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[Ars] 2008's Most Heart-Rending Gaming Disappointments

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As 2008 draws to a close, there's lots of talk of the best games of the year, and the things that made us happy to be gaming... but this talk only tells part of the story. We tend to remember the games we fall in love with every year, but the things that drive us crazy tend to fade away with time. That's a shame; you can learn just as much from failure as you can from success.

With that in mind, the Opposable Thumbs staff came together to chat about the things that let us down the most this year, and here are our top five heart-breakers. In no particular order...

Spore
The first E3 I went to was three years ago, and I waited in line for three hours to watch Wil Wright demo Spore for a small room of fawning press. The game looked amazing, and Wright's enthusiasm for the project was infectious; we were all sure we were seeing the future of gaming. Wright gave another charismatic speech at this year's E3, and the game looked even better. By that time we had played with the creature creator, enjoyed what the community had done with the tools, and looked forward to the full game. It's hard to look back and remember just how much promise the game appeared to have.

Then we played it. The game was dull and felt like a number of unfinished games linked together in the most basic of ways. Its handling of DRM has since become legendary. No one talks about the game unless it's to spit out the name EA, almost as a curse.

Wil Wright's personal Chinese Democracy may have sold well to the casual audience, but, from the perspective of hardcore gamers, it went down in flames.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
It's hard to be in this business and stay in love with games: you get to see the best of what each game has to offer at various trade shows and press events—then, when you play the final version, you get your spirit crushed by the reality of what was released. Imagine smelling a steak dinner for a few hours, and then being served White Castle. The first demo I saw of The Force Unleashed was at CES, and then I got served the burger.

It's not that The Force Unleashed was terrible, it just felt unpolished. Clipping problems were common, the menus were a slow mess, and the much-vaunted physics system made about three cameos in the game. Watching neat videos of how well the game could handle splintering wood, only to wind up seeing that technology in action just a handful of times in the game, was depressing.

If you find this for $20 used in the future, pick it up and have a decent time with it. For those of us who followed the game's development and picked it up on its release, this one still burns.

Mirror's Edge
Mirror's Edge is a game that looks and plays great in five-minute doses, as the first-person, free-running game play made for amazing trailers and demos. But the full game was $60, was over in only a few hours, and featured basically the same roof over and over again.

That is, of course, when you weren't suffering through the internal environments, which didn't allow you the freedom to do what you did best: run. Don't get us started with the random loading screens or interminable elevator ride that brought the game's momentum to a complete stop.

The Time Trials are interesting, but for a game that attracted this much hype, the final product just didn't deliver. So many unique concepts, such great art, such a disappointment when you sat down to play it. The game ends when it seems like the story is just starting, but don't worry—there's a sequel coming!

Nintendo
Nintendo didn't disappoint when it came to raking in profits, that's for damn sure. The company is making it look as if its competitors are sitting at the kid's table at Thanksgiving dinner, month after month, and Nintendo also has the enviable problem of selling most of the games for its own system. Nintendo worries about third-parties the way an alcoholic laments drinking the entire bottle in front of them: sure it's a problem, but the person who might be concerned is too happy about the state of affairs to give a damn.

The problem was made clear at E3 this year, when Nintendo didn't show anything for the audience that grew up playing its games. New Animal Crossing? It will sell huge numbers, but it's not really our thing. Shaun White Snowboarding? We still can't find a Wii Fit, so the balance-board integration is a mixed blessing. Wii Music turned out to be a tech demo that offers no actual game, nor any fun.

Nintendo is clearly sitting on top of the gaming industry, and the company seems content to sell Mario Kart for the rest of this generation's life. Let's hope for something that will actually get us excited to switch the system on in 2009.

Sony's Home
Imagine if all the sexist idiots from Xbox Live suddenly had 3D avatars and sat around a movie theater that looped the trailer for Twilight, hoping a woman walks in so they can compliment her breasts and then dance around her. Imagine a version of Second Life where you couldn't create anything, but you're welcome to buy a new Diesel shirt or wait in line to play chess.

This is supposed to be Sony's answer to Xbox Live, a way for gamers to socialize and hang out. The problem is you don't actually want to know most of the gamers who play online, and you certainly don't want to be forced to spend time with them in any kind of physical space, even if it is virtual physical space. If that's even possible.

You know what I mean.

The new update claims to have made it easier for gamers to join the service—this is Sony, there were server problems—but it also removed voice chat. Luckily, a few of the ads were updated. That apparently counts as a big thing.

Let's hear what some of our forum-members and readers have to say.

"So I'm wondering, did Sony maybe remove voice chat because of how vulgar things were getting? I don't know if you all heard the same things I was, but it was getting bad. From the closed beta to what we have now, Home has become one ****ing hostile **** place," Onyx wrote. "Yeah, this was all to be expected, but from the closed Beta to now it's turned the Home experience closer to walking through the worst part of town. You can't walk far without finding people yelling obscene crap back and forth. So maybe they're tweaking the default voice settings, because Sony is going to have a real problem selling this world to families."

Another commenter described Home as "a corporate dystopia," saying "you're only able to express yourself if you're willing to pay."

Home may have some promise, but right now it's the least convenient way to set up online games, and seems to focus on offering the most convenient way of selling virtual items to you. Sony has done the incredible: made it harder to ignore scary people online.

Honorable mentions
Sonic Unleashed: Sonic Team proves it can still make a decent Sonic game, and then proves that it still hates you by adding Were-hog levels and one of the most annoying side-kicks in the entirety of forever. Okay, that's hyperbole, but I'm becoming more and more convinced Sega knows exactly what it wants and...

Sonic Chronicles: the Dark Brotherhood has demonstrated that it wants to fit Sonic and his ever-expanding collection of side-kicks into game modes that don't take advantage of his skills. This is certainly not even close to what gamers want.

LittleBigPlanet: This is a great game that everyone should buy, but of course, this is Sony, which hasn't realized that selling a system for $400 is suicide in this economy. The biggest news associated with the game's supposed release was how the title was pushed back because some interpreted the music involved in the game as offensive to some believers of one religion. Then, of course, since this is Sony, there were server problems. Now the game is out, it's stable, and it's absolutely wonderful. The trouble is, no one seems to care.

2008 had some wonderful moments, but also some truly wretched ones. Many of these disappointments were near misses, sure, but that makes them even more painful. Let's hope everyone has learned what they need to from these debacles, and moved on.

The only thing we can be sure of? There will be many more games to be disappointed by in 2009.
ArsT
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ElRigTheRig
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post #2 of 36
i hate Nintendo, period.
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post #3 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by dieanotherday View Post
i hate Nintendo, period.
Why? They're a company who makes some pretty good games. Their handhelds are great.... >_>
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post #4 of 36
What? Where's Far Cry 2? That's my only disappointment.
    
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post #5 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by angrysasquatch View Post
What? Where's Far Cry 2? That's my only disappointment.
beat me to it, biggest game disappointment in a good long while.

btw you stole thepwnrofnoobs avatar
    
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post #6 of 36
I'd like to add Warhammer Online. I was in beta and loved the game so much I sold my WoW account the week after the game was released. I played it to max level and then roamed around the same three zones night after night looking for someone to fight or something to do.

Eventually my server got free transfers only to find that the new server was the same idea, but now I was forced to throw myself at the same castles/keeps for hours at a time only to get screwed over by the awful random roll loot system. The first time I got a piece of my tier 4 gear from a keep lord was when I got killed upon pull doing zero damage and then rolled a perfect 1000 to get top loot honors with no contribution what-so-ever.

The game could have used an extra month of beta testing to get *at least* the gear itemization done right (why would a caster want armor with bonus to melee weapon hit chance???).

PvE is a joke and the gear treadmill is outrageous. Needless to say, I was a huge fan turned huge disappointed ex-customer.
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post #7 of 36
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Originally Posted by justarealguy View Post
Why? They're a company who makes some pretty good games. Their handhelds are great.... >_>
DS has quite a few great games. Wii, meh.
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post #8 of 36
farcry 2 was very dissapointing in terms of a lack of content.
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post #9 of 36
Age of Conan...Warhammer....NFS Undercover...Farcry2...

How are they not on the list?
post #10 of 36
LBP is right. Its an absolutely wonderful game but their right. No one seems to care any more!
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