Editorials

The annual ‘Disappointment of the Year’ article 2013

December 30, 2013, Author: The TIMJ Team

Hopefully by now you’ll have agreed, disagreed or yelled at us for our personal picks for Game of the Year. Now prepare to hate on us some more as we detail the games that made us less than happy in 2013…

Matt Parker (News Editor) – Grand Theft Auto Online

I know I may seem like some sort of brat to moan about GTA’s online component not being very good, terrible even, when the main game is so great but I honestly haven’t had much else to moan about this year. So well done to 2013 but don’t think my complaints for GTA Online aren’t genuine.

Firstly, the launch of the service was just shocking. Nothing worked. This was to be expected – for the first 48 hours or so. The ‘launch’ issues soon turned into ‘first fortnight of release’ issues, leaving me to believe that the game wasn’t just unable to cope with the initial wave of interest but that it just wasn’t able to cope with much of anything.

The biggest issue was playing the game, to be honest. Logging in meant you were treated to a lame tutorial, some boring missions to play and a UI system that just plain stank. A real fall from grace for Rockstar, especially when you consider how easy it was to posse up in Red Dead Revolver.

Phil Ubee (Staff Writer/Sports Specialist) – FIFA 14

In contrast to my GOTY choice, this is easy. FIFA 14 takes the crown of most disappointing title by a landslide. Much was promised this year as per usual, and EA have failed to deliver in every area in my opinion. Stadiums appear to have less life, players appear to have less ability and any enjoyment is sucked out of me within five (very long) minutes any time I dare to give FIFA 14 another chance. I can only hope that the new generation makes a clean break as another ten years of this could well put me off football altogether.

James Sheppard (Sub Editor) – SimCity

When I reviewed SimCity soon after release, I didn’t exactly make it out to be a bad game. I still stand by that. Nonetheless, this year’s remake of the legendary city-simulation franchise is my most disappointing game of 2013.

The first disappointment was its launch, which was arguably one of the worst major game releases in history. Fans were hampered with game-breaking issues for weeks, most attributable to the draconian always-online requirement. With all players needing to be constantly connected to play, the woefully-inadequate servers couldn’t take the load, leaving many gamers cursing at constant disconnects or not even being able to start it up in the first place.

The second disappointment for me was the range of questionable design decisions and bugs. As part of the aforementioned always-online design, SimCity restricted all cities to a startlingly small size, meaning that no city could be a one-size-fits-all. This promoted social play and co-operation, but restricted creativity as well as the ability to build the sprawling metropolises we all used to love in older iterations. Numerous quirks and broken aspects of the simulation, such as terrible traffic pathfinding and sometimes odd Sim behaviour, were the mouldy icing on the stale cake.

Mike Smith (Contributor) – SimCity

While enjoying SimCity when actually playing it, I’m constantly reminded by the limitations of a once superior world management simulator. Sure, SimCity is a pretty game with some of the nicest music around, sure it’s a recognized brand which we have loved for years. Maybe that’s why, despite the issues, I still bought the game after it came out in the midst of the server issues and controversy about the mixed messages from EA and Maxis.

I still bought it. Wow. SimCity is by no means a bad game, it’s just disappointing. I’m disappointed that we have such small maps to play in, I’m disappointed that we can’t have the variety of options that previous games have had. It feels like I’m constantly playing a demo of a larger game. It’s fun, but you always feel like you’re playing in a penned-off area of a much bigger product.

Trent Pyro (Staff Writer) – Batman: Arkham Origins

I usually arse about coming up with a wordy answer to these things. This year round, it’s simple. Batman: Arkham Origins. While it’s a good game and better than some of the crap put out this year, it fails to top its predecessor in almost every regard. The combat feels clunkier, the graphics no better. Gotham City feels empty, with a poorly conceived plot device suggesting a reason for this. The entire design just feels devoid of the class and talent Rocksteady brought to the table last time round. Bring on their next stab at Batman, hopefully coming to next-gen consoles next year.

Andy Corrigan (Site Editor/Owner) – Aliens: Colonial Marines

Could it be anything else? Being a series-long Brothers in Arms fan, and more recently a huge Borderlands fan, I have generally put a lot of trust in Gearbox and their devotion for creating quality games. Of course, that trust has been tested at times; you can’t exactly forgive a misstep like Duke Nukem Forever, but with Aliens: Colonial Marines they not only put out another unreservedly awful, buggy game, but they misrepresented their product and spat in the faces of their fans while they did it.

Let’s not let the underhanded nature of Colonial Marines’ release be the sole focus of why this was the most disappointing release of the year though, because it really does speak for itself. Crappy controls, awful A.I. and legendarily vicious enemies holding zero threat to the player are amongst its gameplay offences, while phoned in voice-acting, crappy textures, pop-in, awkward animations, and screen tear undermine any sense of atmosphere it sets out to create.

It takes something special to be one of the earliest games released in 2013 and remain the crappiest throughout the entire year, but what can I say? Colonial Marines had exactly what it took to make that happen.

Neil Hughes (Site Manager) – The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

As a massive Walking Dead fan who chose the Telltale take on the comic universe as his favourite game of last year, it was no surprise that I would find myself cautiously optimistic at the prospect of playing as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. That was until, of course, that I realised that it was to be published by Activision. Once again, Activision steered their chosen developer – this time Terminal Reality – into creating a cheap cash-in on a marketable brand name, resulting in the type of release we have seen time and again with licensed games that are ultimately left in the bargain bin at any store of your choice.

A truly horrific game for all the wrong reasons, Survival Instinct has little or no redeeming features and left me yearning for Season Two of the much more satisfying Telltale universe, the one that gets you emotionally involved. In comparison, Survival Instinct is just another empty, soulless experience, another shameless cash-in that represents everything we despise about the growing greed in the games industry from a company that proudly repeats the tragic formula.

When will we learn?

Andy Buick (Podcast Cohost/Staff Writer) – PES 2014

It’s perhaps a sign of how great this year has been that I really struggled to make a decision here. I almost chose Bioshock Infinite because I was a little disappointed by how it degenerated into a shooting gallery by the end, but that would be doing an otherwise wonderful and thought-provoking game a huge disservice. I considered God of War: Ascension as well, but really there’s nothing wrong with that either; it’s just a series that, to me, needs some significant changes if there’s to be another release.

So that leaves PES 2014 as my disappointment of the year. It’s not a terrible game, however all the pre-release hype made me believe this might finally be the year that PES took its crown back from FIFA. Not so I’m afraid. PES 2014 is a pared back release when compared to the previous game. This is because it was built on a new engine, Kojima’s Fox Engine in fact, but it seemed as if it was perhaps a bit much for the aging hardware. Even disregarding that as an excuse, it still doesn’t play as well as FIFA to me, so my wait for another excellent PES game continues.

Ariana Hester (Social Media) – Animal Crossing: New Leaf

As I said in the GOTY article, this was the year of the handheld for me, both positively and negatively. I choose New Lead not because it’s a bad game, but because it was the most personally disappointing for a longtime fan like myself. I’ve owned and loved every last Animal Crossing entry thus far and was very much looking forward to the newest addition. Sadly I not only stopped playing regularly after the first month, I found it difficult to even play a quick session for a special event. While I applaud the effort put towards adding new content to extend the longevity of gameplay, I find it way too overwhelming and all consuming.

The joy of the Animal Crossing franchise lays in the ease of picking up and playing. Now with so many in-game “responsibilities”, I feel an (albeit fictional) sense of obligation. Maybe it’s just me that has changed, but I don’t see myself paying off the loan shark that is Tom Nook (I’m in deep 7 million) or completing all the mayoral duties, and with so many financial problems I had no money left to actually fill my house and wardrobe. Spending so much time earning money kept me away from completing the museum or developing relationships with neighbors, and for that I’m just not falling in line with it as I usually would.

Neil Hickton (Podcast Host/Editor) – Aliens: Colonial Marines

I loved Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie because it was not only exciting, but was suspenseful and, at times, terrifically scary. When James Cameron brought us Aliens, it fit perfectly as an extension of the story, while bringing some much needed 80′s action. Alien movies have managed to bring to us some of the most iconic characters, locations and of course aliens, in movie history, and the potential for new stories based on all that back-story is huge. On paper, Aliens: Colonial Marines read well, and I’d waited patiently ever since the first rumours of its existence, excited by the prospect of returning to LV-426 as one of the toughest soldiers in the universe (actually, they always seemed to be big mouths, Ripley was tougher).

The most disappointing game of 2013 for me, then, was Aliens: Colonial Marines. It was poorly executed, its story pacing was terrible, and the graphics were all over the place. Sure, they could look good at times, but never as good as the early videos they released to tease us. There was never a feeling of being in the “marines” either, as even when others were around you, you felt on your own, and interaction was a very limited experience. Combat was surprisingly lacklustre, especially when compared to Gearbox’s own exciting Borderlands games, but more significantly it had no suspense or horror, throwing half-hearted Xenomorphs at you who didn’t eve nattack your colleagues while bouncing around the scenery unconvincingly. I played it only because of the word Aliens adorned the disc and I was completely and utterly disappointed. I should have just played Alien vs. Predator 2 again, a game twelve years its senior.

Bryony Stewart-Seume (Contributor) - Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta

“The most disappointing game of 2013″ is an even harder selection than “Game of the year” for me, as I am one of those types who rarely gets excited for a game release. I am fairly picky, and I have a good idea of what I like. If I find it wasn’t for me; I put it down and move on. It is hard to be actively disappointed by something if a) I wasn’t especially looking forward to it in the first place and b) I didn’t get particularly far.

This year, however, I was genuinely disappointed by Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta. I knew it wasn’t ever going to be good; I had seen the trailers, but had been following its developmental progress as someone with an interest in the portrayal of archaeology in popular culture (I am great at parties). I was, however, hopeful that it wouldn’t totally suck; I was even willing to give it several free passes, knowing that it was developed by a small studio on a small budget.

It is, unfortunately, unplayable. The combat and movement feel like struggling in quicksand. The more you struggle the worse it gets. The voice acting and dialogue is truly cringe-worthy. So, while I would love not to have to say this; Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta managed to disappoint me. A lot.