Let’s face it: no one is perfect (not even me, but I am damn close), not even our favorite developers. Several developers have made some colossal blunders over the years and developed games that made us ask, “What were they thinking?” For your twisted pleasure and amusement, I present ten games guaranteed to dredge up painful memories.
Strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Developer: Ion Storm
How could the same developer who made the legendary Deus Ex also make one of gaming’s most legendary stinkers? With the (then) respected John Romero (co-founder of iD Software and designer for many of their classic games) attached to the project, expectations were understandably high. Romero's name was dropped more than a baby’s toys.
Then the game released, and despite what that now infamous ad promised, Romero did not make anyone his bitch.
There was atrocious A.I. for enemies and companions alike, dated graphics and art design, and a limited number of saves. The game itself is just plain dreadful.
When we add together Romero’s huge ego, the ridiculous amount of coverage the game received (Time cover anyone?), in-studio conflict, and the controversial ad campaign, we get a massive and potent cocktail of dreck. The game to this day remains a lesson in uncontrolled hype, and how not to run a PR campaign. Somehow though, Ion Storm managed to release three more games after Daikatana that were actually good! Play Deus Ex or Anachronox instead.
Stay far away from this colossal turd.
Developer: Naughty Dog
My relationship with Uncharted 2 is spotty at best, and I have said a thing or two about it before, but I can’t help but mention it again. After all, Naughty Dog is the studio that brought us Crash Bandicoot (awwww yeah!), the Jak series, and The Last of Us. Clearly, they know a thing or two about making games, which is why Uncharted 2 is so baffling.
The first Uncharted was no masterpiece, but it had competence in its mechanics and design. The second one was awful all around: paper-thin characters ("characters" is a generous term), a bumbling plot, weak game design, one of the most unlikable and undefined main characters in gaming, and a complete disrespect for the player made for one dismal experience.
Maybe Uncharted 4 will be different, but I’m not holding my breath.
Developer: Free Radical
Oh, Free Radical, how did you lose your way? After delivering some of the best FPS games of all time and the criminally underrated Second Sight, you went and released this… abomination. Now I know it isn’t completely your fault. Some game press outlets had labeled Haze as a “Halo-killer” (like we haven’t heard that one before), but you still managed to release a game with an asinine plot, shoddy level design, caricatures for characters, and filled it all to the brim with countless bugs and technical issues. I would just like to know how in the world you managed this Herculean feat.
Thankfully, Free Radical (now Crytek UK) has been working on good games since the release of the abominable Haze. While the fate of TimeSplitters 4 is up in the air, rest easy knowing we will never see another Haze. The world can only tolerate so many bad games.
Developer: Silicon Knights
You developed a well-received game which becomes the basis for a fan-favorite series. Next, you make one of the most original and downright best horror games of all time. You follow this up with a complete remake of Metal Gear Solid. You then regurgitate your game which has been in development hell for nine years onto an unsuspecting public because that is always a great idea. Hmmm. One of these does not belong.
If John Romero was prideful with his Daikatana hype, Denis Dyack was the embodiment of unabashed arrogance when hyping Too Human. This is a game that was planned as a trilogy as was also set to receive a three part fictional documentary series all before the game had even released. The game was finally plopped onto stores shelves after innumerable delays and an estimated $60-100 million had spent to make it. Poor combat, awkward controls and questionable design and mechanics made for one uneventful and rather dreary experience. Don’t forget all the legal issues where Silicon Knights sued Epic Games and lost and were then ordered to recall and destroy all unsold copies of their games using the Unreal engine.
Silicon Knights also cursed us with the horrid X-Men: Destiny. Double thanks Denis!
Anything Released Post-2008
Oh how the mighty have fallen! I was honestly torn between Rare and Sonic Team. However, Sonic Team has become a running gag in and of itself and is already the focus of plenty of scorn. So let’s look at Rare instead!
Rare is responsible for great memories for many of us. Whether it be Killer Instinct, Blast Corps, Goldeneye, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and many more, Rare has delivered some timeless classics. After the release of the polarizing Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts failed to meet sales expectations, Rare was put on a strictly Kinect shovelware diet, a far cry from their heyday. It’s telling when people are more excited for a compilation release of a studio’s older games over any new projects they are developing.
Developer: Rebellion (again!)
Sigh. Why Rebellion why? You just had to show up again didn’t you? With your worst and creepy friend to the party too! Don’t act like you don’t know! Your ole pal there drops the “f” bomb more than Randy Pitchford spouts drivel; they also control worse than my great, great, great grandmother driving a forklift while drunk; and worst of all, Peter Dinklage has toes longer than him. Go home Rogue Warrior, you’re a broken pile of garbage that makes Junkion look like a vacation hotspot.
The real kicker? Bethesda was unsatisfied with the work the original developers Zombie Studios were doing. They tossed the game down the drain and brought Rebellion in to make an all-new game. Makes you wonder what about the original form didn’t fit Bethesda’s vision. Maybe there weren’t enough bugs and glitches…
Kane & Lynch (series)
Developer: IO Interactive
Here we have not one, but two games which are appallingly awful and remain a blight on the developer’s record. IO Interactive is known for the delightful Hitman franchise and the woefully overlooked Freedom Fighters (it has a flipping nailgun mode people!). Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was released in 2007 and somehow a sequel was greenlit, developed, and released in 2010. That’s too much Dead Men IO.
The worst part is the central core of the game could be interesting. The idea of playing as a mentally unstable and psychotic character that would experience and see different things from his cooperative partner could be compelling. The final game was a mess though with faults that overshadowed any positives. Add to that the controversy of Jeff Gerstmann allegedly being fired for his review of the game, and everyone was left with a bad taste in their mouth.
The sequel ensured the bad taste not only stayed but became worse by adopting a shaky-cam visual style and by having the two main characters run around in their birthday suits with only a small pixelated blur saving us from further trauma. Let the nightmares commence…
Developer: The Creative Assembly
This one is truly dumbfounding and defies explanation. The Creative Assembly has made their mark by creating some of the best strategy games one can play. So how on Earth did they make one so god-awful?
Stormrise had an interesting idea or two, but any good ideas or concepts were instantly negated the minute you played. Bad controls? Check! Poor graphics that impede gameplay? Check again! A fundamentally broken RTS foundation in a RTS game? We have a winner!
Here’s hoping they don’t bugger up Total War: Warhammer.
Dragon Age II
Another game I have a tenuous relationship (at best) with, Dragon Age II is still a divisive game among the Dragon Age fanbase. Some enjoy the game. Some don’t. Many of us naysayers share the same complaints: extremely repetitive environments, the focus on a small, uninteresting city, uninteresting combat, and a story that never seems to pick up steam. After all of the amazing games BioWare has delivered, this one is a definite disappointment.
Alien Vs. Predator (2010)
Rebellion has been around since 1992 and has produced some decent to great games. The reason AvP makes this list is because Rebellion already released two good games in the AvP franchise. One was released in 1994 and the other in 1999. The 1999 version is considered by many to be a classic and the pinnacle of the series.
When news came Rebellion was developing a new installment for (then) current-gen consoles, fans were enthusiastic, especially since the franchise had been dormant since Alien Vs. Predator 2 in 2001. Needless to say, the game failed to meet expectations. Poor controls, more bugs than Creepshow, an awkward melee system, and mechanics that fly in the face established franchise lore (humans can easily knock xenomorphs back with melee attacks….. wut?) added up to a game better left alone. Unfortunately, the game was a commercial success, and Rebellion has mentioned the possibility of another title. Keep beating that horse guys…
So there you have it: some truly dreadful games from otherwise awesome studios. Agree with my picks? Think of any I missed? Sound off in the comments!