Here’s part 3 of the Gamer Crash Awards. Ah, hype. It’s a wonderful and also deadly thing for games. The games below represent the ones that just didn’t live up to the hype this year. While they may not all be complete disasters, they failed to live up to the buzz and marketing blitz.
And the nominees are:
Potential, cool ideas and a strong marketing campaign helped Homefront sell. While many people scoffed at the wild storyline of a Unified Korea invading the US after an EMP strike in the early 2020s, Homefront tried to add emotion into a typically macho FPS genre. While the multiplayer was quite fun (if not feeling a little similar), the game stumbled in many places. The campaign lasted around 5 hours which I just can’t fathom seeing as how many ideas Kaos could have used with the world they created. The levels seem cobbled together instead of flowing nicely as your player quickly moved from Utah to San Francisco. There’s plenty of opportunity for more missions to extend the experience, but for whatever reason Kaos decided not to. The characters in the game are also just completely unlikable. You’re supposed to be a tight-knit resistance force against overwhelming odds, but you’re essentially paired with a hot head and two other forgettable characters. While the franchise is now with Crytek, I’m holding out hope for a fully fleshed out followup.
Again, this wasn’t a bad game by any means. In fact, you could argue it was a great game with a very impressive enemy AI system and beautiful tech engine. On a personal level though, it just didn’t live up to the hype. While the combat felt great, Rage ended up a little lackluster on some critical levels. First off, the story was just extremely lackluster and generic. You fight “The Authority” with a group called “The Resistance”. For the most part, once you awoke from stasis, you go on one massive fetch quest for each individual you interact with. The lead character has zero personality, the Wasteland is essentially a hub world connecting you to each linear stage, and the last mission just felt extremely rushed and resulted in one of the most disappointing endings to a game I’ve seen in a long time.
On paper, Brink sounds like a wonderful and genre defining game. It has a revolutionary free running system called S.M.A.R.T. letting your character gracefully move around the maps and an interesting class based upgrade system letting you personalize your character. As we know, good ideas on paper don’t always work, which is seemingly what happened to Brink. While the movement system really is fantastic, the rest of the game features many nagging issues which brings the entire thing down. The map design isn’t up to par as many times they create an impossible bottleneck situation for one of the teams, a disappointing story, lackluster single player with brainless AI partners, a lack of stat tracking, limited mission objectives, and an overly excessive mission objective timer. Guarding a downed VIP for 10 minutes? Really? There is certainly potential here, just not sure if it’s going to get a second chance.
Duke Nukem Forever
Alright, where to begin here. Lets face it, after 12+ years in the development oven, it’s not surprising to get a game that’s just a mess of ideas. I’d like to give kudos to Gearbox for actually stepping in and completing the project for 3D Realms, but ultimately, the game was just a complete miss. Duke came off more unlikable than anything else, the graphics engine just felt dated, the combat was shallow and felt extremely archaic and makes the game feel like it was left in the past. For those of you that wanted to experience a blast from the past, have at it, but DNF should have probably stayed as “Did Not Finish”. There were some decent ideas here as well, just never fully realized. Hopefully, if another one is made, modern game ideas can be fully implemented this time.
Red Faction: Armageddon
Coming over from the extremely well made and fun open world Red Faction: Guerilla, I had high hopes for this one. When I heard early in development that they were scrapping the open world for linear, underground caverns and replacing the Earth Defense Force with alien creatures, my warning flag went up. Still, I held out hope. Turns out, Armageddon didn’t live up to Guerilla’s excellence. The story wasn’t compelling, the environments were bland, and it just wasn’t nearly as fun fighting alien bugs. Add in the fact that they removed the outstanding competitive multiplayer and added in a 4 player Horde mode and you have a great recipe for disappointment. The destruction and tools/weapons you were given are some of the series best and the upgrade system they implemented was great as well, it’s just sad that the rest of the game didn’t hit any marks.
And the winner (loser?) of the biggest disappointment of 2011 goes to…
Winner: Red Faction: Armageddon
As much as I hate “awarding” any game this dubious prize, Red Faction: Armageddon was probably my biggest letdown considering how much I played and loved Guerilla. Armageddon just felt like an entirely different game, featuring limited opportunities for destruction, dark underground areas, and alien creatures that just kept jumping all around shooting stuff at you. I’m not sure shedding the “open world” layout for a linear driven experience was the right move either. Yes, Guerilla tended to be sparse on content for filling out the world, but at least you could tackle things at your leisure how you wanted. Setting remote charges on a bridge never failed to put a smile on my face. Armageddon just didn’t have those same hooks. Multiplayer also left a ton to be desired after Volition foolishly scrapped the excellent competitive multiplayer from Guerilla and replaced it with a very straightforward Horde style co-op experience. Sure, it may have been fun the first few times, but ultimately it grew very stale.
Then there’s the fact that the disappointing sales figures forced THQ to put an end to the Red Faction franchise entirely. Thankfully Volition rebounded with one of the best games of 2011 in Saints Row: The Third, but I’m going to miss the outright destruction you could cause from the Red Faction series.