Obviously not every video game released can live up to our expectations. This is especially the case when the bar for what counts as quality is consistently raised as the industry embraces advances in design and technology. That said, there are sometimes when the gap between our expectations and reality are so large, that you almost can’t help but feel a little shocked. Here are five such examples of games that were almost impressive when it came to how disappointing they managed to be.
No Man’s Sky
Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky is a game that’s easy to talk about. It is a story of success due to the fact that is has, by now, exceeded most of the expectations placed on it during its original marketing run. The support it has received over the last few years is incredible, considering this is an industry that is often quick to abandon titles.
That was certainly the expectation on release, anyway, because what gamers were treated to wasn’t an exciting, ambitious trek through space. Instead, it was a slog through a limitless procedurally generated cosmos devoid of any life or excitement. There was also a complete lack of community. Exploration felt pointless. But still, the potential was apparent, and that might be what was most frustrating at the time. I’m glad it has grown into such an amazing game.
Mighty No. 9
In a time where Capcom had seemingly abandoned Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 ’s success seemed like a sure thing. It was being developed by Keiji Inafune, who had previously worked at Capcom and done much to shape the direction of the Mega Man franchise. It was a result of a record-breaking Kickstarter. It had momentum. But that momentum seemed to stop and delays and a trickle of banal news quickly eroded the fan’s goodwill.
By the time the game released, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a suitable replacement for Mega Man or Mega Man X . It felt like a heartless cash grab, derivative and lacking in innovation. The art direction is also pretty disagreeable. It’s really disappointing, too, because Keiji Inafune has done some amazing work in the past, even outside of the Mega Man franchise. It really seemed like his ingenuity would lead to something great.
The formula seemed like a win. Anthem would be a game by Bioware who, even now, is still considered a pretty trusted developer. Some of the biggest games in history are a result of its hard work. The next part of the equation? Badass exoskeletons and gameplay that seemed inspired by Destiny . Initial marketing lead people to believe that this game, while lacking mass multiplayer, would improve on a lot of Destiny’s weak points.
Really, though, the game was very unlike Bungie’s expansive title. The only thing it really had in common was a lackluster launch. In order to try to win back the community after the stale gameplay chased everybody away, the developers released a roadmap detailing planned improvements. Unlike Destiny and unlike No Man’s Sky , nobody wanted to stick around, and nothing Anthem did seemed to pull anybody back. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come for Bioware because I know a lot of people who are cautiously optimistic about whatever the developer has in store for the Dragon Age franchise.
Perfect Dark Zero
When Microsoft acquired the legendary developer, Rare, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, this meant the end of an era when it came to the Donkey Kong Country franchise. On the other hand? Rare would be able to make games for what was, at the time, an impressive powerhouse of a system. Additionally, a sequel to the fantastic and strange Nintendo 64 title would be coming as a launch title to the Xbox 360.
How could Rare have messed this up so badly, though? None of the charm of the original was present. The voice acting was bad. The multiplayer felt hollow. Oh, and the AI? It was just awful and displaying no real improvement over the shooters of two generations prior. Gamers had already experienced two Halo games at this point. The bar had moved while we were waiting on Perfect Dark.
Duke Nukem Forever
Let me start by saying that Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a complete failure. Duke’s voice actor gave a much more dynamic performance for this entry in the series. That said, almost everything else about the game is bad.
For one, the game had been in development forever and the industry had changed immeasurably. Even the humor was dated by the time it came out.
By the time it came out, though, I think most people had become a bit wary. At this time in gaming history, we had a fairly good idea of what to expect when a game saw so many delays and even changed developers midway. The mechanics felt archaic and overly simple. The story, while never a highlight of the series, offered nothing of value this time around. All the shock and absurdity that Duke Nukem had been known for had even become underwhelming as developers made strides to better execute comedy and narrative in the years between Duke Nukem games.