The video game hype machine is prone to spectacular misfires. Whenever a publisher is marketing the heck out of a forthcoming title, and whenever the gaming press seems smitten with the Next Big Thing, just remember Daikatana, the 2000 FPS from Id Software alumnus John Romero that completely and utterly flopped.
Or, remember these five games from the current generation.
I put this game last on the list because it's practically a foregone conclusion: Game designer Peter Molyneux is notorious for hyping his games so much that anything short of perfection would be a disappointment. But even keeping Molyneux's penchant for exaggeration in mind, Fable III just didn't cut it.
Yes, the storytelling was pretty impressive. But the combat was simplistic and easy, and the various minigames could be annoying at times. Worst of all, the second half of the game was a rushed mess, forcing you to accumulate a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time even though time moved forward at abrupt, uneven intervals. Even the good/evil dynamic, a hallmark of the series, didn't make much sense, because much of the story assumed you were good, and the decisions you made in the second half were tradeoffs between different kinds of good (saving your kingdom vs. keeping your promises).
The Fable series never quite lives up to its ambitions, but Fable III fell short by a greater distance than usual.
This game was supposed to do wonders for the FPS genre. Not only did it bring war to the modern-day United States of America, but it featured a script by one of the writers of Red Dawn. Early media impressions were that this was something very special indeed.
Except it wasn't. The final product garnered a mere 70 on Metacritic ("mixed or average"). Reviewers complained that despite some well-handled scenes, it was too short, the graphics were mediocre, and the gameplay was clichéd. Perhaps the forthcoming remake of Red Dawn itself will accomplish what Homefront failed to.
The Star Wars universe is full of great video games, from space combat simulators to first-person shooters to RPGs. So when it was announced that we'd see the franchise as a third-person action title this generation, most gamers were stoked.
Their excitement was misplaced. The game wasn't dreadful, and, in fact, it got a lot right, but it wasn't nearly as ambitious and polished as it should have been. The levels were linear, the action relied too much on hack-and-slash mechanics, and one particular sequence was incredibly frustrating.
Even the sequel managed only a 61 on Metacritic. Maybe third time's the charm?
SimCity creator Will Wright spent countless years designing this title, in which you take on the role of an intelligent designer as life evolves; it's a "god game" in the most literal sense of the term. Given Wright's history of success, not to mention the time he invested in this project, nearly everyone expected a massive hit.
Not quite. The reception was lackluster; everyone agrees that Spore is an accomplishment, but it will never be as iconic or addictive as SimCity or The Sims. Something about it just failed to click.
Only three years after it came out, it's nearly forgotten. Except for the fact that you could create species that were shaped like genitalia.
Wii consoles sold like mad, but the Big N's waggle-controlled machine always had one major problem: Outside of Nintendo's own franchises, real gamers didn't have much to play. All of that was going to change, breathless media reports explained, when High Voltage's The Conduit found a publisher.
It was a hardcore shooter on the least hardcore of consoles! It would push the limits of the Wii's hardware to create a truly next-gen experience! The controls were remarkably intuitive, and adjustable to boot! At last, the Wii would be something more than a child's toy!
The Conduit, needless to say, was not the Wii's Halo. Instead, it was yet another FPS that had you fending off a generic alien invasion. And while the graphics were good for the Wii, they paled in comparison with even the more mediocre offerings on next-gen consoles. To its credit, though, The Conduit sent gamers an unmistakable and valuable lesson: If you want to play good third-party games, buy an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
By Robert VerBruggen
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*