13 of the Biggest Letdowns in Video Game History
People get hyped about video games, and for good reason. High-profile games are big productions with enormous marketing budgets meant to get gamers pumped up for launch day. But sometimes the finished product doesn’t live up to expectations. Sometimes big games fail, and sometimes they fail spectacularly. Here are 13 games everyone wanted to be good, but for reasons unique to each one, they simply weren’t. They’re presented in descending order of their Metacritic scores.
Metacritic score: 68
It sounds like such a great premise: an online first-person shooter with Mirror’s Edge-like parkour that lets you navigate the terrain with the grace and speed of a cat. Although the setup passes muster, Brink doesn’t deliver where it counts. The AI is bad, the parkour is spotty, the content is thin with only eight maps, and the story isn’t worth telling.
Brink is a stylish game, sure, but style is nothing without the substance to back it up. It’s not an embarrassing mess like some of the games further down the list, but it could have been so much more.
Instead, try Destiny.
12. Resident Evil 6
Metacritic score: 67
Resident Evil 4 is widely considered the best survival horror game ever made. The sequel ratcheted up the action and the shooting, but it still provided a tense horror experience. Expectations were high for Resident Evil 6 because it was a new entry in what felt like the definitive survival horror game series.
Unfortunately, what Capcom delivered was a mishmash of too much over-the-top action and too little horror. With its lengthy shootouts and unnecessary driving sequences, RE6 felt more like Transformers than Tremors.
Instead, try Dead Space 3.
11. Too Human
Metacritic score: 65
The premise of this game mixes Norse mythology with a heavy dose of sci-fi — which sounds pretty great until you play the game and realize that the story doesn’t capitalize on the premise in any interesting way. Worse, the game only has four levels, all of which are too large and filled with too few enemies.
Combat is satisfying when it occurs, but later in the game, enemies start barraging you with annoying status effects and knock-back attacks that mostly make you want to stop playing. It’s unfortunate, because Too Human could have been a hack-’n’-slash romp for the ages.
Instead, try Diablo 3.
10. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Metacritic score: 65
We’ve all seen shows and played games starring antiheroes, but Kane and Lynch are particularly loathsome. After busting Kane out of prison en route to his execution, a powerful gang makes Kane track down an item they think he stole from them. The slimy Lynch is there to keep him in line.
The story is by-the-numbers, but it’s the cover controls that aggravate you at every turn. Unlike Gears of War and every other cover shooter worth its salt, there’s no button to snap you into cover. You have to fiddle with the analog sticks, a process which often doesn’t function when you want it to and does function when you don’t want it to. Throw in some glitches and bad AI and you’ve got a game that’s simply not worth playing.
Instead, try Gears of War 3.
9. Alone in the Dark
Metacritic score: 58
The amnesia plot device may have gone stale decades ago, but the memory-erasing disease plays a central role in this reboot of Alone in the Dark. You play as Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator who can’t remember much aside from how to say swear words, which he does constantly.
The meat of the game is where it really fails, though. Many of the puzzles make little sense, and the driving sequences control poorly. Combat is a hassle, thanks to bad physics and clunky controls, and the story is laughably awful. But if you think the game’s bad, you’ll definitely want to avoid the movie.
Instead, try The Evil Within.
Metacritic score: 57
The Driver series started out being mostly about, well, driving, but by the third edition it had morphed into a Grand Theft Auto-like open-world crime game. This transition came with many problems the development team had not solved by the time the game released in 2004.
For one, it was boring. It’s one thing to create a digital world, but it’s another thing to fill it with interesting things to do. Making matters worse, the game was a buggy mess, with ugly textures and controls that fought you every step of the way. It’s a shame, because a great GTA-like game with a focus on car chases could’ve been really cool.
Instead, try Grand Theft Auto V.
7. Kinect Star Wars
Metacritic score: 55
We get it: Kinect-only games are tough to make. Figuring out how to control an entire game just by using gestures must be a difficult task. But that’s what Terminal Reality, the developer of Kinect Star Wars, signed up to do. Unfortunately the result is as tedious as sitting through The Phantom Menace on repeat.
Just about every aspect of this game could use improvement, starting with the controls. Swiping your hand to swing a lightsaber sounds great in theory, but the game fails to keep up unless you move in slow motion. Add in spotty graphics, an audio track that’s often out of sync with the visuals, and a horrendous vocal performance for Yoda, and you’re looking at a major letdown of a game.
Instead, try Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
6. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Metacritic score: 55
The best video games based on existing properties cherry-pick ideas from the source material and pull them together to create a brilliant gameplay experience. With a source as rich as The Lord of the Rings, there are plenty of great ideas to choose from. Even still, Conquest can’t pull it off.
The game has two campaigns, one starring the heroes of the movies and one starring the forces of evil. Each has four classes of character to choose from, but none of them feels distinct. The combat — which is how you spend the majority of your time in the game — feels clunky, with hard-to-pull-off combos and imprecise controls. It’s also so punishingly difficult that you’ll die at every turn, usually through no fault of your own. Tolkien deserves better than this.
Instead, try Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Metacritic score: 55
Many of the people who worked on the PlayStation 3 game Haze helped create the first-person shooter classics GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. When fans heard the same team was working on a modern shooter for PS3, expectations went through the roof. Since the game made this list, obviously those expectations weren’t met.
Haze stars hollow characters going through rote plot points in a story that’s riddled with holes. The game is also way too easy, which makes it a snooze to breeze through the levels. Then there are a slew of technical issues, with characters warping around and seams in the environment tearing apart. The whole thing seems like it could have used a few more months of development before being released in the wild.
Instead, try Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Metacritic score: 53
Picture this: You’re seated on the back of a dragon, soaring through the air, laying waste with fiery breath to legions of enemies on the ground. It sounds incredible — so incredible it would seem hard to screw up. Ladies and gentlemen, Lair developer Factor 5 screwed it up.
It all comes down to the controls. Instead of controlling your destruction-spewing dragon with the PlayStation 3’s analog sticks, you’re stuck using the controller’s tilt function. If it worked, the results could be pretty great, but it doesn’t even come close to working. At many points during game, you’re asked to complete actions that require exact precision, but thanks to the forced use of tilt controls, that kind of precision is impossible. It’s a real shame, because this game looks fantastic.
Instead, try The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
3. Duke Nukem Forever
Metacritic score: 49
The saddest thing about Duke Nukem Forever is how many talented people spent years of their life making it. This game was in development for an unheard-of 15 years before finally landing with a thud on store shelves in 2011. The game stars the same wisecracking ’80s-style action hero as its decades-old prequels, but by 2011 he felt hopelessly out of date.
So did the gameplay. Since it took so long to make, Forever feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of game design, with ancient tropes butting up haphazardly against more modern ideas. Duke Nukem Forever will go down in history as a game with too big of a budget and too little oversight. Someone should have cancelled it or forced the team to finish and ship it long ago.
Instead, try Wolfenstein: The New Order.
2. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Metacritic score: 48
The first two Alien movies offer different but equally valid ways to present the conflict between xenomorphs and humans. The first film is a tense horror movie, while the second is an all-out action flick. Both are excellent. A video game based on the franchise could go either route and succeed admirably. Or it could do what Aliens: Colonial Marines did and totally blow it.
Where the game could have been a tense, challenging shooter, in reality it’s a bland walk in the park. Where the story might have kept you on the edge of your seat, instead it’s more likely to put you to sleep. Even the co-op multiplayer mode is a dud. On just about every level, Colonial Marines is a letdown from start to finish.
Instead, try Alien Isolation.
1. Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Metacritic score: 47
The first two Call of Juarez titles were decent games with interesting stories that took place in an appealing Western setting you don’t often see in games. The third entry, The Cartel, is where everything fell apart.
With a story that’s packed full of cliche and cardboard characters, and levels as repetitive as a merry-go-round, this game never finds any traction. The final straw is that it’s riddled with technical glitches, like characters walking through walls and teleporting around the environment like specters. It’s hard to lose yourself in a game when so many aspects seem like they’re working to pull you out of it.
Instead, try Red Dead Redemption.
Making video games is a tough job. When a game turns out bad, it’s usually due to a number of factors, only one of which may be the quality of the developer’s work. Keep that in mind when criticizing a game. But still, avoid the ones on this list if at all possible.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed