After the epic Top 20 Games of 2010, here’s a list of gaming let-downs
Alan Wake (Remedy Entertainment, Xbox 360)
This noir-esque “psychological action thriller” from Max Payne
developer Remedy emerged blinking into the sunlight after no less
than five years of development and vast hype. But despite its inclusion in the Guardian’s Top 20 Games of 2010, I felt that a mediocre game hid beneath its pretentious literary epidermis. Sure, it was atmospheric, scary and cinematic, but it didn’t half rub your face in it with a smug sense of self-satisfaction. The fight scenes were repetitive, the hyper-addictive gameplay that made Max Payne so special was nowhere in evidence, and between action sections you were force-fed vast chunks of sludgy and cliché-ridden story in video or sometimes even text format. In trying too hard to be an interactive literary experience, it totally forgot that it was supposed to be a game. Or even fun.
Alpha Protocol (Obsidian Entertainment, PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Ugly and generic to look at, and annoying to play, this RPG from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights and Fallout: New Vegas completely failed to live up to its pedigree. The concept was unusual and interesting, and there were a few genuinely neat touches sprinkled around. Unfortunately, pretty much everything else about it let it down, especially the clunky combat and the ludicrous AI.
APB: All Points Bulletin (Realtime Worlds, PC)
Basically Grand Theft Auto, except online and massively multiplayer. How could any developer possibly screw that up? Well, APB, in planning since as early as 2005, and a long-time pipedream of GTA lead developer David Jones, comprehensively answered that question. The driving dynamics were appalling: buggy, unsatisfying and constantly irritating. Gunfights weren’t much better, and while occasionally completing missions with big groups of friends could be satisfying, the gameplay mechanics hamstrung the experience. After a very poor public and critical response, APB was shut down in September, about three months after it was launched. It may reappear in 2011 as a free-to-play, but it is more likely that it has been flushed for good.
Clash of the Titans (Game Republic, Xbox 360, PS3)
Developer Game Republic pretty much went at the God of War franchise with tracing paper to make this. It is therefore a mystery to me how they managed to miss God of War’s fun factor by a matter of miles. Combat was fiddly and complicated and repetitive and frankly terrible, the story felt like a child’s My First Greek Myths And Legends book translated from the original Greek by someone who didn’t speak Greek with no interest in Greek myths or legends, or writing of any kind, and the characters were blander than homeopathic soup.
Dark Void (Airtight Games, PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
This game had a very promising idea: a 1930s-era fighter pilot gets sucked into an alternative reality through the Bermuda Triangle and finds a jet pack. Unfortunately, everything about the execution of this sub-par shooter just lacked spark. It purloined bits from much better games – the jungle from Uncharted 2, the cover mechanism from Gears of War – but then clumsily ruined them all, amalgamating them into a single messy lump.
Fighters Uncaged (AMA Studios, Xbox 360 Kinect)
Remember all that fuss about Kinect changing the way we interact with games forever? Well, this lame beat-’em-up showed that we shouldn’t always believe the marketing. Buggy, agonisingly slow to respond and unsatisfying when your movements finally translated to the screen, it was a total let-down. To add insult to considerable injury, it was also cursed with one of the worst soundtracks any game has ever had, and its lack of any multiplayer – a beat-’em-up without a multiplayer! – was the icing on the cowpat.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (EA Bright Light Studio, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
A change of direction from the previous games led EA’s Bright Light Studio to stray from its comfort zone, and it showed. Buggy, difficult to control and packed with side-missions that were poorly-disguised filler, its attempt to become more of a darker, combat-oriented game floundered helplessly on poor combat, worse duck-and-cover mechanics, and level design that it would be charitable to call uninspired. It doesn’t help that there’s also a Lego Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coming out, which is probably going to blow this completely out of the water with all the usual Lego-y brilliance.
Iron Man 2 (Sega Studios San Fransisco, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
This execrable game wins extra disappointment points for having two battle-suits on the box and then failing to provide a multiplayer: just an alternate suit to play the one-player mode with. Not that a two-player option would have rescued Iron Man 2. This charmless – in fact, spectacularly dreadful – movie tie-in actually managed to screw up in every category: controls, combat, movement, camera, graphics and story (despite a stellar cast of voice actors drafted in from the movie). A repulsor blast to the face would be preferable to ever encountering Iron Man 2 again.
Saw II: Flesh and Blood (Zombie Studios, Xbox 360, PS3)
After the first game, which was a sort of greyed-out and watered-down version of Arkham Asylum peppered with arbitrary quick-time sequences, the second did not have much to live up to. Somehow it still managed to disappoint. Elements that were even the slightest bit promising in the first game – the puzzles and the tense atmosphere – were washed away in a putrid flood of lazy design and cheap shock’n’gore. Saw II manages to make its predecessor appear almost competent in comparison.
Sonic Free Riders (Sonic Team, Xbox 360 Kinect)
Another launch title for the Kinect that let everyone down. This time it featured our favourite blue spiky flea-bitten ringworm-riddled woodland bug-eater and his friends riding hover-boards. This game doesn’t really belong on the “disappointments” list because the last few titles in the series have been critically savaged and expectations were sub-zero. However, though we don’t know why Microsoft decided despite universal disapproval that Free Riders was to be a launch game on the Kinect, we might at least have expected them to make it work properly. They didn’t. Control was achieved more by luck and flailing than by positive activity on the part of the player, and the game was hilariously limited in scope.
• Which have been your biggest gaming disappointments of the year? Let us know in the comments section and save other readers your plight!