Biggest Gaming Disappointments of 2012

 


High-Profile Storytelling Flops

Ross Lincoln

In the last decade, gamers and commentators alike have celebrated the fact that increasingly sophisticated technology has made possible very complex stories that seemed unbelievable just over a decade ago. Perhaps with a bit too much navel gazing, we’ve celebrated games like Mass Effect, Uncharted, Heavy Rain, games that, even if their reach exceeded their grasp, have delivered solid, often touching stories or experimented with the very idea of what a game story can be and how it could be told. Going into 2012, the sky seemed well below the limit.

The problem? The painful realities of the gaming industry. Decisions about creative content made based on the idea that a successful game needs to be like every other game. Games rushed out to meet an arbitrary fiscal deadline instead of any sort of natural completion point. Unnecessary multiplayer. Add to this the industry’s growing reliance on cutscenes and direct cribbing from film, and the result is that in 2012 we saw the promise of large-scale epic storytelling bungled, as everything from Mass Effect 3 to Hitman Absolution to Assassin’s Creed 3 featured incomplete stories — often horrendously underwritten — that left a bland, frustrated taste in gamers’ mouths.

The good news: two of 2012′s best games, Fez and Hotline Miami, look so much better by comparison. Lacking a AAA budget or the technological capacity to recreate the cinematic experience, they instead told very simple, very succinct stories tied intimately to gameplay and genre.


Diablo III

C.J. Miozzi

The biggest disappointment of 2012 may just have been a game so highly anticipated that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype: Diablo 3. A sequel that devoted Blizzard fans waited a decade for, there were some clear warning signs that Diablo 3 wasn’t shaping up to be the game we were expecting.

Did Diablo 3 turn out to be a terrible game? No, not at all — and anyone trying to convince you otherwise is simply a testament to the collective disappointment that Diablo 3 didn’t turn out to be an *excellent* game. With most of the original creators of Diablo gone, Diablo 3 was, effectively, the first Diablo game that Blizzard made, and something of the original series’ spirit was missing. Seven months past release, we still don’t have the PvP mode that should have shipped with the game, and while Blizzard has implemented new features and tweaks that make today’s D3 a far better game than it was back in May, it’s all too little, too late.


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21 Comments on Biggest Gaming Disappointments of 2012

R.J.

On December 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Ross pretty well nailed how I look at ME3, now. A year ago, I would have said that there was no chance that ME3 wouldn’t be my personal GOTY for 2012, and then I finished it, and we all know what happened. Even without that, there are plenty of instances of wasted potential if not outright broken promises. Like Ross, I still have good memories from the series, but I also think, “What a waste.” But at least it has taught me that even the most highly regarded company needs to prove that it can do more than just hype up a game and “technically” deliver on the hype.

doonerbandit

On December 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Mass Effect 3′s ending by a mile and lack of anything even approaching official news regarding Half-Life 2 episode 3 or Half-Life 3. Also Mass Effect 3 is NOT a shooter a shooter is a game in which 80-90% of the is spent killing things nor is it an rpg in which gigantic inventories and terribly lame turn based combat are the norm. Mass Effect is a story driven game whoose genre is hard to categorize but being a society that needs to label evertything and put it in its correct slot it has to be something.

S.J.M

On December 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

With the new year looming and the need for new resolutions, my plan is just forget that 2012 every happened and that ME3 shall be just left this side of January 1st. It can not, and shall not, be taken into the new year with me. I really can’t think of another game that just sucked the enthusiasm out of me for a game, its either the biggest dissapointment of the year, or the biggest missed oppitunity by any games company in who knows how long. Probably both.

Dan Miller

On December 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I’ve gone in waves and maybe I’m in denial, but I’ve reached a new place on ME3′s ending.

IT WAS GREAT.

I know, how could that be a valid opinion, you ask? Didn’t it just completely disregard all of the “choices” you were making, in a universe where we were constantly reminded of the importance of our choices?

Back up a second – what’s the best video game ever? I’ll just answer for me – Metal Gear Solid 4. Great mix of movie + art + game, crazy silly story that still works in the universe it is set in, and fantastic gameplay, wrapping up a long series and tying off a story arc (gee, similar to ME3…). How was MGS4′s ending? Completely and utterly generic. It did what many people wanted ME3 to do – the hero wins, the enemy is defeated, the world is seemingly saved, etc. That’s the classic ending to this sort of plot arc in a series of multiple games. And guess what? It’s not particularly memorable, and I don’t think fondly on watching the (hour long…) MGS4 ending as a highlight of the gameplay. Not even in the top 5 moments of the game.

ME3 COULD have easily done that, no problem. The forces of the universe, rallying behind Shepard, fire off the Citadel weapon and the reapers die, saving Earth at the last moment. Great. Maybe you shoot the Illusive man, maybe your love interest dies in the fight. Standard ending. Would be pretty quickly forgotten, because it was exactly what was expected.

ME3 went another direction. THAT’s where I’ve decided ME3 retains some semblance of glory as a series in an ending that, otherwise, I loathed. It spawned an entire “indoctrination theory” meme – has any other ending ever spawned hours of youtube videos examining every minute choice, from dialogue, to sound shifts, to freaking texture and environmental choices, to come up with an alternate theory of what is happening that the developer then REFUSES to repudiate in a specifically designed extended cut of the ending?

ME3, up until the final hour, was the GOTY by a longshot. Walking dead (haven’t played it so grain of salt here) is an episodic zombie story co branded with a popular TV show. Cool, unique, I’m sure it’s well written. It’s 2 hours long. ME3 concluded a series that many people sunk 200+ hours into and was a masterpiece until the ending, which might, with time, bear out to be the most interesting choice of an ending in the history of blockbuster games.

That’s the best I can do in defense of ME3. I still google “Mass effect 3 ending” for news. Can’t count on one hand the number of games I’ve done that for, let alone 6 months later. /end rant

Swcloud99

On December 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

About the storytelling thing, I find that a lot of games who were made before the said technology were very interesting, more so than most of what we have today.
Text based adventures released on the PC back in the 90s were awesome and featured very impressive stories. For something closer to what we have today, look no further than Metal Gear Solid, a game released on hardware that doesn’t come close to matching today’s tech.
In short, I find myself agreeing with Mr. Ross Lincoln about storytelling in games being the thing that disappointed me the most.

Phil Hornshaw

On December 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm

@Dan Miller

Interesting take on ME3. I do agree that I didn’t want a generic ending out of the Mass Effect series, but I don’t think that not putting together one brand of bad ending excuses another.

As for Walking Dead, I honestly think it’s a better story than ME3′s. Just to correct a few misconceptions (mostly because I think you should play it) — it’s not two hours long, it’s more like 10 through its five episodes. It’s also not based on a TV show, it’s based on the comic the TV show is based on, and further, it has altogether not a lot to do with the rest of the franchise. I actually consider the game a better story than either the comic or the TV show.

Dan Miller

On December 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Sound points on all fronts, Phil. Ben has already hammered home to me how much I should have started the Walking Dead episodes, like, weeks ago. I swear I’m going to do it before the year ends.

Axetwin

On December 13, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I for one dont want to see FPS (or TPS) games die simply because they cant evolve. Telling them they need to evolve or go away completely, is like telling someone they need to reinvent the wheel. Reinvent is not the right word, its an unfair word because name one genre that HASNT started to plateau. Reinvigorate would be a more appropriate word.

The best way to reinvigorate the genre is to drop the idea that multiplayer = replay value and multiplayer = all that matters. Its no surprise that I dont like competitive multiplayer, I dont feel the need to swing my epeen around like a neanderthal with a club. Because of this my opinion doesnt matter and am subsequently being left out in the cold? Is that really fair? I look at the additions to the Halo 4 MP and I think, “why couldnt they put in that kind of time and effort into the single player?”. Whatever happened to unlockables? Why cant I replay Halo 4 using the MP class system, unlocking traits, perks and weapon upgrades along the way? The franchise needs to stop treating singleplayer like its a dirty word.

JawaEsteban

On December 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I’d argue that it’s actually multiplayer deathmatch (and various iterations thereof) that has completely stagnated, and FPS/TPS shooters have unfortunately been dragged along down the hole with it due to the overlap they share.

Seriously, other than graphics and some minor gameplay tweaks, has anything really changed since Unreal Tournament and the original Counterstrike? Other than the fact that the genre has accomplished the remarkable feat since then of roughly tripling the online gaming population of thirteen year old emotionally stunted half-wits, the gameplay has not evolved one iota beyond giving the player different kinds of guns.

blarg198

On December 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm

@axetwin
i agree i love single players when it is just me and i loved that the older games had a vast single player then a secondary multi-player. when ever anything was added it was to both the parts of the game. now multi-player is all anyone cares about if oyu want to play with others there are plenty of MMO’s out there. bring back the experience i used to get when immersed into a single player game. a game i thought had a wonderful story line and single player aspect that everyone tends to ignore was too human. most people did not like the game but if you really looked it had everything you wanted in a new version rpg. it dared to be different. which is why perhaps gamers get so angry at change they are so used to what they play anything new or their genre is to be put aside or burned. i have been accused of doing this i have done it to several series. hell i told my self i would never play bayanetta because it was just visional gamer porn but i played it and it was amazing the story line the play-ability. and it was a single player. it is time for us to accept change and to accept that maybe what we want is not what we truly need as gamers. any who this is just what i feel.. don’t hate me

poolboy87

On December 14, 2012 at 1:24 am

@Dan Miller:

I would agree with that line of reasoning about the ME3 ending, except…

The suckitude of it had absolutely nothing to do (for me at least) with the fact that it didn’t end on a happy note where the hero saves the day, and lives happily ever after. It had nothing to do with the ending not being generic, or striving to be more memorable (I don’t think it strived to do that at all, btw…I think it strived to get finished during production as fast as possible).

The problems I had with it were due to the quality of it. It was really poorly produced. The “choices” that we had been promised where LITERALLY the same exact ending repeated with a different color overlay. It was nonsensical, it was contradictory, and it was contrived. I mean, the friggin’ star child or whatever they want to call him is the textbook definition of a deus ex machina. Next time somebody needs to know what that means, simply have them play Mass Effect. That was the problem…after sinking 200+ hours into the game, we learn that it’s actually a god like machine that we’ve never had any inkling or knowledge of that actually makes the “Yo dawg” meme work extremely well:

http://thewonderingsword.deviantart.com/art/Mass-Effect-3-Yo-Dawg-290846719

In short…I flat out don’t believe that the ending had anything to do with wanting it to be memorable, or anything about artistic integrity. I firmly believe it was about the bigwhigs wanting a highly anticipated game to be shipped ASAP, and not giving a about the quality of the ending. So they slapped together whatever they could get done quickly, and gave it to us. And when they tried to release the Extended Cut, what do we get? A bunch of (again, RECYCLED) stills with a voice-over.

The only thing I’ll remember about it is that it was terrible, and that it was insulting. So if that IS actually what Bioware was striving for…then they simultaneously widly succeeded and failed spectacularly.

Phil Hornshaw

On December 14, 2012 at 1:47 am

@Dan

If you do, let us know what you think! I’m always interested in new perspectives on that game.

Phil Hornshaw

On December 14, 2012 at 1:54 am

@axetwin and @JawaEsteban

Yeah, I think you’re both right, to a degree. I guess to say I want the FPS genre to die out is a little facetious because it’s not entirely true — what I really want is shooters that are exciting again. You both mention elements of the genre that are stagnating, and I agree with both those points, but I wonder what could even be done to shake them up? It feels like shooters need to figure out what’s cool about shooters again. The continual need to one-up the last blockbuster has resulted in a series of games that just mimic each other. Realistically, every game includes some mixing of: the two-weapons system; recharging health or shields (even BioShock Infinite includes a shield now); cover dependency; stop-and-pop enemies. Wherever the revolution comes from, I think it’s safe to say that we need one, but I think a big change in any of the stuff you guys mentioned could be enough to do it.

The problem to me is that everything plays the exact same way. Bulletstorm last year was an incredible breath of fresh air because it reminded us about the creativity that can go into combat, and emphasized that creative thinking. Suddenly it was like, “oh, damn, I remember what I like about shooters!” It’s been so long since the visceral intensity of games like Call of Duty was novel that it’s become standard. So I’m not sure what the genre needs, precisely, to be good again on average — a big jump in AI, maybe? A more realistic damage system? I have no idea, but something really needs to change the way things work, to my mind.

Menthro

On December 14, 2012 at 2:45 am

@Phil Hornshaw

Battlefield 3

Inconvenient Fact

On December 14, 2012 at 4:59 am

“The Gaming Community‚Äôs Response to Sexism”

Please stop this. The gaming community’s response is not towards sexism – it’s towards the repeated regurgitation of selective opinions as ‘evidence’ while ignoring the very real and proven fact that sexism operated in the reverse in the industry as well. It’s the response towards daft, destructive and ill-advised affirmative quotas and ‘positive discrimination’ being put in place to speed up a progression that should occur naturally. It’s the response against people like yourself, Ross, Ben and Jim throwing mud at those who don’t share their far-left ideological belief systems. And that’s not even mentioning the inherent hypocrisy of an all-male staff crying foul in a supposedly patriarchal gender debate.

Sexism is wrong. Inferring industry-wide sexism where there isn’t any because you want to make your name heard is far worse. I really hope Gamefront staff will stop this in the new year because it’s worn so thin you can thread it through a needle.

BattleaxeMaiden

On December 14, 2012 at 6:58 am

@InconvenientFact: Well, I hope they don’t. It’s a real problem, it needs to be spoken about and you know what? Your discomfort that it’s being talked about does not even come close to the discomfort women experience in your community. Which also happens to be Phil’s community. And mine! So he and I have the right to talk about this problem AS MUCH AS WE ING WANT until it GOES AWAY.

A change that is supposed to occur “naturally” you say? That’s basically telling us to shut up and wait until things change by themselves and if history has taught us anything, that’s how things change, right? /sarcasm

If you’re fed up about talking sexism in your community, maybe you need to try harder to do something about it. As long as sites like fatuglyslutty.com keep swimming in submissions, as long as female lead-characters can be counted on one hand and as long as I look at this community, pondering whether I have the strength today to wade through casual sexism YOU have NO RIGHT to tell Phil or ME to shut up!

Dan Miller

On December 14, 2012 at 8:59 am

@Poolboy87

I follow you (and am a big fan of everything that makes fun of the ME3 ending, btw, including that yo dawg. And Marauder Shields. I love marauder shields).

To have the opinion I do requires that you REALLY buy into one thing: Hudson et al (or maybe just Hudson…) did not intend for the ending to be taken at face value. If he intended the ending to just be taken as is, then my interpretation and appreciation is harder to rustle up.

If any inkling of his intention, however, was to spawn the “indoctrination theory” or any other alternative interpretation of the ending, I think it’s possible to move into a more artistic appreciation. Then he chose to do something unique, knowing the majority reception would be anger/confusion and the minority appreciation, which is a laudable choice in my mind given the state of triple-A title endings these days.

But yes, the text of the ending as written, taken at face value, is just a crappy ending that seems almost non-canonical in it’s inability to match many of the rules set forth in 200+ hours of prior gameplay. Surely it’s absurdity is primarily what pushes people to believe it can’t be taken at face value, as it is just so awful without an alternative interpretation. But as I said, I haven’t thought about the endings of MGS4 (mediocre), Assassin’s Creed (all of them nonsense), or Halo 4 (Reach was the only good campaign and I’m a halo fanatic), for 1/10 of the time I’ve invested in thinking about ME3. Gotta count for something.

PS Journey nailed the ending, GOTY for that reason alone.

JawaEsteban

On December 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

@Phil
Good points all. I think it really comes down to a chicken/egg discussion at the heart of it. Personally, I feel that most of the things that make the singleplayer shooter experience feel repetitive and uninspired result from the developer trying to maintain some level of consistency between the SP and MP experience in any given title. Otherwise, they’d have to build two different games for all practical purposes. So, we end up with level design, mechanics, and physics for MP deathmatch being recycled into SP, just with story, cutscences, and AI enemies placed on top of it. Under those conditions, is it any wonder that SP would feel like a linear shooting gallery?

If there’s going to be a fix, I’d say it should come on two fronts: First, cease with trying to build SP and MP on the same base foundation. Assign them to completely seperate development teams. Second, I’m in total agreement that AI needs an upgrade. Shooters are at their best when enemies do a good job simulating what a real live human under those circumstances would do. Problem is that you can’t use actual humans, cause you’re not going to find two dozen people willing to realistically simulate a group of poorly trained North Korean Army conscripts so one other person can kill them all off in a special forces nanosuit, as example.
Current gen AI, even when animations, tactics, and actions are numerous and well executed, suffers from a lack of randomness. Even when the AI does what a human would do under the circumstances, such as seeking cover, returning fire, and attempting to flank, it always does it the same way with the same timing. You can almost set your watch to when the NPC is going to look out from behind the barricade.
Creativity is missing. How about instead of NPC’s lining up to be dispatched as they come through the door like so many lemmings, they occasionally get the bright idea to just set a perimeter and light the structure you’re inside of on fire? Or have one group maintain suppressive fire on the exits and windows while a few others run off and come back with an armored vehicle? If developers can create enemy AI that thinks outside the box, then shooters will be fun again.

Milon

On December 14, 2012 at 9:29 am

Calling ME3 a disappointment is like calling the Challenger explosion “a bit of a mishap.” It was the single most damaging event in the long and storied history of videogames. The press came out of it looking even more ill-informed, elitist and bigoted than they already did, EA came across as bigger scumbags than ever before, and the fanboys continually leaping to their defence are flat-out ruining the industry with their myopic behaviour. Not to mention, BioWare’s credibility was absolutely destroyed as a result of all this. The only good thing to come from this was that more and more people are now finally coming round to the industry’s bulls***.

lee

On December 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

@battleaxemaiden Look I am for equal rights for women and also support a woman’s right to chose, however I don’t support people verbally attacking others for a having a different opinion about the subject. Also you’re shocked that somebody wants something changed and gets a negative response from others. If so, then you should look into your history. Change, no matter how big or small rarely comes peacefuilly. I get it , women need to be treated equally and I support it in every way. I think a great start is to show each other some respect not having smurfett as one of your arguments.

Game Gamer

On December 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Agree with your ME3 assessment. Wanted to add a few more words about the ending:

horrible, cheap, self-contradictory, game-contradictory, nonsensical, odoriferous.