Another year, another opportunity for me to shout into an echo chamber about games that failed to live up to expectations.
2016 has been a mostly good, arguably fantastic year for games. Even if you’re the most cynical of cynics who plays ten minutes of a game before taking your barely formed opinion to the internet and letting your toxicity spill out like a BP oil well circa 2010, you have to see that. There have been more hits than misses from the AAA realm along with the traditionally steady output of quality indie titles to be enamoured by, and let’s not forget one or two surprise hits – who would have guessed that Titanfall 2 would be right up there as one of the year’s finest?
Making games is hard, there’s no getting around the fact. It’s a job that most people would never be capable of doing and to even be a part of a game’s production, years of education and plenty of lost hours of sleep are necessities. You have to empathise with a developer when their game doesn’t launch to a lot of love. Well, unless you’re number one on this list, but we’ll get to that.
Bear in mind that these aren’t necessarily bad games -that list would probably just consist of 70% of what came out on Steam in the last week- and that they’re games that, for whatever reason, didn’t quite make the grade. I only have six picks compared to last year’s ten, so somebody must be doing something right.
6. Umbrella Corps
Everybody knew (and probably even Capcom did) that Umbrella Corps was never going to steal the show at any awards shows this year. It had its critics right from the beginning, but there was still hope that it could pull through and offer some light entertainment to tide Resident Evil fans over between new releases in the main series.
No such luck. Umbrella Corps is as insipid as they come; a barely optimised squad-based shooter with almost no teamwork to be found. Even as a budget title, Umbrella Corps still felt overpriced, barely able to offer an incentive for players to return after more than fifteen minutes with its cumbersome controls, maddening melees, and lightweight gunplay.
I reviewed this game thanks to a copy sent to me by Capcom and have had absolutely no luck with any requests to them since, but I wouldn’t change my opinion for all the poor Resident Evil remasters in the world.
5. Pokemon Go
Nobody’s taking away from how positive an impact Pokemon Go had on the gaming and nerd community at large over a summer of glorious love. Wherever you looked, people were coming together that otherwise never would, far outweighing any negative stories the phenomenon created for itself.
Pokemon Go is disappointing because of just how unready it was for public consumption. Extended plays were nigh on impossible thanks to how often it crashed, how vampirically it sucked away your battery, and how there were many features missing promised in the game’s reveal trailer. For a few weeks, people were able to look past the mobile game’s many shortcomings and get lost in the hype. But it wasn’t to last: the repetitive battle system and never ending series of bugs did enough damage to turn people away in their millions.
It’s still going strong to this day, but you have to wonder if we’d still all be hooked to our phones out in the countryside if Pokemon Go hadn’t been naively released by Niantic, who simply weren’t prepared for its popularity. The future looks bright, though it could have looked even brighter.
4. The Division
Perhaps The Division’s greatest disappointment isn’t in how it plays or how little post-game content there was at launch, rather in how badly it squandered its own early hype to become something nobody thought it would be. What initially, judging from its fantastic teaser trailers, promised to be an emotional post-apocalyptic shooter was eventually revealed to be Destiny without all the pomp.
The Division smacks of a game that was meant to be something else entirely – whatever personality it had was ironed out somewhere along the way. While The Division’s story is by no means awful, it doesn’t do nearly enough with the source material to make it commendable. The premise of a disease ravaged New York City opens up all kinds of avenues, and yet Ubisoft’s effort only uses it as a pretext for why the world is so empty and full of hard to dispose of vandals instead of producing anything meaningful.
The grind of The Division is very real, making the game almost fade into obscurity just a few weeks after launch. People had seen enough of what it had to offer, and with so many other games to play, The Division didn’t do enough to convince them to stick around.
As this is Ubisoft, expect them to get it right with The Division 2 but sell half as many copies.
3. Mighty No. 9
Keiji Inafune was a name you could always bet on to deliver. He’s one of the most respected creators in the history of video games, being a part of some of the most significant titles of all-time, including Mega Man and Onimusha (which needs a reboot, by the way). But his legacy has taken a hell of a battering this year.
Mighty No. 9 was meant to be a spiritual successor to Mega Man, a franchise that Capcom have more or less thrown out of a moving car in recent years. Thanks to some beautiful looking preview art, Inafune had no problem in funding the project through Kickstarter and the stage was set for it to become a serious indie hit.
Instead, Mighty No. 9’s only real achievement is being a cautionary tale to backers. Just because a game looks good in concept, there’s absolutely no guarantee that’s how it will turn out, and when gameplay was finally unveiled, the buzz went flat, not helped by an utterly garbage marketing campaign in the months following. At release, after plenty of delays, reception was mixed from critics and fans. Even Sonic the Hedgehog decided to be the pot calling the kettle black and have a dig at Mighty No.9, which just goes to show how bad things were.
Better than nothing, though.
2. Dead Rising 4
The newest entry on this list might also be the most controversial pick. Dead Rising 4 is by no means a bad game; it even has flashes of being a great one. It takes its unenviable spot here because of just how wasted it all feels, despite how much fun it can be at times.
Dead Rising 4 plays like it’s having a personality crisis: it so badly wants to be as popular as its open-world peers by toning down the difficulty, but it also strips away a lot of the little quirks that have made the series so beloved over the last ten years. Dead Rising has always been its own thing and cultivated a dedicated fanbase because of that, not because it’s yet another open-world game with added zombies.
It’s also one of the buggiest messes I have played in this generation of gaming. An odd glitch here and there, sure; that’s fine. Making video games is hard and even harder when you’re working to a strict deadline. But when you stumble across a glitch with the same regularity as Frank making a quip, something’s gone seriously wrong.
Dead Rising 4 is a sanitised and constantly underwhelming entry in a series that deserves better. It’s still worth playing, but only if you can look past its many flaws.
1. No Man’s Sky
Is there any point in saying anything else? The amount of words written on angry social media posts, disheartened blogs, and scripts for YouTube videos is enough to put Stephen King’s bibliography to shame, so I’d just be treading old ground that a dead horse used to walk on at this point.
In short, No Man’s Sky was one of the most hotly anticipated games of all time going into 2016. It simply didn’t deliver on its early promise, whether that’s down to lies from its developer, overzealous marketing from Sony, or the unrealistic expectations of fans (myself included). Who’s to blame, though? It’s a bit of everything.
No Man’s Sky lives on, if only just. Respect goes to those who are still playing and enjoying Hello Games’ effort, though millions have jumped ship since launch and it’s easy to see why. Its legacy won’t be as grand as anyone would have hoped and it will instead go down as a startling reminder of the dangers of hype culture.
It’s not just the most disappointing game of 2016, it’s quite possibly the most disappointing game ever.
DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Basically Any Remaster
2016 was the year when the AAA industry went full Apple and outsourced their remasters to people who had no idea what they were doing. Here’s a fun game: name one remaster out this year that didn’t need a patch or have some controversy behind it. I’ll wait.
READ MORE: 10 Most Disappointing Games of 2015