as back then BioWare were still very well thought of and Mass Effect was my favourite every franchise.

But playing through Andromeda felt almost literally painfully, as it slowly dawned on me that this was not only not a good game but an actively bad one. I hated all the characters, the dialogue was terrible, the plot was bizarre and stupid, and the graphics were buggy and unimpressive.

I think it was the comedy that killed it the most for me though as it was truly cringeworthy. I don’t know what they were going for, some kind of snarky Buffy style thing I think but it absolutely didn’t work. It sounded like your dad trying to be cool and was just about as entertaining.

We later found out that hardly anyone from the previous games had worked on it, which explains everything but even so, my confidence was shook.

Different people
I guess it would be Uncharted: Golden Abyss for me. The idea of being to play with Nate anywhere, even in bed (I wish!) was a very enticing prospect but for me the game just didn’t give me the Uncharted experience I know and love.
Developed by Sony Bend instead of Naughty Dog it had a far weaker script, an annoying overuse of touchscreen and gyro balance bits (I know Drake’s Fortune had Sixaxis stuff but not to this excessive amount!) and recycled gameplay from the main games.

But its biggest crime was saddling us with Marisa Chase! Uncharted is a series that has given us well written, independent females such as Elena, Chloe, Nadine, and Marlowe but Marisa Chase proved to be an utterly annoying, useless character who was largely a damsel in distress.

If Sony want another Uncharted in the future and Naughty Dog don’t want to do it please, please, please don’t give it to Sony Bend again as they just weren’t able to recreate that magic factor that makes Uncharted so special.

Total disappointment
I’d say it’s Resident Evil 6. It’s not even that bad a game, not parts of it anyway, but the disappointment was total. Resident Evil 5 was far from the best entry as well, so we were clearly on a downward trend but it only takes an hour or so of playing 6 to realise that something is very badly run.

There’s no point asking what went wrong because it’s obvious: Capcom wanted to turn it into a straight action game because they thought that’d get them more money. But the game was so all over the place the whole thing had no consistency and so much of what was thrown at the wall didn’t stick.

I’m so glad they’ve come back with 7 and remakes though. Companies are like people and don’t always admit their mistakes, but here they course corrected and now things are better than ever.

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

Never again
Oh, it’s got to be Gunstar Future Heroes on the Game Boy Advance. Arriving at a time before virtual consoles or mini consoles, I must not have played the original Gunstar Heroes in over a decade when it was released, but I still kept it on a pedestal in my mind. So the idea of a sequel was massively exciting.

But the end product was such a let-down. A kind of re-quel (now there’s a word/concept which isn’t in fashion anymore) where every element was lifted from the original, but just not quite as good. Which, for a supposed follow-up to a game which was famous for throwing unlikely surprise after unlikely surprise at you, was absolutely fatal.

When the Wii rolled round and I had the chance to spend my eShop points on the Mega Drive original, it played and looked as good as I remembered (although I do have to admit that the soundtrack is aggressively unpleasant), confirming that Gunstar Future Heroes was just a reheated microwave meal of a game. I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to get hyped for anything in the same way since.
Reversible Sedgewick

Recent trouble
Perfect timing for this Hot Topic GC.

For me, it’s Life Is Strange 2. I play this type of game with my wife, and this was the first episodic game where we hadn’t waited for the whole thing to be released and decided to actually play it episodically, as the developers intended. This was based on the strength of the original and Before The Storm (which was admittedly by a different developer). However, due to the massive wait between episodes 1 and 2, after finishing the first we decided to revert to the normal plan and wait for all the episodes to be released. Having played though and enjoyed Erica (kindly recommended to me by reader Gavin Donaldson – thank you) shortly after new year, and the next few weeks playing through the excellent God Of War by myself, it was time to give it a go last weekend.

But in Episode 2… nothing happens. We got about halfway through, I think, and the plot barely moved forward at all, we had made only two key decisions and instead had spent half the time doing chores (making Daniel dinner, doing the laundry, etc.). I’m not playing a game like this expecting it to be a twitch shooter and I’m all for quieter character/world-building moments (God Of War had plenty – as well as loud ones!), but these type of tasks did neither and we were just bored by it. What made it worse was that every time it threatened to get interesting – I’ll avoid spoilers, but the bit with the dog near the start was really moving, especially as ours was on the sofa with us – it was followed by even more tedium.

We really wanted to like it, and I re-read your reviews to see if it got better in later episodes and was worth persevering with, but it seems that they’re pretty similar too and it just wasn’t worth our time. It’s a real shame too because Episode 1 was excellent, and I understood the atmosphere Dontnod were attempting to create in Episode 2 (the music was perfect) but, for us, it just didn’t come off.

I wish they’d understood what players like about these type of games and got out of their own way, concentrating on telling an engaging story with difficult, plot-changing decisions (or at least the façade of them) to make, instead of wasting time filling the quieter moments with ‘traditional’ gameplay (i.e. directly moving a character around), just to give the player something to do. This type of game has been around for years now – it would be great if developers had the confidence now to back the key concept behind them completely.

Sweet summer child
I should say Fallout 76 here although I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, as apparently everyone but me knew it was going to be terrible before it came out. I heard the bad reports, of course, but I figured they were overblown and there was no way that it could be that bad. Well, as everyone knows, I was wrong.

It actually makes me angry just to think of the game now. Not just that I fell for the brand loyalty but that Bethesda put out such a buggy, broken, badly thought out game. Even if there hadn’t been a single bug in it the whole no non-player characters ruins the atmosphere. Just terrible.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

The let-down scale
I think there’s often a consensus on some of the bigger let-downs in gaming and I’ve rarely been exempt from the effects. Grand Theft Auto 4, Mass Effect 3, and Fallout 4 were big ones, where we all probably tried to convinced ourselves for as long as possible that they were as good as we hoped they were.

None of them were really that bad though, so I’ve reserved my main choices for those that were real disasters on the let-down scale, despite the hype and expectation.

Probably unsurprisingly for me they’re all from Nintendo, starting with the dreadful Wii middle years. Each E3 Wii presentation would open with seemingly endless smug self-congratulations from execs about how many non-gamers had bought a Wii, while actual gamers who actually pay attention to E3 remained starved for news of ‘proper’ games. The infamous Wii Music E3 was probably the one that encouraged me to exchange my Wii for a Rock Band set.

Then not long after that was the 3DS release. I don’t think I’d ever seen a more infectiously enthusiastic run-up to a hardware launch in terms of the media’s reception. I even went to a preview event in Glasgow to see it in the flesh, which I’d never done before or since for anything in gaming.

On release, the heel turn was instantaneous. You couldn’t get a game for under £45, the unit itself was probably overpriced and there wasn’t a killer app in sight. It made me wonder why nobody seemed to see such a poor launch coming, as though there was some sort of denial or insistence that there was something amazing that we just hadn’t been aware of yet. It was the last time I bought hardware on day one as I picked mine up with Street Fighter 4 and played it for about half an hour before wondering what else I could’ve done with £300.

Not completely deterred from buying Nintendo hardware, though, I still got a Wii U when Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was unveiled and Mario Kart 8 launched in 2014. I discount the abysmal launch of that system here because I deliberately avoided it till there was some good news. Despite that excellent 30 second Zelda trailer, we would have to wait another two years to see anything more of note. In the meantime, what we got was… the 2015 E3 Direct.

I can’t remember if it was confirmed beforehand that Zelda wouldn’t show up at all but what we got instead felt like a blatant betrayal of the expectation that they’d take this one great chance to justify the machine’s existence. A Star Fox Zero that looked like an early PlayStation 2 game and… I can’t even remember what else, probably yet another unambitious 2D platformer. It convinced me that Nintendo had unofficially forsaken the machine just after Splatoon came out, that Zelda would launch with the console’s successor and any other big games that were a decent way into development would be shifted over too (likely Super Mario Odyssey at least).

Thinking about it, they’re just about due another big let-down and while I’ve got my fingers crossed it wouldn’t surprise me much if the anticipated next Direct video confirms there’s very little of note for 2020 because all their next projects are taking too long. At least if that happens it’ll be less about bad or complacent decisions and more about difficult schedule management. And who know, maybe if it’s actually good news it’ll show they’ve learned some of the big lessons they should have from past let-downs.

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