Remember all the way back in January, when we looked at all the games that were coming out in 2012 and thought, “Holy crap! This is going to be the Best Year Ever (for gaming)™!” Well, this is December, and some of us are looking back to those wide-eyed, optimistic past versions of ourselves and wondering why they ever looked forward to some of the stuff we got in 2012. Sure, some of those anticipated titles lived up to our expectations, but in a lot of cases, that optimism was just the first step on a journey of regret and nonstop head shaking.
Here are some of our picks for the most disappointing games and events of 2012.
Assassin’s Creed III
Contributor Rus McLaughlin
Occasionally, a little time and distance softens the heart, and you remember things more fondly than what you actually felt at the time. I, on the other hand, despise Assassin’s Creed III more now than when I gave it a midrange score back in October. Oh, my man-love for its naval missions continues unabated, but I indulge in those behind the back of the main game and its sloppy mechanics, frustrating chases, and worthless side missions. I’m gratified that it doesn’t whitewash our nation’s origins as some altruistic crusade for peace and freedom (often spoken of in earshot of working slaves), but Creed “concludes” its overarching, modern-day plot with a firm middle finger to its most loyal fans. At least it finally settled one lingering question: Desmond is indeed as pointless and useless a diversion as we always suspected.
Contributing editor Stephanie Carmichael
Most of the games I was looking forward to all year are now coming out in 2013. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (or whatever we’re calling it now) are the handful I’ve been most itching to play. Other titles like South Park: The Stick of Truth, Devil May Cry, and Aliens: Colonial Marines have experienced delays as well. I guess I can’t complain too much. More time in development means a better chance of getting these games right, but it also means I’ll be burning a big hole in my wallet come spring.
Capcom continues to lock content in game discs
Contributor Samir Torres
Twisted Metal’s online multiplayer
Intern Giancarlo Valdes
As a huge fan of the Twisted Metal games since the original PlayStation days, I was ecstatic when I finally got my hands on the PS3 reboot earlier this year. The folks at developer Eat Sleep Play did a fantastic job of bringing its unique brand of vehicular combat to a new generation of consoles with its campaign mode, and playing these levels with a friend in local multiplayer was fun, too. But going online was a different story: Starting from launch day and lasting for weeks, a host of problems made it almost impossible (for me at least) to stay connected to a match. The developers deployed various updates to fix these problems, but I had already moved on.
Disney Epic Mickey 2
Contributor Rob LeFebvre
After hearing, yet again, legendary designer Warren Spector’s “big picture” idea of games needing to be open-ended, with multiple paths, as well as not judging players for their “playstyle,” I really think this game was a huge disappointment. It changed very little from the first installment and was just another mess of control, camera, and barely comprehensible storyline. As with most things disappointing in life, the real problem was going into it with such a high set of expectations.
Copy editor Jason Wilson
We saw a couple of space-themed 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy titles this year (Genesis Wars, Legacy of Pegasus, the final “all clear” for Sword of the Stars II). But the one that many space strategy fans were looking forward to was Endless Space, a game that turned out to be style over substance. Endless Space sports a good-looking user interface and some kick-ass ship designs, but it commits one of the biggest errors that any single-player strategy game can make: The A.I. isn’t good at its game. Your foes don’t do a good job of using its systems — like combat — against you, ultimately providing a limited challenged against a skilled player. And for the demanding fans of strategy games, this is a tactic that just doesn’t work.
Mass Effect 3’s ending
Intern Jason Lomberg
From an artistic standpoint, my biggest disappointment was that developer BioWare pulled a George Lucas and “fixed” the ending. That’s not how it should work — you don’t “fix” art.
A piece of art represents the succinct vision of its creator. It’s also a product of its time and, therefore, a cultural artifact. The best films – like Star Wars – engender a certain timeless quality, but even so, it’s not hard to discern that Lucas’s masterpiece reflects the norms and attitudes of the ’70s. By mucking with his own creations to “update” the special effects or modify story elements, Lucas is destroying a piece of history. This is why fans reacted so negatively to Star Wars: Special Edition (and the innumerable “updates” before and since), and it’s why BioWare should not have changed the Mass Effect 3 ending. For gaming to take its rightful place among other artistic media, it shouldn’t be so malleable and subject to “revision.” Numerous gamers took issue with the game’s ending – and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree – but we should criticize ME3 as a piece of art, not a software program that its makers can patch. We should analyze the creator’s vision and not treat it like a technical glitch.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
Intern Mike Minotti
I was excited to have a real Assassin’s Creed experience on a portable system, and I was hoping that such a game could be a great showcase for the PlayStation Vita. Sadly, Liberation was a boring, uninspired slog through the bog hampered by technical problems and an empty open world.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Intern Evan Killham
Developer Level-5’s series of puzzle-driven adventure games sold me both a Nintendo DS and a 3DS. I love everything about them: the full-on animated cutscenes, the stories, and even the bizarre idea of a universe in which brain-teasers work as a sort of social currency. But I’m not sure what happened with the franchise’s fifth installment. The plot and style are as good as ever, but the riddles in this one are inexplicably obtuse at times (I’m convinced that one challenge’s “clever” solution is not a valid answer to the setup) and blatantly not puzzles at others. A maze, for example, is not a puzzle by my definition, and this Professor Layton contains several of them.
Miracle Mask is the first Layton game that has felt like a chore.
XCOM’s lack of longevity
Contributing editor Rob Savillo
A game about saving the world from an alien invasion is probably beyond cliché at this point. You’d think that such a premise would doom the entire experience to a single playthrough, never to be touched again. But this wasn’t the case with the original X-Com strategy games, where I felt like anything could happen at any time. My first encounter could be the extraterrestrial menace terrorizing an urban populace or a dogfight with high-flying UFO that segues into a ground assault or even a struggle for survival within the supposedly safe confines of my only operational headquarters! Add in a healthy dose of pseudo-randomization, and X-Com felt fresh over and over no matter how many campaigns I played.
But Developer Firaxis’ recent reboot, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, unfortunately starts to feel all too similar all too quickly. Even during your first game, you’ll see the same premade maps again and again. Some missions feel scripted (even featuring monster closets!) and like long, narrow hallways (I don’t ever want to play the final stage again because it’s such a boring slog). I’m convinced that Firaxis doesn’t really want me to play another campaign, which is crystal clear because the game forces me to listen to the same unskippable explanatory voiceovers with every new start.
After well over 100 hours, I’m just about done with XCOM. And it shouldn’t have been this way.
Editor-in-chief Dan “Shoe” Hsu
Zynga was supposed to be the next big thing in gaming, but then it flopped … hard. Its stock became the joke of the industry (currently: $2.39, down from $9.50 at the initial public offering and a peak of $14.69 back in March, and rather than make a bunch of new Silicon Valley millionaires, it had to lay people off. Not many people are rooting for the company that regularly spams Facebook walls. But when the guys leading the charge for social gaming fails that badly, it’s a very bad sign for the health of the business as a whole.
Nearly everything Resident Evil
Intern Jasmine Rea
This year, I found myself sympathizing with legions of Sonic the Hedgehog fans because at our core, we are far too loyal for our own good. Like them, I go into every Resident Evil game with the same naive hope that the series isn’t spiraling the drain. Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6 were nearly enough to make me give up on playing any console-based entries in the series. Poor execution, tedious gameplay, and wretched quick-time events have finally broken me. I’ll go into 2013 with a dull ache for another Resident Evil: Revelations, but I doubt I’ll get that.
Will I buy the inevitable Resident Evil 7? Of course I will, and that’s why gin exists.