2005 – 2013, or the seventh generation of gaming (let’s call it that), was certainly fun but it will probably not be remembered for its’ lack of disappointments. Plenty of releases did not live up to expectations, and others never happened at all. I bet that nobody is as bothered by this fact as the developers themselves. After all, they spent years of their lives working on something that either sucks or will never see the light of day. I feel for them, too, because they can’t always help things, but there are some instances where they need to be called out, and that’s when they completely over-promise and under-deliver. So, let’s do just that, by listing the seven biggest broken promises of this particular period in gaming.
7. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Despite what you might have been hearing, Colonial Marines is not a turd, if you are a fan of the movies. Personally, I’ve always felt that this franchise went full retard, right after the first film, but even I got goosebumps over some instances of authenticity in this game. The people involved clearly knew their shit. The environments and the tech is absolutely spot on, to the point that you often get that surreal feeling, like you are actually inside the very world which was once responsible for that stain on the couch. Add a few more maps to the multiplayer, and that too has massive potential.
Having said that, if you pay anywhere close to $60 for Colonial Marines, you’ll want to make sure that you can return it after it’s been mistakenly tossed into a crapper and furiously crapped on because extreme confusion is pretty much guaranteed. The campaign is short and seems to have been written by a die-hard fan of Batman and Robin, the AI is fucking terrible, and worst of all, the game is not scary. After you get over the fact that you are on LV-426, you find yourself in one ridiculously linear hallway after another, uneventfully whack-a-mole-ing whatever ugliness comes to take a peek at the barrel of your gun. By “ugliness” of course, I’m talking about the quality of the graphics. I was extremely bummed when instead of getting stalked by glistening silhouettes in the darkness, Xenomorphs awkwardly popped out of random holes, looking like brown turds with green flies still attached.
In this game, they are actually less dangerous than other human beings, who at least take cover and take more than a couple of shots to die.
What was promised:
The game was marketed as an official sequel to Aliens, with backing from some key people of the franchise , including Alien/Prometheus director, Ridley Scott. To some people, that implied a contribution of a certain amount of fucks, by the developer.
Before release, Gearbox had also provided some encouragement by showcasing a gameplay demo, or at least, that’s what their main dude, Randy Pitchford, repeatedly stated it was. That video promised an intense experience, where a group of marines crept through just the type of darkness that hides the type of stuff that causes futuristic space marines to shit their futuristic space pants.
Based on that display, we all expected to drag our sweaty feet through spaceship interiors designed by the sci fi Satan himself, glued to the motion scanners, ready to run for the only fleeting light source, at the slightest beep. We all expected to be frightened, stalked and picked off one by one, like dollar bills at a strip club.
Unfortunately, someone fucked with the game’s contrast, so instead of subtle glints and anxious vulnerability, we got a colorless mess, which fails to hide the mediocrity. Too bad because this could have been something special.
6. Gran Turismo 5
Criticizing Gran Turismo is like calling Radiohead (or what have you) a pretentious toot-fest. It’s just one of those things that everyone automatically likes, even if they don’t, because appreciating Gran Turismo makes you the Stig and means that you know shit about cars. Really, whenever GT spews all that tech-y nonsense about car upgrades, like what a fucking “differential” does, not a single male soul will admit that they don’t know what the fuck is being said, and at least 90% of us don’t. Quite simply, automotive knowledge is a clear-cut indicator of the size of our testicles. Thus, the whole thing is a sensitive issue, and hence, this entry is guaranteed to piss someone off.
Don’t get me wrong here, GT games are great but they can be rather lifeless, even boring, at times. Come on, you cannot honestly claim to enjoy going around a deserted race track in a fucking Nissan Cube or some other crap that a sane person hopes to never have to drive in real life. Most of us love this series for the realistic-ish graphics, an insane selection of vehicles and the plausible driving experience.
Gran Turismo 5 did not fix the series’ problems but it delivered most of the rest. The driving was solid (still with stupid AI but now with damage (that you have to unlock (triple parentheses))), the cars were mostly there, and the graphics were… well, let’s say… uneven. Only about 20% of the game’s roster consisted of “premium cars”, which refers to fully customizable vehicles that have interiors and look like they belong in a PS3 game, while a good chunk of the game was straight up PS2 content (this includes some tracks).
To be quite honest, the game can look pretty damn good even when the standard cars are involved but I can’t imagine anyone being blown away with the overall package. It feels unfinished, unexceptional and just too familiar.
What was promised:
Polyphony Digital promised “over 1,000 realistically rendered cars”, which is kind of like Ferrari promising a “very fast car”. Coming from them, you expect to be impressed, especially when previews are of the following sort:
The above image was released around E3 of 2010, and quite a few similar GT screenshots from around that time were so pretty that Google blocked them as adult content (if my memory serves…). Even those of us who knew that the game would not realistically look that way, hoped and believed that it would be close. I mean, it’s fucking GT for fucks sakes! Particularly, when the series’ creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, instructs the fans to “expect perfection”, that’s precisely what we do. For all we knew, “photomode” meant “you put a race on pause and press a button to capture the screen.”
Image screen capped from this gameplay video
It was once unthinkable for a Gran Turismo game to get universally panned for looking spotty, despite a claim to bring “the most exciting and detailed auto racing video game ever created.” GT5 wasn’t a bad game, sure, but if anyone’s expectations were met with GT 5, after promises of GT excellence, then they had not followed this series for very long.
It’s certainly admirable how ambitious the game was but fans of GT would have forgiven the lack of kart racing in exchange for that GT polish. Oh, and before Forza fans start gloating, Forza 3 almost made it on this list too, it’s just that on top of the promises, we also expect better from Gran Turismo.
5. Dark Sector
You completely forgot about this game, haven’t you? It was one of those okay releases that was decent fun, but did not do anything too memorable either, kind of like an average Dolph Lundgren movie. Also, not unlike a Dolph Lundgren movie, Dark Sector tells a story of a spec op of some sort, or something, who infiltrates a gulag, only to get caught by the bad guy and injected with a virus that gives him special powers. The first issue is, of course, what kind of a fucking dumbass would do that?
At this point, the game stops being an alright third person shooter and starts being an alright third person shooter with batman abilities. As the virus infection spreads from your arm to the rest of your body, turning you into a metallic poop, you are able to deflect bullets, do a bunch of stealthy trickery (is there anything more confusing than being cut in half by an invisible man?) and throw a crazy-wicked boomerang.
In fact, you probably mainly remember the game because of that boomerang. It worked just like the batarang from Arkham Asylum, including an ability to control it in slow motion, only it didn’t knock people out, it sliced things right the fuck off.
What was promised:
Technically, Digital Extremes did not over-promise or lie. We got exactly what they’d said we would but they did show off a video that looked drastically different (and better) from what we got. Dark Sector had actually been rebooted a few times before we finally played it. One notable version was showcased at E3 2005, as one of those futuristic seventh generation games, in a “gameplay video” that looked awfully pre-rendered:
Believe it or not, that was not the most technically impressive video released at the time but it had everyone hot and bothered, including yours truly. It featured a new intriguing sci fi setting, with its’ own distinctive style, and promised some pretty interesting concepts.
I can’t say whether it would have been a better game but it’s safe to assume that it would have been a hell of a lot more memorable. The video just screamed “a new franchise” and whispered “Metal Gear Solid in space” and we whispered back: “fuck yes, please.”
4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Yes, Bethesda appears on another AlienLion list, but before anyone accuses us of being whatever is the opposite of a fanboy, let me drop a disclaimer. Not only do I love Oblivion but it’s one of the most important and memorable gaming experiences of my life because it was the very first game that I purchased for the seventh generation of consoles. What’s more is that I played it completely possessed by the hype spell. I still remember crawling out of the sewers, looking at the amazing scenery, wondering what awaited me, expecting absolutely everything…
I was so blown away from all the immense pimping by the gaming media that I didn’t notice a single flaw. As far as I was concerned, I was playing that impossibly advanced Elder Scrolls, which some called a “‘life simulator, not only of your character, but of all the NPC’s you will encounter in your epic quest.” I had absolutely no idea what the fuck could happen in it because I believed every word about it even as I fucking played it.
I didn’t even notice that Oblivion had barely any NPC interaction, retarded AI, boring ass combat, bland art style, a repetitive structure with a shit story and so on. Instead, I concentrated on the good stuff, like the epic scale, endless exploration, and lots and lots of shit to do. Looking back, I do admit all the problems but I still love the game because the good parts were undoubtedly good.
What was promised:
Believe it or not, the game was actually supposed to be even better! That aforementioned massive hype had a lot to do with what Bethesda said about the game before release. According to their executive producer, Todd Howard, even a simple fetch quest “can be done in hundreds of ways,” in Oblivion.
In terms of NPC interaction, this game was supposed to be unbelievable… according to Bethesda. “So for all of you thinking that it would be neat to steal something, and then take off on your horse….guess what? An NPC can do the same dirty trick to you as well,” they said (to be clear, nothing remotely of the sort happens in Oblivion). How could anyone resist? The game was supposed to “crush Morrowind” in terms of depth, level of polish, dialogue, and every other “conceivable way.”
After actually playing Morrowind, of course, I realized most of it was not exactly true. Again, I still love the game and that hype was perhaps the very reason I got so sucked into that experience but had it really lived up to the promises… oh boy.
3. Diablo 3
This is not a console game (yet) but it still came out during the seventh generation and it was a pretty massive deal. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the thing, I will also admit that I have not played this game, nor do I plan to, even though I awaited it like whoever married Adriana Lima awaited their wedding night. Why? Well, one reason is the bullshit always-online DRM that Blizzard can blow straight up their asses (we’re trying to be professional here). Another reason is the real money auction, which in the words of the developers themselves, “can short circuit the natural pace of item drops, making the game feel less rewarding” (more on this later).
Love the game or hate it, there is no denying that Diablo 3 didn’t please all Diablo fans. After pouring hundreds of hours into Diablo and Diablo 2 (and Lord of Destruction), I watched countless gameplay videos and read countless reviews for the third one, to know for certain that there is plenty to like about this new direction for the series but there are also clear signs that the decision to ignore this entry was the right one:
What was promised:
Over on the official Diablo 3 forums, there was a thread titled ‘ UMM…YEAH, WERE WE LIED TO?‘ which provided tons and tons of video evidence that we were indeed lied to. Well, that thread now looks like this:
But not to worry because all of that content is nicely saved in an article titled “Did Blizzard Lie?” which you can always find here. In it, you will find a long list of things, large and small, and some changes are quite understandable but not all. What I cannot get over is the promise that the real money auction would not be a factor in item drop rates. It was supposed to be a simple solution for those who used to utilize shady intermediaries to trade items in the past (oh yeah, that happened). Unfortunately, that was bullshit because it is an inevitable problem and “it is a problem [Blizzard] recognize,” as stated by the game director, Jay Wilson, who also stated that “at this point we’re not sure of the exact way to fix it.”
This is a game about fucking loot. When you introduce, integrate and encourage an ability to trade items, you can’t expect not to have to fuck with item drop rates. And when you fuck with that, you fuck with Diablo, the game. It may seem like I’ve got nothing else to complain about besides the auction but this is the main point here. We were promised a Diablo game and that is not what we received.
2. War Z
Another PC-only game, War Z, came out of nowhere and that’s understandable because it was trying to take advantage of a few time sensitive factors: it had to come out before the game it ripped off, the standalone DayZ, and also, it had to happen while the marketing for that Brad Pitt movie, titled World War Z, was still hot. Unfortunately, that meant that the game was to come out largely unfinished.
See IGN review for more.
War Z was not even a game, at release. It was like watching one of the Star Wars prequels, only instead of all the CGI, you’d get to look at the blue screens. Seriously, nothing worked well, or at all. Combat looked unintentionally hilarious, everything from weapons to drops was completely unbalanced, while the unexplainable bugs (?) that included mass bannings and hackings for no comprehensible reasons, made the thing nearly unplayable. And that’s a shame because somewhere under all the ugliness, there is a shell of a good game, rip off or not.
If they simply waited and put in the work, it could have been the beginning of… well, something. Before the game’s release, people took note and had quite a few good things to say about the potential (while keeping in mind that it was a veeeery early version of the game). Unfortunately, what came out did not improve shit, and now, good luck selling War Z or any game “from the people responsible for War Z”.
What was promised:
Let’s be fair: a lot of developers oversell their products. Very possibly, every game has missing features that some fanboy claims to miss as well. After all, there are haters for everything, right? Well, not a many developers, if any, lied as they released their game.
It takes a certain kind of balls to put bullshit right into the written Steam description but it takes something else entirely to keep it up, after people have played it and smelled it for what it is, by claiming that your customers “imagined something to themselves without checking details first.” I particularly enjoyed the part, where the developer, Sergey Titov, claims that the actual 50 player limit is technically “up to 100 players” (hey, it’s no more than 100, right morons?). At that point, any hope of this game foundation turning into the game it could have been died just like the guy’s chances of ever being taken seriously in the industry.
1. Red Steel (for example)
A lot of Wii games could be here just as well, but Red Steel really personifies the issue at hand. Before I start making sense though, a few words about this particular game are in order. If you remember, Red Steel was one of the launch titles for Nintendo Wii and one of the very few games ever released that featured sword fights with no blood whatsoever.
The action was what one would expect from a Wii shooter by now: a whole bunch of pain in the ass that could have been easily avoided with the use of a gamepad. While the gun fights were not too bad considering that this game was among the first of its’ kind, the melee had a mind of its own. It was a case of convulsing like a wanker in the act, until the on-screen hands did something random. Oh, and the story was laughably hilarious while the graphics looked like ass (and I don’t mean the one above).
Does this sound familiar? Perhaps, like, oh I don’t know… most third-party Wii games?
What was promised:
The problem here is not only the game but what Nintendo implied that the Wii could do. Everyone expected MotionPlus-type controld right out of the gate, and apart from some titles that came out late in the cycle, like Zelda: The Skyward Sword, very few Wii games came even close to replicating your movements, unless you move like the thing from The Thing. Red Steel trailers, being among the first, had a lot to do with that expectation.
First of all, the above features obvious CGI, as the final product does not look like that and neither does the gameplay, again, unless you are the thing from The Thing.
Ubisoft was among the first Wii developers to claim that “you are using your movements to control the sword,” and while that is technically not a total lie, “controlling” is really stretching it. It’s not as accurate as saying “you are using your movements to have your character do something unexpected with the sword”. It would have even more honest to simply say “you fight in this game by flinging your wiimote exactly the same way as you do in any other Wii game.”