Look, no one sets out to make a bad video game. Even E.T.) took a lot of hard work. But as with any other creative industry, for every brilliant flash, there are dozens of duds. Last year certainly saw its share of fizzle-outs. Here are 10 of 2013’s most notable misfires—with some handy alternatives to help you relight that spark.
EA had a rough year. Battlefield 4, the latest installment in their wildly popular multiplayer shooter franchise, was marred by a disastrous launch rife with technical problems. Poor Mitch Krpata could barely even make it through his review without the game crashing, disconnecting and/or wiping his saved progress. Battlefield 4’s problems have been so severe that developer DICE reportedly suspended all other projects to focus on fixing them. And although the game debuted all the way back in October, patches to fix stability and performance are still being issued; the latest one arrived a couple of weeks ago. To add insult to injury, multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed alleging that EA misled investors about the game’s revenue prospects. Battlefield 4 is perhaps the highest-profile game to be this consistently broken.
, Payday 2
Guess who? EA again. “There’s something great at the core” of developer Maxis’ reboot, our reviewer Cameron Kunzelman asserted, despite SimCity having been “one of the biggest release failures in recent memory.” While the new title pushed some elements of the city-building franchise’s classic gameplay forward, its always-online requirement proved disastrous when its server infrastructure collapsed. Never mind design flaws like the broken traffic model: The game was nigh-unplayable at launch, suffering connection failures, save game progress erasures and frequent crashes. More than a million people bought SimCity in its first week, yet only a fraction could actually play it. Several reviewers were compelled to revise their scores downward after launch, and it’s been an ongoing PR nightmare ever since. Only last week did EA announce that a long-awaited, sorely-needed single-player offline mode was on the way. But it might be too late. Nearly a year after SimCity’s spectacular flame-out, it may not be worth trying to rebuild.
Anno 2070, Tropico 4
Developer Goichi Suda (a.k.a. “Suda 51”) is known for mixing bizarre conceits and fourth-wall-breaking humor. But whereas he succeeded brilliantly in 2011’s Shadows of the Damned, Killer Is Dead was D.O.A., according to Assistant Games Editor Maddy Myers: “Suda-fronted games have gotten progressively less clever over time, and Killer Is Dead is another notch on that steadily declining graph.” Sadly, this hack-n-slash “parody” is something to be laughed at, not with.
Saints Row IV
, Shadows of the Damned
Poor Maddy. She drew the short straw again with Beyond: Two Souls, the highly-anticipated narrative game from Quantic Dream featuring the voice and mo-cap talents of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. But, Maddy said, “even these two can’t save the insufferable writing and inexplicable side plots” of the overstuffed, melodramatic Beyond. The result is a forced attempt at meaning that ultimately feels meaningless.
, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Last of Us
Space trading sim X Rebirth stands in stark contrast to another 2013 franchise reboot, the excellent Tomb Raider. In addition to the usual plethora of launch bugs—something the X series is known for—X Rebirth featured an unintuitive interface, cluttered visuals, an uninspired story with subpar voice acting and awkward flight controls. Most damning, though, is that its conflicting systems feel jammed together like so much space flotsam.
With the launch of the new Xbox One, hopes were high that with beefed-up hardware, including an improved Kinect sensor, we might start to see more genuinely terrific motion-controlled games. Instead, the irredeemably broken Fighter Within seemed to confirm our worst fears: new hardware, even crappier software. The good news? At least it resulted in this hilarious review from our pals across the pond.
Dance Central 3
, Child of Eden
Consider the perfect turd storm that is Digital Extremes’ 2013 release. It’s (1) a movie tie-in game that’s (2) chock-full of preposterousbugs, built around (3) a design concept that completely misses the point of the IP. “Yes, the gameplay is bad,” Kevin Church’s review reads, “but the writing somehow one-ups it, opting to force characters…to conform to the Gears of War ‘We must get from point A to point B as quickly as possible’ style of idiot shooters.” Star Trek was a double letdown for me, both as a Trekkie and as a fan of Digital Extremes’ previous game.
Star Trek Online
Ride to Hell: Retribution has the dubious honor of the lowest Metacritic rank on Steam, a whopping 16/100. That alone is enough to earn a spot on this list, but unlike Star Trek or another notable 2013 disaster, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, Ride to Hell doesn’t have the “movie/TV tie-in” crutch to lean on. It’s too bad it’s not a “so bad it’s good” game, because its 60s motorcycle gang setting could be fun if it were. Instead, it’s a tedious, sloppily-assembled jumble of half-finished fragments.
Try instead:Pretty much anything else on Steam. Perhaps some Sparkleponies?
When multiple sites independently issue PSAs warning you to not buy a game, you know it’s truly an abomination. Final Fantasy: All the Bravest is the worst kind of mobile game. For starters, it’s basically Cow Clicker with a Final Fantasy skin (except without any element of irony). It’s free now, but wasn’t at launch—an insult, given that it’s an unabashed cash-grab brimming with exploitive in-app purchases. Worse, it’s a cynical ploy by a major publisher to (literally) trade on players’ desire for a new entry in a beloved franchise. Gross.
Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign
, Warhammer Quest
The really insulting thing about Infestation: Survivor Stories is not that it’s a cheap, broken, derivative knockoff of the popular zombie survival mod DayZ. It’s not that its lead designer misrepresented his game’s features and level of completeness when it originally launched on Steam in late 2012, while blaming consumers for misreading. It’s not that it was an alpha-quality release full of shameless microtransactions. It’s not that its developers apparently embraced shady tactics like stealing promotional images from The Walking Dead, establishing Byzantine forum posting guidelines meant to discourage negative feedback, and sneaking “no refunds” clauses into the game’s terms of service. No, as bizarre as this game’s saga has been—it was even pulled from Steam for several months amid accusations of fraud—the worst part of the story came in June 2013, when the hot mess known as The War Z quietly rebranded itself as Infestation: Survivor Stories. The new name was a brazen attempt to shed the notoriety the title had accumulated, with little evidence that the product had been significantly improved. This, more than anything, is what grates at me: the cynical confidence that people can be so easily duped. I’d mention the old chestnut about lipstick and pigs, but I fear that might be too unkind to swine.
DayZ (currently in alpha), State of Decay