2019 has seen the launch of some of the best games of the current generation, and the last few months of the year is almost certain to bring plenty of Game of the Year contenders to the table. Not every release has had a successful launch, however. Some games merely underwhelmed when compared to the hype surrounding them, while others missed the mark altogether. Regardless of their reasons for letting down gamers, here’s a look back at some of the most disappointing releases of the year so far.
1. Rage 2
Developer: id Software/Avalanche Publisher: Bethesda
Despite inventive weapons and a charming comedic tone, the original Rage left many gamers and critics unimpressed by its brown and grey aesthetic and uninspired mission structure. When the team regrouped nearly a decade later, they brought on Just Cause developer, Avalanche Studios, to help them craft a fully open world with their trademark anything-goes mentality. Early preview footage of Rage 2 seemed destined to make amends with more colorful visuals, fun new vehicles to drive, and an abundance of unique and twisted ways to slaughter wasteland bandits.
The end result, however, was a whole lot of mediocrity. A wacky, punk-esque tone promised a truly bonkers experience, but polychromatic visuals and a collection of intriguing combat options couldn’t make up for a boring, desolate open world. Long stretches of driving with nothing between objectives made for mundane exploration, and it was only compounded by cookie-cutter tasks and repetitive resource collecting when you finally got some time outside of a vehicle. The shooting, driving, and upgrade systems were acceptable, but just being “acceptable” left Rage 2 feeling like a missed opportunity in a competitive market with so many better options available.
2. The Division 2
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft
Ubisoft is no stranger to cranking out sequels, and by the looks of things, The Division is a franchise that isn’t going away any time soon. Honestly, that’s okay because this year’s sequel to the hit MMO-lite looter shooter was a nice way to kill a few weeks. The top-notch shooting and focus on strategic teamwork returned, and they were joined by improved enemy variety and a reworked time-to-kill that made said enemies feel less like bullet sponges. Things could’ve been a lot worse, right?
Sadly, no matter how solid it felt to play, The Division 2 also copied over the original game’s repetitive gameplay loop, bland story and characters, and the mundane open world checklist of chores found in modern Ubisoft releases. There was nothing overtly bad about shooting and looting through the game’s crumbled version of Washington D.C., but there wasn’t enough new or exciting to experience, so The Division 2 simply never made a compelling argument for existing in the first place.
3. Jump Force
Developer: SPIKE CHUNSOFT Publisher: Bandai Namco
Merging so many classic anime characters into a single fighting game was an ambitious task that should’ve spelled instant success for developer Spike Chunsoft. Even non-anime fans huddled together in anticipation for the game’s release as trailers poured in promising smooth, spectacular fighting and a fascinating story. Unfortunately, the finished product didn’t have any of that and left many genre enthusiasts feeling robbed of their time and money.
Jump Force combined the anime designs of the characters with realistic skin and clothes to create freakish models that evoked discomfort more than excitement, and the production quality in narrative sequences was considerably below average. The story was as bland as it was hammy, serving as a boring transition into fighting sequences that were too simple to ever come close to being fun. Considering the dearth of launch content, the game lost most people from the get-go, and it would be surprising if we ever hear about a sequel to such a failed experiment.
Developer: BioWare Publisher: EA
Anthem claimed to offer a captivating narrative and thrilling exosuit gameplay, but what we got was a tedious slog from beginning to end. The campaign’s insipid story offered little in the way of choices, a move that felt particularly disappointing due to developer BioWare’s history with deep dialogue trees and gameplay freedom. With little narrative intrigue to make it worth suffering through the game’s endless hordes of enemies, monotonous quest design, and unsatisfying loot grind, Anthem began rapidly hemorrhaging players.
In the months after Anthem’s launch, BioWare stayed mostly quiet, and updates trickled in at a glacial pace. The lack of proper communication between the developer and the game’s playerbase led to further loss of interest and controversy, and BioWare seemed to only make things worse with each patch they released. As a final letdown, fans who rode out the rocky launch and following months of silence were eventually met with news that the game’s endgame content, Cataclysms, had been delayed. This exosuit fantasy just wasn’t meant to be.
5. Layers of Fear 2
Developer: Bloober Team Publisher: Bloober Team
2016’s disquieting Layers of Fear quickly gained traction with horror fans and cemented itself as a classic, so following up Bloober Team’s breakout hit with an equally successful sequel was destined to be a difficult task. It was one most fans expected the developer would be up to, so the announcement of the second game was as unsurprising as it was exciting. Sadly, Layers of Fear 2 was little more than a collection of poorly-implemented horror tropes and an incoherent mess of a story that left some players feeling disheartened about the series’ future.
Nonsensical plot aside, the sequel’s presentation felt like a major step down from the original, placing players in scenarios that evoked neither fear nor trepidation. As a result, the game felt like a walking simulator with eerie ambiance rather than a true horror game. Fun puzzles occasionally broke up the game’s otherwise mundane gameplay, but without any sense of threat looming or a gripping story to follow, Layers of Fear 2 never managed to be engaging. Perhaps a future game will course correct the franchise, but the horror genre would’ve been better off without this ugly blemish.
6. Days Gone
Developer: SIE Bend Publisher: SIE
Let’s get something out of the way up front: Days Gone isn’t a bad game. Hell, it has fantastic graphics, top-notch voice acting, and a cornucopia of zombies to mow through with its satisfying gunplay. What makes Days Gone a disappointing addition to 2019 really has little to do with any of its fundamental gameplay mechanics and more to do with the hype that surrounded it leading up to its April launch date. Early preview footage seemed to showcase a level of creative gameplay and emotional depth that was sure to earn the game a spot beside Sony’s other first-party heavy-hitters like God of War and The Last of Us.
What we actually got was, well, just another open world game. Every box Days Gone ticked had been ticked a thousand times prior by games equal or better, leaving Sony Bend’s apocalyptic survival game feeling underwhelming and redundant. This was ever-apparent in its tedious travel times to and from its waypoints housing banal fetch quests and an overabundance of other busywork to pad out the game time. Days Gone might have felt more like a more rewarding if it had opted for a more linear design and focused on its strengths, but as it stands, it was a decent zombie-killing romp through Oregon’s countryside that could’ve been so, so much more.
7. The Surge 2
Developer: Deck13 Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
2017’s The Surge was a sleeper hit, marrying its own brand of Dark Souls combat and exploration with a sci-fi motif, but it suffered from a handful of technical issues, and its single-facility setting resulted in its areas all looking and feeling too similar. So, it was a no-brainer that developer Deck13 would go back to the drawing board and aim to rectify these issues for The Surge 2 in order to bring the franchise more in line with the high expectations of genre fans. The end result, however, was a mixed bag.
While the recent sequel’s release came with an impressive selection of weapons and armor, a new character creation system, and the same satisfying core gameplay, none of this really changed the biggest problems with the original game. The new location of Jericho City was more expansive than the first game’s facility, but its locations still blurred together in a maze of buildings and alleys, and a general lack of polish and production quality often gave the game a very low-budget feel. The series has solid roots and a lot going for it, especially in how it builds on the genre’s combat mechanics in interesting ways, but a third game really needs to step up the quality in other areas too.
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