2017 was such a good year for games that I have no doubt you were expecting me to start off by writing exactly that. No matter how many publications, bloggers, and YouTubers say it, however, it doesn’t make it any less true: if we are to look back on the year that was in a decade’s time, 2017 might go down as one of the best ever.
Everywhere you looked, there was quality across a mighty span of genres, but particularly on the open world front. Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero D–look, let’s not waste time listing off the same massive successes that have had praise lavished on them over and again; we have a top fifty countdown for exactly that. Let’s drop the visage of positivity and start complaining.
When last year in gaming wasn’t about the good stuff, it was about the very questionable. 2017 was a year in which big publishers took the inch many fans gave them and proceeded to go all-out Proclaimers and take the piss on the mileage. Never has there been such a widespread pushback on the encroachment of microtransactions in fully-fledged, full-priced AAA games before to the extent that it’s going to be interesting to see who dares to even try to add anything related to loot within a rectangular shape in 2018.
Alongside the anti-consumer disappointments, there were also games that were deflating for a far simpler reason: they just weren’t very good. As we look ahead to what 2018 has in store for us, let’s look back on some of the most disappointing games of 2017 in the hope that some lessons are learned.
It would almost be a smart choice on Disney’s part to publish a book about the many misadventures of Battlefront 2 and add it to the official Star Wars canon, such is the deep well of controversies and stories that they have to draw from. The release of Battlefront 2 was as fascinating to watch as it was disheartening to anyone who had hoped beyond hope that EA could turn it around from the middling 2015 reboot.
Early signs were good: there would be no Season Pass and extra content that was seriously missing when its predecessor was rushed out to meet The Force Awakens’ theatrical release. However, it came at a cost, that cost being the Battlefront 2’s ludicrous progression system that paired upgrades with random chance. With loot crates, players could unlock Star Cards that would give certain buffs that could effectively give an advantage, but the fact that these could be purchased with real money led to many pay-to-win fears that were not unfounded.
A monumental backlash –also bolstered by something as simple as a spreadsheet detailing how long it would take to unlock all Heroes and Villains through pure gameplay– soon followed, leading to EA and DICE outright removing microtransactions for the time being. While the game at the core of Battlefront 2 might be solid and its depiction of Star Wars the most faithful yet, its business model was anything but. If you can say anything to defend the game, at least it wasn’t this.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Compared to the majority, I didn’t hate Mass Effect Andromeda – at some points, I kind of even really liked it. It’s easy to see where a lot of the negativity came from, however: it just wasn’t of the same caliber that fans had grown to expect over a decade of spacefaring sexing.
The first warning sign came during the game’s trial period on EA Access and the poor facial animations that so many clamped onto and refused to let go. Of all the games that outright failed to meet expectations in 2017, it’s almost wild that a AAA game was sunk by a tired lady’s face. Millions of dollars invested and jeopardised because someone forgot how to make humans look like humans and not botoxed cardboard boxes that fell off the back of a van.
Admittedly, its flaws go deeper than its janky visuals. None of your shipmates really hold a candle to the likes of Garrus and the Ryders are unable to stick to one personality throughout the whole game. Sadly, with some more time, Andromeda wouldn’t have been held in the same high regard as the entries that came before it, but the BioWare name might not have been so repeatedly embarrassed.
Need For Speed Payback
EA have picked up a triple combo on this list already – it’s hard to argue that they didn’t have the worst year of any big publisher in 2017. Payback, while not nearly as scorned as EA’s two other big disappointments, also felt rushed and doomed from the start.
Arriving almost two years too late to jump aboard peak Fast and the Furious popularity, Payback gamely tried again to deliver a compelling narrative experience into the Need For Speed franchise after the incredibly awkward reboot cringed everyone to near death. Taking heavy inspiration from Vin Diesel’s band of gravity-bothering miscreants, it just didn’t work.
While the racing at the heart of Payback was good enough but not enthralling, everything that surrounded it rang its death knell. Against all odds, EA somehow bravely introduced loot boxes into a racing game; an especially ballsy move considering the backlash against Forza Motorsport 7. Pair that with a grind to unlock things naturally and you had a game that more than nudged you towards dipping into your pockets.
Agents of Mayhem
Voltic’s Agents of Mayhem isn’t a bad game. It just doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s not a new Saints Row game, but it doesn’t feel like something entirely new either. Agents of Mayhem is a bizarre middle ground of infectious personality and tiresome gameplay that never seems to sure of itself.
Saints Row makes up a lot of its DNA: if you’ve ever played one of its increasingly eccentric entries, you’ll find that Agents of Mayhem doesn’t stray too far away from a successful formula by pulling back on the vulgarity and dialling up the Saturday morning cartoon appeal. It’s a nice twist that works for a while, but serious repetition sets in before too long.
One of the most noticeable things about AoM was how it seemed to have the infrastructure of an online multiplayer game that would have an emphasis on squad gameplay. All the elements were there and it might have greatly enriched the game had there been the ability to play with friends, but instead, Agents of Mayhem’s lonely, empty world and monotonous missions made it one worth forgetting.
Shadow of War
One of 2014’s biggest surprise hits, Shadow of Mordor’s alternative approach to Middle-earth made it a compelling, slashy experience. As well as borrowing liberally from other franchises (most notably Assassin’s Creed and Arkham), Shadow of Mordor also had the pioneering Nemesis system as its trump card.
The Nemesis system returned this year and it was bigger and better than ever. However, WB Games also made sure to introduce every gamer’s least favourite two words: loot crates. While they had been popularised by Overwatch a year prior, Shadow of War‘s implementation of random chance rewards in a full-price AAA single-player was galling to many.
During my time with Shadow of War, I never spent extra to get ahead, but the temptation was always there; especially as there were prompts every time the game was paused. In addition, its entire endgame seemed to have been built around microtransactions. Away from the loot controversy, Shadow of War’s weak and lore-bending story didn’t help matters and neither did some very fiddly controls. None of this stops Shadow of War from being a good game –because it ultimately is– but it’s simply not as grand and compelling as it could have been, or even promised to be.
If Sonic Forces had released last year, the negative reception it received might not have been so harsh. The fact that Forces released in a similar timeframe to the excellent Sonic Mania certainly didn’t help it. On the one hand, you had a throwback spite-heavy platformer that fans had been begging for for years and on the other you had Sonic Team doing weird shit again.
While the introduction of a custom character feature was welcomed (and also welcomed some horrifying creations), the rest of the game was the same old story when it came to 3D Sonic as it has been for years. It just wasn’t as satisfying simple as its earliest predecessors, favouring ridiculous spectacle over engaging gameplay, which can be played at half attention due to how easy it is to just hold a button down and make progress.
The added 2D levels didn’t help matters, either, lacking the precision and finesse that Headcannon et al had perfected just months earlier. If you have to pick up a Sonic game from 2017, make sure that it isn’t this one.
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
One of the most obvious examples of bigger not always being better, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3‘s sloppy optimisation struggled to keep up with the game’s pointless open-world, creating one of the most frustrating games of 2017 in the process.
The problems with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 are plentiful, ranging from something as harmless to clipping to outright crashing. Combine the latter with the game’s atrocious checkpoint and saving system and you have the recipe for a broken skull from repeatedly bashing your head against a brick wall. It’s also a lethargic, unresponsive experience, playing like you’re not only against the enemies but also the game itself.
If there are to be any saving graces for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, the sniping, as you would hope, is often fantastic. But when you consider everything else, including a nonsensical story, poor voice acting, and a completely unnecessary open-world, there’s only one sniper game from last year you should check out.
When they work, nostalgia trips can be great, taking you back to your memories and reminding you why you loved something so much to begin with. In Syberia 3‘s case, however, the rose-tinted spectacles were off almost immediately when it became apparent that it stuck a little too closely to its decade old predecessors.
From its tank controls to its ropey presentation, Syberia 3 felt like a game that had been dug out of a time capsule too late. While also attempting to hit the console market, Syberia 3 made some unwise design concessions to make things easier to be played with a controller, but this only served to make PC players feel alienated with some cumbersome controls.
There’s a reason why point and click adventure games died a death – they just didn’t move with the times. Syberia 3’s biggest accomplishment was giving more evidence to that as one of the blandest games of last year.
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite
The game that turned iconic characters into varieties of potato, Infinite’s “unique” take on the appearance of the likes of Chun-Li and Captain America earned the scorn of many last year, which was made even worse when stacked against its competition and those that hadn’t even released yet. The stunning reveal of Dragon Ball FighterZ made Infinite’s glaring ugliness that much uglier.
It wasn’t just Infinite’s clearly overfed characters that sunk the game, it was also severely lacking in content. Whereas other entries in the series had a broad selection of modes to tuck into, Infinite only boasted an unfulfilling and dumb as heck story mode, a bland arcade, training, and standard online matches that suffered through connectivity issues.
Post-launch patches have been kinder to Infinite, but the damage has already been done and an opportunity has been missed. If FighterZ is successful, don’t be surprised to see MvC returns to its simpler roots in the future – if there is one for the franchise.
The WWE 2K series simply just hasn’t been able to innovate in this generation, constantly playing catch-up with games that came out ten years ago with the re-introduction of old modes and simple match types that should have been a part of the package a long time ago. The annual approach to releases is seriously hurting the series and 2K18 was the biggest evidence of that yet.
While emboldening its roster of recreated rosters, 2K18 forgot to sort something else out: its identity. Does it want to be a serious wrestling game that’s more in keeping with UFC or the arcade silliness of the earlier SmackDown titles? If it’s the former, it has a lot of work to do because it is just a lifeless, cynical affair each and every year.
Chuck in the customary array of bugs and gigantic patches and WWE 2K18 is the same story we’ve been sleepwalking our way through since 2K15. Time is running out to get it right before the end of this console cycle, but maybe time is exactly what they need.
Admittedly, if you walked into this Road Rash “homage” expecting a gem of a game that fully lives up to the cult appeal of the original game, you’re more than a bit naive. What you should expect, however, is a game that works. Sadly, it couldn’t even manage that.
Long delayed, Team 6 Studios vision of Road Rage took the choppers into an open-world (because of course it would) and forget to do the basics along the way. Sloppy visuals and plentiful glitches were the least of the game’s issues, however. It was porridge from top to bottom, featuring almost nothing to redeem its stagnant world and poor controls – in a vehicle-based game, the latter is pretty important.
Here’s a resolution for developers to stick to in 2018: if you can’t fill your open-world, close it. Not everything needs to go for the Ubisoft approach.
Troll and I
A cool concept let down by everything else, Troll and I is a buddy adventurer that borrows heavily from its inspirations while coming across as a poor imitation in the process. It’s so easy to make a furry character the MVP in any media, but Spiral House couldn’t even make the titular troll worth giving a damn about.
Lacking any real imagination despite being fantastical, Troll and I’s problems start at its fundamentals by featuring some frequently frustrating controls when scenarios require finesse and mechanics that we’ve seen done better elsewhere a million times before. The introduction of couch co-op might make for some entertaining YouTube content, but beyond that, it’s hard to recommend Troll and I if there’s still so much you have to catch up on from last year.