2014 was the worst year in videogames since the modern HD era began. Think about it: how many truly original, amazing experiences did you have with controller in hand? I’ll tell you. While Sunset Overdrive was a blast, and the new COD pretty good, and ditto Forza Horizon 2, most of the best moments in gaming came from “definitive,” and/or “ultimate” editions of previously released titles from the prior generation: The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, Diablo III, and, the best of all, GTA V.
The closest we have to a new experience was P.T., the terrifying demo from Hideo Kojima to introduce Silent Hills, which only takes twenty minutes to finish. Tops. (Here’s one more: Telltale Games Tales From the Borderlands ep1 was a fun, hilarious three hours.) Everything else ran the gamut from massively disappointing, meh, or just plain broken.
Here are the worst games of the year…
Vertical engagement would (eventually) be perfected in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but earlier in the year we didn’t know any better, so many of us were thrilled with EA’s new IP as a way to show off our Xbox Ones. After a fun tutorial demonstrated how easy and cool wall-climbing can be in first-person, the fun times came to a halt since there was no real story, the graphics looked dull, and months later, no one seems to be around for any online play.
The thing is, the promise of those giant mechs looked pretty awesome in the ads, which was pretty amazing since those things typically look slow and cumbersome. Titanfall featured battles within and out of the metal war machines. What the game didn’t toggle, though, was online play. That is to say that the game can only played online, which has become a real problem since player presence has dwindled. If there were a campaign that you could do solo even if you had to be online, that would have helped. Sadly, there isn’t.
So while not exactly broken, an argument could be made that Titanfall isn’t a full game. More like a pricey beta.
The found-footage sub genre went viral with two download-only titles. One was pretty (Outlast), and, well…
A woman enters an asylum (lots of asylums in 2014 games, by the way) armed only with the light of her smartphone, out to discover what’s been going on in a run-down, mentally unhinged institution. One of the big hooks of the game was that every enemy encounter is randomly generated so you never knew when terror would strike. The answer is never. Not for me, anyways. Beyond the sluggish engine that rendered watered-down visuals, the game never really jelled for its three-hour run. Even the game’s creators didn’t have much trust on their own premise, since you literally get green glowsticks within minutes of the opening. So there goes the “armed only with the light of her smartphone” thing. Your character also sorta has amnesia, but that never adds up to much more then a few memory moments and diaries to read, neither of which are particularly illuminating.
I almost considered not having Daylight on the list, because it’s a relatively small title. Perhaps developers Zombie Studios just lacked the resources to fully produce their vision. Veteran on-air personality Jessica Chobot wrote the script, but I don’t really blame her either, as everything about the project feels jumbled.
But then I reconsidered, and the reason is frustration. Being pulled in by the occasional moment or two generated by the atmosphere, only to be yanked out of that feeling by doing the same tasks repeatedly takes a toll. So here it is on the worst list.
8. Murder: Soul Suspect
This seems to happen every time a new console is launched: we get these “was already dated on last-gen” games that for some reason, many of us play anyway. (I know the reason; we are starved for anything to play on our new machines.) Murdered is a story-based game in which you are a private dick named Ronan O’Conner out to solve the murder case of his career: his own!
The game is set in contemporary Salem, Massachusetts, with the occasional witch making an appearance. As a game world this amounts to a museum, a police precinct, a cemetery, and other unmemorable locales.
The gameplay is terrible, but I would be okay with that if the story were thrilling. I love Telltale Games choose-your-own adventure style outings no matter how wonky the controls are, but Soul Suspect doesn’t trust its own story to keep us invested. At every turn, potentially interesting moments occur, and are thusly dropped. For example: early on, the game’s protagonist partners up with a teen who can see dead people. She is absolutely necessary, since being dead limits your interactions, yet collaborating with her usually amounts to nothing more than telling her when to move forward to avoid security cameras. A shame, since her character had potential.
The biggest letdown is the way you solve each mystery. Essentially, you don’t. You get to a crime scene, look over the evidence, and until you hit the correct choice you can’t proceed. Look, I know recognize that this is a problem with interactivity in general. How do you let players truly figure anything out on their own? If they were to miss a clue, the story can’t proceed, right? So it always comes down to a set of things to look over, and then make with the X button.
Was I wrong to hold out hope that developer Airtight Games could come up with a new way for players to assess a crime scene? Apparently, the answer is yes.
7. Assassin’s Creed Unity
Incredibly buggy at launch, plagued with online server issues, Ubisoft’s latest entry was a steep drop from last year’s pirate-themed Black Flag. Funny, as things always look so gorgeous at the onset as you climb to your first church steeple, and take in stunning vistas. The plummet down, however, lacks the soft landing of a haystack. In Unity, trouble is afoot pre-French Revolution. A plodding tale about a man who met the love of his life as a boy, and everything that follows, never finds proper footing amidst the real Revolution circa 1789. After Black Flag loosened up with a rascal hero, Unity’s Arno Dorian holds a proper stuff upper-lip.
The best writing in the game comes from the codex where you can brush up on French history. This is not the first time this has happened; I’ve always preferred the funny modern observations at the past that accompany every Creed game. I just can’t believe that with Unity, it’s the only thing I liked consistently. The campaign starts off promising with the aforementioned boy meets girl moment. The mission has you following your crush through these grand rooms, all of which has a nice Beauty & the Beast ballroom dance vibe. Maybe the next Creed game should be about that young girl, who grows up to be quite the lady.
When leaving a mediocre film a friend of mine will say with a straight face, “well, that was a movie.” I feel the same about this PS4 exclusive. It is a game, which looks nice, I suppose, and there are cars in it that you race. That it is utterly devoid of personality is also true. Racing games sorta have this zero personality problem thing built-in: usually it’s just cool cars and pretty locations, but you’d never think that if you played Xbox One’s exclusive, Forza Horizon 2. You will think that with Driveclub.
On top of which, Driveclub had a host of server issue problems at launch. The menus, while clean-looking, are hard to navigate, and can be confusing, making it hard to decipher just how to pair up with friends, check leaderboards, etc.
How exactly was this game in any way next-generation? For me true next-gen is not about just graphics. That way of thinking is so last-gen.
But hey, it is a videogame.
5. The Evil Within
Shinji Mikami, the creator of the original Resident Evil, returned to his roots with a full-on survival horror title, which sounds – at least on paper – like a great idea. And then problems arise the moment you hit start. Players are assaulted with far too many sequences of blood, gore, and other disgusting imagery. No no no this is all wrong, you think. RE knows how to slowly make things creepy. In Evil Within, you awake in a room with a hulking homicidal butcher who would have been better served in the Silent Hill series. Then it becomes a tedious hide-from-machete-wielding-maniac scenario. Eventually, the threadbare story has detective Sebastian Castellanos trying to figure out a case that involves a mental asylum, a planet-ending earthquake and hordes of the undead.
For 15 generic chapters, you inch along, trying to figure out… what exactly? I have no idea. At first, the way you could light a match on a corpse to make sure they’re “really dead” was novel, but eventually, like most features at your disposal, I realized there wasn’t much point. Better to just up my stats while strapped to a chair: load up on health, shotgun ammo capacity, crossbows skills, etc.
The RE series is known for (and loved for, really) corny dialogue and plots that make no sense. Each cut scene would leave me wanting more of said corny nonsense. This is just not the case within the Evil Within. Sure, walking the dank lonely hallways of your own self-made asylum with a soft-spoken nurse is effectively unnerving, but it’s also a drag to have stop at each level to do this over and over.
There are things that do work, like the piercing sounds of breaking glass when you look into a mirror to save the game. 15 chapters are about 5 too many, but there’s nice detail in the varied environments, which include an abandoned mill, a blown out skyscraper, and a dreary hospital. The James Wan school of “old timey music equals scary” is effective.
Still, the lack of any real characters resembling a personality is a bummer. There’s a reason I remember Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Albert Wesker without batting an eye. I’m not asking for depth here. Just memorable. I want my Jill Sandwich.
Here’s hoping RE: Revelations 2 makes up for it.
4. Rambo: The Video Game
An on-the-rails gun game without a gun or the zaniness of House of the Dead. Not that it matters much, but this atrocious title starts the action before the events in First Blood. The rest of the campaign is a highlight reel of the biggest moments of the Rambo films. Not using a gun – but still being restricted to only shooting – is a terrible decision. I guess my mortal hands just aren’t worthy of ever controlling John Rambo. That’s the lesson I took from this mess.
I’ve read one review that says that in way, the game is a perfect celebration of the badness of the ’80s Reagan-era movies. That’s true in the way everything is overblown. A game, though, can’t be this broken, can’t be this poorly designed, because we aren’t just passively watching it. We have to navigate, we have to inhabit. Hmmm, maybe it is a good thing the game is on rails.
3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Bioware’s other franchise not called Mass Effect has been problematic from the get go. Where ME took players to new worlds, filled with engaging characters, DA has always been a rather old-fashioned RPG affair. ME pushed the notion of a RPG shooter pretty far, while DA can’t let go of the company’s roots, namely Balder’s Gate‘s dungeon crawler style. Don’t let the pretty 3D graphics fool you.
Well, okay, you can let them fool you for a quick minute, because after the much-criticized last installment set the entire game in one area, Inquisition remedies that by offering various places to see and explore. All of it looks great. Not ME great, but for a fantasy game it can be stunning.
So far so good, right? Except that’s where the biggest improvements end. The characters are solid if not inspired. The story, following in the tradition of nearly every fantasy-based game ever (even sacred cow Skyrim), is nothing more than a series of fetch quests that build to all-out war. In order to get your army, you need to have meetings, which in turn decide the fate of citizens, and it’s all just as rote as it was in Fable 3. What’s the point of being a king/queen type if that essentially, amounts to making simple yes/no binary decisions?
The biggest problem, since the inception of DA games, is the combat. Bioware, it’s 2014 this can’t be the best way to engage players anymore. All the leveling up, the equipment, even the new tactical view did nothing, but take me out of the action. Charging a spell, brandishing a sword, even using healing potion…it never feels right. There’s a small but perceptible lag in these kinds of games which frankly sucks. I never feel like I am actually doing any of the things.
The new tactical mode, which gives us the dreaded top-down view, is even worse. (Great, so now I’m even further away.) This isn’t to say an old school charm can’t win me over; Diablo III is an amazing, spooky, frenetic romp loaded with fun characters. And the gameplay just works in a way that this Inquisition never does.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
While Marvel rules the big screen, a real lack of fun or innovation has led to several games that are nothing more than dumb, forgettable, movie cash grabs. No one ever talks about the web slinger’s videogame adaptations the way they do with Rock Steady’s Arkham series. And yes, many Spidey titles are hampered by having to stick to the film they are based on, whereas Akham has no connection to the features. Those games are usually written by Paul Dini, aided by several great voice actors like Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. (Arkham Origins shook things up by not using those actors, but that is a discussion for another time.)
Regardless, Amazing 2 the film was hated by many, but I thought it was okay. It was not at all the disaster I had heard it was. The game, however, is a train wreck, clearly a product that was rushed to make a release window that coincided with the film’s. I would agree with other critics who have mentioned that the web-slinging is much improved since you now need to attach your web to a building or similar structure, making traversing more challenging, but nearly every other aspect, especially the Peter Parker segments, are tedious.
Not having Andrew Garfield voice our hero might have saved money, but it makes him less than amazing every time he speaks. Which pretty much sums up the game: not amazing at all.
And the worst videogame of 2014 is…
The worst game of the year cost a reported $300 million, was a huge bestseller, and has numerous players addicted. Yet, if you ask, many will say they find the level design repetitive, the story non-existent, and the community aspect no more sophisticated than Phantasy Star Online’s, a Dreamcast game from over a decade ago.
So what went wrong? Bungie spent years on this new IP. The company made first-person shooters the standard before Call of Duty with Halo: Combat Evolved. That game had a compelling story, multiplayer that was varied, and – with Cortana – personality.
Speaking of A.I., let’s start with your ghost, voiced by the excellent Peter Dinklage. Even he is boring in Destiny. The much memed “that wizard came from the moon” bite was, honestly, pretty forgettable in the game beta, and mercifully taken out. Think about that. The best “so bad it’s good” moment in the game was taken out. I think this speaks to Bungie’s complete lack of knowing what works and doesn’t. I mean, it was lame, but I dunno, that moon thing had traction.
Want more? After months of gamers complaining about not having a reason to keep playing after getting to max level 20 (weapon buffs can get you higher though) Activision released the first major DLC: The Dark Below. The clever commercial claimed it would have more story, more weapons, more more more! The promo was funny as the banter felt reminiscent of Halo’s fan-made web series Red vs. Blue. Alas, the DLC was one lame goose egg.
How is this possible? Moreover, how is this not infuriating to anyone who is still playing? The unsubstantiated rumor is that late in development there was a writer who crafted a story about the Guardians and the Vex, but he was fired and took all his writing with him. I don’t think this is true, since anyone working on a game that big would have signed an agreement that everything created is the property of Bungie, but no matter: I like the rumor. It makes me feel like somewhere out there, there’s a tale that validates why so much of the game is admittedly well-crafted. The shooting is tight. The art direction is wonderful, especially everything on Mars. Heck, even the way you level up is slick. Yet, every level is nearly identical, which is even worse than not having a compelling story.
The worst game of the year turned all of us into brain-dead gamers who apparently, never needed substance of any kind. That worst game of the year lowered our standards. Not matter how bad or disappointing the rest of the titles on this list are, we as a community didn’t feel like we were complicit in such suckage. With Destiny it’s not just Activision’s fault, not just Bungie’s fault. By buying all those copies and spending all those hours online we, the gaming community are just as to blame.
I liked the character creation, though.
Happy new year, everyone!
Previously by Peter Paras
7 Ways Blizzcon 2014 Rocked
7 Ways Sony’s E3 Press Event Blew Microsoft’s Away