Sunday, March 13, 2011

Megabits' Pick of Gaming Disappointments

Now let’s be clear, a disappointing game isn’t always a bad game: the fact is a perfectly good game can still fail to live up to an excess of hype, or a gameplay mechanic that looks like a gameshaper can turn out to be an empty gimmick. On the other hand, some games can garner inexplicable praise and high scores despite having no discernible redeeming features. Up at the top end of this list you’ll actually find some games that are well worth playing and merely failed to live up to their reputations. Down near the bottom you’ll find the games that we think aren’t even remotely worth your time no matter what some people might tell you.


Halo ODST
ODST barely scraped onto this list. The fact is, we rather enjoyed the merging of mystery and sci-fi in the single player campaign, and the Horde inspired multiplayer did a great job of slowly ratchetting up the tension. It’s not that ODST is a bad game, it’s a really good one, but no matter how much you prepare yourself for a different flavour, playing ODST still results in a massive grinding of gears as the high-jumping, machine-gunning bombast you expect of Halo game is replaced with a shadowy mystery story that involves picking through the debris of a battle that’s already lost. Forget finishing the fight, this fight finished almost before you turned up.

Killzone 2
Killzone 2 is marked out by great sound and probably the finest graphics seen this generation, and a selection of stand out levels that really get you immersed in the action, so why is it on this list? Mainly because the several hours of really enjoyable gameplay are largely preceded by and in some cases broken up with some fairly tedious warehouse grinds. This is one of those games that reminds us that fun rather than length should be the primary factor in deciding how good a game is. This could have been six hours of brilliance, but instead it was diluted to nearly twelve hours of merely ok.

Madworld
Having tackled the mildly disappointing, we hit the first game that was a genuine letdown. We all know that the Wii’s hardcore gaming potential has been lost in an avalanche of kiddy friendly shovelware, that for every Metroid Prime 3: Corruption there are six games built around waving the Wii-mote at an imaginary pony. The problem has been identified. The solution is less clearly defined, if this insult is anything to go by.

For some reason, Sega decided that the best way to appeal to a more mature audience was to offer them a juvenile product, a mixture of fetishwear and Itchy & Scratchy style ultra-violence. Now its fair to say that more games than not are unsophisticated power fantasies, but there’s a difference between the machine gun wielding slaughter in, say, Halo and the impale-a-guy- while-commentators-offer- lame-innuendo on display here. The former is simplistic escapism, while the latter is revelling in an odd combination of sex and violence. Say what you like Master Chief, he never skewered a Covenant’s head on a traffic sign before throwing them onto an incongruous wall of spikes, and if he did, I’m pretty sure that sex would be the last thing on his mind.

I could be misinterpreting the game, to be fair. The main character insists, Will and Grace style, on being ‘Just Jack’ and there are an alarming number of lycra-clad buttshots. Maybe it’s more camp than twisted? Who knows, but if it weren’t bad enough that the Wii audience waiting for a grown up game were treated to a juvenile one, it’s made all the worse that when divorced of its admittedly cool monochrome looks and exuberant violence, the underlying gameplay of Madworld barely qualifies as mediocre.

Final Fantasy XIII
Perhaps we all need to just get over Final Fantasy? After all, it has been a long time since FFVII, maybe it will never hit those heights again. Still, the series’ first outing on the Xbox360 garnered all sorts of anticipation on all fronts-technological, storytelling, gameplay, how would the Square make the most of Microsoft’s box after all these years on Sony hardware? Apparently by making a linear corridor crawler that teases you with glimpses of an incredible world to explore whilst not letting you deviate from a set path for the first 12 hours. Apparently it turns out to be brilliant after that first grinding crawl. Then again, apparently drowning is quite a euphoric experience after the first 90 seconds of struggling, choking and having your lung lining washed away.

Timeshift
Pause time, speed it up, rewind it...anyone who has played Braid knows how cool a time control mechanic can be, but Timeshift proves that one good gameplay mechanic can’t carry a whole game. Pausing time to heal or steal weapons from enemies is fun, but the head-bending paradox puzzles that you might expect of a time twisting game never really show up, leaving you with a fairly standard shooter that doesn’t have a good enough story or set pieces to compensate for the under-exploited central mechanic.

The Conduit
Yet another Wii title that was supposed to bring some proper gaming to the array of pets and ponies that clog the Wii shelves. Unlike the awful Madworld, The Conduit did at least try to be a proper game rather than a string of gratuitous violence and bad jokes strung together with Wii-mote flailing. While we give it credit for that, alas, it still disappoints even more than Madworld did simply because developers High Voltage had made such explicit promises to provide the Wii with a hardcore game comparable to those found on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Instead we got an ok shooter with an all-seeing-eye device that wasn’t interesting enough to lift the game above the average. We hoped for a shooter to compare with the best on the market, we got a shooter that wasn’t even the best on the console.

Assassins Creed
See this guy? Follow him. Sit near him for a bit. Eavesdrop.Bored yet? Ok, you can kill him. Now do exactly the same thing another eight times. That pretty much sums up the tedium of the first Assassin’s Creed game, but the disappointment is less in the tedium and more in the obvious yet unmet potential. The environments are stunning and the parkour action exhilarating, yet instead of revelling in them between tedious stalk-and-kills we’re restrained by the need to avoid detection by every medieval lawman in the holy land, resulting in a game that unfolds some very enjoyable mechanics then makes you ignore them whilst plodding through olive groves on a donkey. Pah!

Alone In The Dark
It’s easy to see why expectations were so high for Alone In The Dark: The series that pretty much created the survival horror genre adding an open world design to its existing blend of exploring and puzzle solving, plus what promised to be the most lifelike fire propagation physics ever seen in a game, and ones that would be part of the gameplay rather than just a showcase of programming abilities. It all sounds so good, but then you discover the open world exists primarily as a location for some tedious fetchquests, that the inventory system is so cack-handed that only the six-fingered pianist from ‘Gattaca’ would actually have a hope of making a petrol bomb that could exploit those aforementioned fire physics, and traversing the gameworld often involves attempting to drive the undriveable, sometimes against the clock.

Enter The Matrix
This was my first PS2 game. For me, the first game of an entirely new console generation. It should have showcased all power and prowess of all that new processing oomph and expanded memory in a jaw dropping display of good looks and gameplay depth revealed by way of spectacular setpieces. I vaguely recall running through a nondescript gas-filled postroom. There might have been some slow-motion. Seriously, Grand Theft Auto III it wasn’t. Of course, mediocrity doesn’t necessarily make a game a letdown, but Enter The Matrix came out as part of the enormous push for the Matrix sequels, which included animated movies, comic books and an awful lot of frankly embarrassing hype about the intellectual lineage of a film series that features Temeura Morrisson battling robotic squid. If you’re going to make out like you’re a merging of Ghost In The Shell, Jean Baudrillard and The Invisibles, then you need to back it up, and this really didn’t.

Bayonetta
It was strange enough when Bayonetta came out early in 2010 and started picking up review scores like 9/10, 95%, 5/5 etc, but now it’s 2011 and if the numerous end of year awards lists are anything to go by, even 14 months isn’t enough to qualify as critical distance. This pile of tosh is still gathering plaudits the way Colonel Ghaddafi acquires bullet-holed oil refineries. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: breadth is not the same as depth. 50 bajillion combos is not the same as 20 or 30 really good ones. Camp dialogue is not the same as arch dialogue. But being treated like witless drooling horndog who’ll abandon all critical faculties when confronted with a flash of digital arsecheek by the people you’ve just given forty quid to? That’s the same as being insulted, and this tiresome button masher will insult you repeatedly.

7 comments:

Completely agree with all them but...Bayonetta!?

what the hell!? with SMG2 best gameplay this gen

if all you did was button mash in this game, you would owned hard....and thats on normal mode

agree with the rest though

FYI: Killzone 2 IS six hours of brilliance. I completed the game in just under 6 hours the first time i played it and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Fair enough, it took me ages, but I have the thumbs of a 90 year old washer woman.

Bayonetta? You are an idiot and that's why your little website will never be popular.

"Bayonetta? You are an idiot and that's why your little website will never be popular"

second.

'"Bayonetta? You are an idiot and that's why your little website will never be popular"

second.'

Third.

Not only is Bayonetta mechanically complex compared to just about anything on the market, its deeply misunderstood by those not conscious enough to understand the multilayered allusion and deconstruction of gender and sexuality issues built directly within the game, the only weak point was plot presentation, and who cares about that in an action game?

Bayonetta sucked, nuff said.

Finally someone stands up to the rabid fanboys who hump the shit out of this game.