Are modern video games setting themselves up to fail? The hype machine that helps to sell games is also a large part of the reason why some are met with disappointment from gamers who expected something better, or just different, from the finished product. There are countless examples of misleading reveal trailers, mechanics and gameplay modes going missing, and games simply promising too much with hyperbole that they couldn’t deliver on.
Although it’s understandable that some publishers have to try their utmost to advertise their games in what is an evermore saturated market, sometimes they go at it too hard. Take, for instance, the recent Prey reboot. There were countless gameplay videos, trailers, and features on it long before release, which spoiled the surprise for many and may have contributed to the wildly differing reviews it has received so far.
There’s also the case that increased competition and publishers’ obsession with profits are putting too much pressure on developers to hit it out of the park each time. Video games, especially AAA titles, take a long time to make and nobody outside of the business should say they could do a better job, but whether it’s down to ridiculous deadlines or simply being overworked, more and more games are shipping incomplete.
It’s arguable that this generation has already seen more than enough disappointing games, so let’s explore twenty of them. Presented in no order, bear in mind that these games are not necessarily bad, just that they didn’t meet expectations.
1. Mighty No. 9
The perfect example of how not to be endearing to fans, Mighty No. 9 built up the hopes of Kickstarter backers with some gorgeous concept art which looked like it would scratch a Mega Man itch. Over time, the game became uglier and uglier to the point where it seemed as if someone had skimped out on the budget somewhere and spent money on terrible marketing campaigns instead.
An ill-judged trailer for Mighty No. 9 released by publisher Deep Silver managed to offend and bewilder plenty of gamers, destroying any goodwill left after it became clear that this wasn’t to be the Mega Man spiritual successor backers had hoped it would be. A bad joke about “anime fans crying on prom night” didn’t resonate and showed just how out of touch everything about the project was.
While not an outright slog to wade through, Mighty No. 9 is flat and lacking life. You may get something out of it if you haven’t yet, so hunt around for a copy – it’s being sold for crazily low prices already.
Evolve’s legacy won’t be the one that developers Turtle Rock would have hoped for. Instead of acting as the new dawn for a different kind of multiplayer game, Evolve’s a cautionary tale about trying to push the patience of gamers with an endless parade of DLC. If you didn’t play vanilla Evolve, you avoided some of the most blatant and aggressive pushing of microtransactions ever seen in gaming.
This might have been excusable if the rot didn’t set in with Evolve’s gameplay so soon, but thanks to how limited the content was, the early enjoyment of monster hunting became tiresome within hours. It doesn’t help that long stretches of matches involve walking, walking, and some more walking – the pacing wasn’t balanced properly at all.
Players left Evolve in their droves shortly after launch, eventually leading to its free-to-play version popping up on Steam, though it didn’t exactly save it. 2K parted ways with Turtle Rock months later, who must have been hoping they had teamed with another publisher.
3. The Order: 1886
Favouring style over substance, The Order: 1886 was the most-anticipated PS4 exclusive for the console before its release. It promised to deliver the true coming of next-gen visuals married with a gripping story. It only managed the former.
Releasing to mixed reviews, The Order was heavily criticised for the short length of its campaign, which could be bested in an afternoon’s sitting. A lack of multiplayer or any worthwhile collectibles meant that The Order was quickly forgotten about once players had stumbled through its lukewarm narrative after repetitive cover shooting galore. The skeleton of a great game was obvious, but for one reason or another, it never reached its full potential.
Also, it committed the cardinal sin of making fighting werewolves boring. How?
4. Watch Dogs
When Watch Dogs was announced, people went mad for it: an open-world with hacking on the next-generation of consoles? Beautiful rain physics? What’s not to like? As it turned out, there was a lot to turn your nose up at with Watch Dogs, which all started with its slightly insidious marketing campaign.
Heavily downgraded visually from its stunning reveal trailers, Watch Dogs had its fans (including some of the Vultures), but it’s gone down as an unforgivable disappointment for most. While it isn’t a poor game by any means, over-simplified hacking and diabolical driving were just two of the problems it faced, not to mention the fact that its protagonist is about as charming as a cigarette butt left out in the rain.
Its sequel, Watch Dogs 2, was a much-improved effort but still suffered from relatively underwhelming sales. Gamers don’t forget.
5. For Honor
When For Honor works, it’s a delight and easily one of the most original games currently on consoles and PC. It has a combat system which is tricky to pick up but incredibly satisfying to master, a wide selection of different characters to choose from, and a single-player campaign that probably wasn’t necessary but feels like a welcome addition nonetheless.
But when For Honor doesn’t work, it’s one of the most frustrating gaming experiences you’re ever likely to have. Connectivity is the main issue, kicking players out constantly and unbalancing everything for those who are left, which is all down to Ubisoft’s misguided use of peer-to-peer networking in a game where the tiniest of mistakes are penalised.
The future is looking better for For Honor, but after releasing with such poor matchmaking and unruly prices for cosmetic add-ons, too much damage may have already been done.
6. The Division
The biggest disappointment that lies with The Division is how its faithful rendering of New York City is ultimately wasted. Instead of acting as a world to explore and get lost in, it’s just a series of empty streets, repetitive firefights, and aimless wandering in vain as you try to find the fun.
The fun in The Division does come, but you need some friends with you – as a solo experience, The Division is often like pulling teeth. Going up against the bullet sponge enemies on your own is a quick way for the tedium to set in, going from cover to cover without much variation. With some friends, though, things improve, but the feeling of wasted potential is hard to shake.
For squandering its premise and having some truly terrible PVP, The Division earns a spot here. It’s so divisive that a sequel might have been quietly canned.
The Division clearly didn’t learn its lessons from Destiny: Bungie’s huge action RPG that arrived on a wave of unmatched hype to the sounds of “meh” once players had settled into what the game was all about. Shooting the same enemies over and over again with the pretense of storylines to contextualise it all is what Destiny had to offer back in 2014.
While it’s worth mentioning that Bungie have worked hard over the years to improve upon the vanilla Destiny experience, which is looked back on as a dark period by its own fans, the genre-smashing game we were promised has still not been delivered. As satisfying as its shooting feels, there has to be more to draw the player in other than the promise of getting more gear to make the shooting slightly better.
Destiny 2 is already looking like a significant departure, so here’s hoping it can deliver a far more varied and enthralling bit of space combat. All it needs is an actual story and it will already be a better game.
2016 was not a banner year for Keiji Inafune. Not only did Mighty No. 9 fail to deliver on its promise, but Inafune’s other venture, ReCore, which he served as an executive producer on, also struggled after mixed reviews and a lack of interest.
An action-adventurer with heavy dystopian leanings, ReCore suffered from technical problems at launch, greeting players with seemingly endless loading screens and a unhealthy barrage of bugs. It also didn’t help itself with the pace it set: collectibles were required to progress further, so backtracking took away most of its momentum. ReCore never really gets going, which was reflected in its so-so sales on Xbox One and PC.
With a couple of earlier patches and another marketing push, ReCore could have still reached cult status. Sadly, it seems it might be too late.
9. The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian is not a bad game – it’s probably the most contentious entry on this list. While it has its merits, which include beautiful art design and a heartwarming dynamic between its two leads, much of it feels antiquated, as if it was meant to be released during the previous generation. Because it was.
Originally scheduled for release on the PS3 in 2000 BC, The Last Guardian was the most notoriously AWOL video game of all-time. Developed by Team ICO, the game showed huge promise before quietly disappearing for years. When it resurfaced, the reaction was overwhelming and led to a huge amount of hype. Releasing in late 2016 to a broad range of opinions, many felt that its time in development hell did it no favours.
The companion AI is sloppy to the point of rage and the mechanics offer too much trial and error for the simplest of tasks, but there’s no denying The Last Guardian still has something. It’s nowhere near Ico or Shadow of the Colossus, which a lot of gamers were expecting it to be, but The Last Guardian is absolutely still worth investigating.
10. Dead Rising 4
Where do you even begin with why Dead Rising 4 was so divisive with fans? Was it the drastic changes made to Frank West? The simplified gameplay? Much of what made the series so great being gutted out? Or perhaps it was because the game launched in a terribly buggy state?
The signs weren’t good for Dead Rising 4 from the off. Fan reception to the new Frank wasn’t kind, leading to plenty of boycotts and disenfranchisement. It wasn’t much better on release, either – the game released to a mild reception from critics and was already forgotten about before 2016 was up. It released on December 6.
Sales suffered as it shifted under a million physical copies, down from Dead Rising 3 with 1.5 million retail copies sold. When you consider that its predecessor would have had a smaller install-base as an Xbox One launch title, the future for the series just looks bleaker.
Let’s not even talk about Capcom locking the true ending behind a paywall.
11. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Is Inquisition one of the most polarising RPG games ever released? It sure seems like it; no two people will ever share the same opinion about Bioware’s fantasy epic.
Lavished with critical acclaim upon release, Inquisition looked like it would go down as one of the most revered games in Bioware’s impressive back-catalogue. However, hindsight has been seriously unkind to Inquisition with many fans noticing all of its superimposed flaws, such as the busywork sidequests, characterless areas, and less than convincing romance options.
Personally, I had a lot of time for Inquisition back in 2014, though it’s easy to see why most were disappointed by it. Hopefully a new Dragon Age will come along that we can all agree on, but only if EA stop divvying BioWare up for other projects.
12. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Nobody’s going to claim that Catalyst is a bad game. It can often be a fun, if slightly shallow, excuse to run around and chop some guys in the neck. Its freerunning is solid if unspectacular and its story is serviceable. If you’re looking for something for a rainy day, this might suit you well.
So why is has it gone down as a disappointing reboot? Expectations skyrocketing to unmanageable levels after too long a wait, unfortunately. The original Mirror’s Edge was by no means a critical or commercial darling, so the fact that a sequel was published by EA should be seen as a small miracle.
The problem with obsessing over something you love is that when you do eventually get your own way after years of waiting, you’ve built it up the point where it’s impossible for it it be what you hoped it would. Catalyst is the perfect example of that with Yooka-Laylee‘s wide range of opinions and verdicts being the most recent. They’ve both just been put up on a pedestal that they have no hope of getting down from without some backlash. You just know that if Half-Life 3 is ever released, people will still be disappointed.
13. Halo 5
One of the most infamous cases of misleading marketing in modern gaming, Halo 5 promised an incredible showdown between Master Chief and Locke, the series’ new protagonist. The trailers made it look like a grand battle that the player would lose themselves in, smearing the blood of their enemies across their face while screaming of Valhalla.
It was a cutscene. The big confrontation which acted as the centerpiece for everything exciting about the game was relegated to an underwhelming cutscene instead.
While Halo is Halo and will always retain the same solid gameplay, Halo 5 also dropped the franchise’s beloved split-screen while overloading the multiplayer with microtransactions. Without even realising it, 343 Industries created the perfect metaphor for the state of gaming in the 21st century.
14. Star Wars Battlefront
DICE’s vision of Battlefront is a weird game to nail down. It’s difficult to argue that it isn’t the most well-realised Star Wars video game in terms of visuals and audio, but when you compare it to its predecessors from ten years ago, it falls down almost everywhere else by comparison.
The biggest complaint given about Battlefront was that it lacked content – whether it was modes, maps, or characters, the reboot was clearly some way off the full experience fans had hoped for. Much of it was locked away behind extortionately priced DLC, leading many to deride publisher EA for cutting the game up and charging extra for what it should have been at launch.
The sequel still has a lot to do to turn fans back around, but with the reveal that Battlefront II won’t have a season pass, maybe now we can have the Battlefront the series deserves.
15. Pokemon Go
There’s no denying that Pokemon Go was pure magic when it released, a worldwide phenomenon which brought people together from all walks of life in the hopes of catching memories of youth. But then people started to realise just how deeply flawed Niantic’s experience was and how little was being done to change things, many left their trainer lives behind.
Constant crashes, a lack of updates, and a routine that seemed to egg players towards microtransactions all combined to push people away. Although nobody could have guessed the extent to which the mobile game would explode, Niantic should have been better prepared to deal with the onslaught of new players. Instead, they left it too late and squandered millions of players as a result.
Pokemon Go, while now nowhere near the levels of love it was once at, still has a lot of fans. Hopefully Niantic can come back with a properly fleshed out sequel down the line so we can enjoy the Pokemon equivalent of a Summer of Love again.
16. Mass Effect: Andromeda
I like Andromeda. It even has glimpses of greatness which almost make me love it. As steadfastly as I have defended the game around these parts, it’s impossible to deny that it was a big disappointment for a lot of long-time Mass Effect fans.
Although people were most vocal about the game’s strange facial animations, it shouldn’t be used as the main example when the game has deeper and more damaging flaws, which owe a lot to a reportedly messy development period for BioWare. A lot of its gameplay is barely incentivised busywork and it just generally lacked the same spark which made its predecessors so beloved.
Andromeda’s troubled launch will probably go down in notoriety, but there’s still a good game to be found if you decide to pick it up. It’s just not the game most were hoping for after five years of waiting.
Alone in the Dark has suffered at the hands of its publisher, even more so than any Konami pachinko tie-in, with Atari beginning a slow and steady descent towards infamy by turning their beloved properties into shovelware. So when Frédérick Raynal, the man who created the series and an entire subgenre of horror in the process, announced that he would be developing a new game, excitement was high.
Unfortunately, 2Dark simply couldn’t deliver on its distinctive style to add another gem to Raynal’s legacy. Beyond frustrating trial and error gameplay, stodgy level design, and an art style which titillates more than it invokes fear all add up to make it a huge disappointment. Patience is required to make it past 2Dark’s problems, but even then it’s hard to say that it’s worth the trouble.
It’s a shame, because Raynal is capable of great things. More horror games like 2Dark are needed, those that try things differently, but Raynal just wasn’t successful in pulling it off this time. He’ll be back, I’m sure.
Did you forget about the most recent Thief game? You’re not alone. It came out to the sound of shrugging shoulders from critics and gamers upon its release in 2014 and has fallen further and further into obscurity ever since. Quite the alarming outcome for a new entry in one of the stealth genre’s most beloved series’.
Hampered by technical problems, Thief struggled to make much of an impression on a gaming public which was still transitioning between console generations. It didn’t help that it felt oddly out of place in the landscape at the time, proving to be a game stuck with dated mechanics while also struggling to do anything contemporary. The worst thing that happened to Thief, though? Dishonored.
Despite some recent rumours, Thief looks like it may be in the shadows as a series for a long time. It’s a shame, because you feel like Garrett still has plenty of cupboards to raid and heads to club.
19. No Man’s Sky
It’s almost perfunctory to write anything about why No Man’s Sky turned out to be such a huge disappointment. I would basically be regurgitating the same story relayed time and time again by countless websites, blogs, and YouTubers. It’s quite possibly the most notoriously disappointing video game ever, not just of this generation.
Whether it’s down to fans hyping the game to ungodly levels, Sean Murray’s dodgy interviews, or a lack of understanding of what the game was actually about, No Man’s Sky was not well-received after players had spent more than a couple of hours with it. The game’s first two hours should be crystallised and kept in a vault somewhere. They were great, so it’s unfortunate that the rest of what was on offer turned to tedium so quickly.
No Man’s Sky is going to make a fascinating case study or documentary when the dust has totally settled. Hello Games are seemingly doing all they can to fix the damage, but they may as well try to plug the holes in the Titanic with A4 paper instead.
20. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Do you treasure childhood memories of the Pro Skater series? You might want to avoid Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, then – Activision and Robomodo are here to curl one out on your nostalgia with one of the biggest gaming disappointments ever released.
Even the most optimistic of gamers would find it hard to argue against Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 being nothing more than an opportunity to earn a quick buck off of the series’ once great name. Activision have a nasty habit of capitalising on nostalgia (as seen with the Infinite Warfare/Modern Warfare remaster debacle), so they must have leapt at the chance of cutting corners with this disaster from 2015.
Laughably buggy, soulless, and lacking an unbelievable amount of content at launch, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was universally hated by fans and critics. The only good thing the game achieved was providing something for both to agree on for once.
21. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
There’s a pattern emerging with the Deus Ex series. Every time a great new entry is released, the follow-up struggles to match what came before it. It happened with Invisible War after the seminal first game, and now it’s happened with Mankind Divided after the surprisingly excellent Human Revolution.
Mankind Divided is not a bad game by any means. At its core, it’s a solid action RPG with some nice tweaks to the its predecessors. The trouble lies with how rushed it feels, as if it could have done with at least a few more months in development. If Eidos Montréal had been given just a little more time, maybe they could have put together a proper ending. Instead, Mankind Divided just sort of ends – unless you buy the DLC, of course.
The decision to include a microtransaction-dependant multiplayer also rankled a lot of fans, especially when it was revealed that it was jammed in by a third-party dev at the last second. Mankind Divided didn’t soar like Icarus but instead struggled to just get off the ground. It’s a shame, though it’s absolutely worth a look at the dirt cheap prices it’s going for already.
Which of these games disappointed you the most? Or maybe you think I made some wrong choices? Please feel free to make suggestions – this is a constantly updating list that we will be added to over time.
Originally published 17/06/17