It says a lot about how consistently good 2016 has been for new video games so far that this list is much more difficult to put together than the one I wrote for 2015 at the same halfway point. More games have delivered than they have disappointed and there are still a lot to come that would have to be going out of their way to be anything other than good.
The big guns have rarely fired any blanks, the indie community is as vibrant and excellent as ever, and the relative lack of hype has meant that expectations have been tempered, which is only ever a good thing. Developers seem like they’re now properly getting to grips with the hardware of the next generation along with the fact that most are dropping development on older generation versions of the same game, which, as sad as it is to see, is just smart.
With that being said, I think it’s important to note something before we jump into thing: disappointing does not necessarily mean bad. In fact, a lot of these games actually have their moments of brilliance. What you will find below are games that simply haven’t met expectations, were largely uninspired upon release, or not very good compared to earlier games in their respective franchises.
Here are the most disappointing games of 2016. Disagree with my list? Feel like there’s something I missed? Leave a comment and let’s talk.
5. The Walking Dead: Michonne
The perfect example of a game not doing its franchise justice, The Walking Dead: Michonne instead does more to show how decrepit the Telltale engine is becoming more than to keep fans happy until season three comes out. Animations are janky, the loading times are immersion killers, and it all chugs along without threatening to pick up the pace for even a second. As a spin-off, a short playthrough was expected, but Michonne barely even gets going before it abruptly ends.
What could have been a meaningful examination of one of the most mysterious characters in The Walking Dead universe instead raises plenty of questions about Telltale. It seems like they’re taking on too many different properties all once. Michonne plays like the creative team are burnt out with nothing fresh left to say. That being said, if you’re a TWD fanatic, Michonne might have something for you.
Street Fighter V launched with almost no content for casual players, especially considering how brutal and unforgiving online play is. When your target audience is primarily the eSports crowd, you might be in trouble.
In my review, I mentioned being excited to go back to play against other people online. I never did, purely because of how serious the online community was and how little else there was to do within the other sparing modes. As a dirty casual, I felt rather alienated – I have to wonder how many others felt the same.
Modes were missing and fighters were AWOL, with the former being patched in four months after release and the latter being available as DLC. Misjudged and lazy at best, unethical at worst, this move did a lot to make fans feel like they were playing an Early Access version of one of the gaming world’s most prolific beat ’em ups. The fighting is still as tight and satisfying as it’s always been, meaning that many have found it easy to forgive and forget now that the game’s in the state it should have been when it launched.
3. Umbrella Corps
I was in the minority leading up to the release of Umbrella Corps. Sure, I was cynical (didn’t they already do this with Operation Raccoon City?), but I had hoped that it would be a fun distraction if nothing else. What I found instead was one of the most anaemic and maddening online experiences I have ever had, not just this year.
Putting players in the shoes of Umbrella rookies, you’re tasked with running around like an arseless chicken and trying to avoid getting a headache. Umbrella Corps is brash and obnoxious; if it isn’t the announcer saying meaningless tripe in your ear, it’s the machine gunfire that sounds like a pencil sharpener going into overdrive. Graphically, it has about as much elegance as one-legged swan on its hen do trying to get served in a nightclub – the animations are pretty much that, too.
Above all else, Umbrella Corps is a failure because it simply isn’t fun. Instead of offering competitive multiplayer in the world of Resident Evil, most matches have you trying to melee the opposition over and over again, all the while trying to complete pointless, tiring objectives. The only game on this list that I can say is outright terrible and probably the worst game of 2016 so far.
2. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
If you’re ever looking for a reason to rally against nostalgia, you need only check out Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Despite being rough around the edges, the original game became a cult classic, leading to many crying out for a sequel for years.
When EA announced that they would be bringing the series back from the dead, people were excited, no doubt because of the game’s novel approach and how Faith’s story would transition to the next generation. The game we received instead wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. It was just okay, at least in my opinion. I know there’s going to be some who disagree, but for my money, Catalyst was stuck in the past.
The freerunning in Catalyst is probably the most refined and satisfying we’ve seen in any game, giving players plenty of opportunities to feel like they’re really scaling a building and making death-defying leaps. Where the sequel fails, however, is in the combat and story, both pretty uninspired with the former feeling decidedly outdated. That being said, Mirror’s Edge is a series that deserves good things for at least trying to be different, so here’s hoping this isn’t the last time we see Faith.
1. The Division
About as polarising as a video game can be, The Division is basically this year’s Destiny, a comparison that isn’t exactly original, but is still completely merited. Both games had unlimited potential and promise, no doubt bolstered by exaggerative marketing campaigns, but once they were actually in the hands of gamers, it became clear what they actually were. Grinds.
Spend two hours with The Division and you have more or less had the whole experience; it does little to try to mix things up throughout. It’s tedious travelling between objectives in an empty open-world to fire 200 bullets into a single enemy, just so there’s a higher chance of finding good loot. Rinse and repeat. Hardly the best use of a passionately recreated digital New York City.
The Division is a million miles away from the initial feel players were treated to in its early trailers. What looked like it would be heavily reminiscent of an open-world The Last of Us ended up being something half as original and not even a fraction as inspired. It has its good ideas, yes, but The Division just doesn’t do enough with its scale and concept to warrant any of the hype. Let’s not forget how pitiful the DLC has been for the game; filler that should have been included from the offset.
All things considered, it’s worth remembering that Ubisoft usually need a couple tries with their new IPs before they nail the formula. It was the case with Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia and many others, and seems to apply to Watch Dogs too, so let’s hope that The Division doesn’t end up in a body bag and that much more can be done with a sequel. It has the bones, now it just needs the muscle.
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