This is probably the most difficult category this year, not because everything was utterly brilliant, but rather due to the fact that there were simply so many disappointments to be had in 2014. The year began with bright-eyed optimism about the new generation of games consoles, and it draws to an end with a hefty number of blockbuster titles limping out of the gates, calling out for emergency medical attention.
Brendan | Destiny
Destiny had so much potential. The Alpha and Beta made Bungie's shooter my most anticipated game on the horizon. But when the full game rolled out, I found it to be one of the most shallow experiences of the year. We were expecting to explore whole new worlds, instead we get some local dustbowl planets consisting of corridors connected by faux open world arenas. The levelling system post Lv20 really turned me off too.
A scrawny campaign was letdown by an incredibly weak endgame. I couldn't get around some of the appalling design choices either. If I wanted to do side missions, I'd have to load them as a separate mode away from the campaign and the basic fetch quests soon wore thin. Oh and the loading screens have loading screens - very next gen.
Online, despite a solid netcode, I struggled to gel with the game. The competitive options were fun, but the way some modes are locked on different days, really pissed me off. Overall the number of options was astonishingly poor. Playing Strikes in co-op was undeniably enjoyable, but the repeat visits to the samey locations got old fast. I've still not been able to try a Raid because I don't have the time to plan to meet up with another five online friends at once. Bungie has recently admitted that Raid matchmaking is way down their list of priorities, despite acknowledging that it's one of the most requested features. Says it all really.
Add in the over-priced expansion DLC (no new planets?!) and the way it locks out some daily/weekly challenges for non-DLC players and the reasons to keep Destiny off eBay start to fall away. To be fair, it has been months since I've made a solid effort to get back into it and I am going to give it another shot. But why is it I'm having to work so hard at enjoying a game? Maybe I should just play through some of the unplayed titles in my pile. Life is short after all.
Carl | Ubisoft and its many, many errors
If you had asked me who or what I would have predicted as a future disappointment this time last year, Ubisoft would have been the furthest thing from my mind. Rayman Legends was a complete blast, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was nothing short of fantastic (mainly for the shanties, though – “Oooooh Whisky is the life of man…”)
And then this year happened. Oh dear.
In a way it was somewhat foretold. The pressures of producing annual instalments for their franchises was already pushing them to breaking point, and even Black Flag was showing signs of the microtrasaction mentality easing its way into their products, but it at least wasn’t gating half the collectables and forcing players to leave the game to do 100% completion. But I’m jumping ahead of myself here, as before all of that we have to quickly refer to Unity’s lack of playable female characters in Unity.
And what absolute horseshit that excuse ended up being.
Apparently animations for female characters were apparently not possible within the timeframe and budget, which is puzzling when you consider supporting character Elize – a woman – engages in combat alongside you on a number of occasions. Add to this the fact that back when the Season Pass was still a thing it was clearly teasing a playable female character, and it only shows just how out of touch the publisher is with its fanbase. You only have to look at the amount of AC cosplay by women to see an audience was there, and the setting of the French Revolution providing many examples to include female characters… but then again, the setting ended up being a “oh, this was also going on” thing, as Matt explains in his review. It’s clear that the sense of direction for the project was bordering on “we need another Ezio” and forgot to realise that he was supported by an interesting plot based on history and a fantastic cast of characters.
In my opinion, doing both Unity and Rogue at the same time, on top of finally getting Watch Dogs out the door, must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ubisoft were stretched too thin to deal with everything they had planned, but after a year where they suffered two delays they had to lie in the bed they had made. It ultimately led to Unity being released far too early, being buggy on every platform. The MMO-like grind that forced microtransactions were bad enough, but the fact they even pushed them into The Crew highlight that Ubisoft need to take its long-term goals back to the drawing board.
I certainly hope they do, anyway. Even a Victorian London setting won’t be enough to draw me back this time unless they make serious efforts to sort themselves out.
Jon | Everything Is Broken
Destiny should be my biggest disappointment of the year. It's endgame content without a game; a slot machine disguised as a shooter that encourages you to replay a tiny amount of recycled content over and over and over again for randomised rewards. The Skinner Box may be beautifully laquered and studded with diamonds, but it's still a waste of time and a crushing waste of an opportunity to create an exciting new universe.
But at least it worked. Which is more than I can say for any number of other games in 2014.
We expect some wonkiness from MMORPGs like Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online, but I've never seen so many big-budget AAA titles crash and burn so hard so fast. Assassin's Creed: Unity, DriveClub and the unexpectedly yet horrifically broken Halo: The Master Chief Collection made a mockery of their brands, and demonstrated that we can't trust developers to release a functional product for £50, let alone a finished one. Even if they're fully functional before launch!
Gamers can only take so much. If this trend continues, I wouldn't be surprised to see the pre-order market implode, triggering an apocalyptic AAA industry crash that will decimate the already-creaky top brass. Sadly, after this sorry shambles, I might actually welcome it.
Matt | A Lack of Ambition at the Top
Biggest disappointments, eh? How long have you got?!
This has been a year riddled with disappointments. There have been broken games galore, delays aplenty, the omnishambles of #Gamergate providing a depressing reality check for the whole industry. Many of this winter's biggest releases lie in bits and pieces having flamed out on release. But the others above me have all talked about that, all I want to really add is that the bubble has to burst. Publishers need to stop pushing pre-order culture, and this release-now-fix-later mentality has to die in a ditch.
Assassin's Creed: Unity is the biggest single disappointment of the year in my book. It encapsulates everything that's wrong being a new-gen only game with that doesn't know how to leverage the new-found power and is filled with questionable design choices and mechanical failures, a title littered with bugs and unfinished bits and bobs on release, stuffed with microtransaction, in-game currencies, forced companion app features and Uplay client twattery.
But I've already talked about that... I want to talk about how we've been convinced to cheer and woop for repackaged games that released only a year ago. I want to talk about the lack of ambition from developers thus far in this console generation. Greatness awaits, Sony said. Well, I'm still waiting.
Many of this year's biggest releases have been repackaged titles from the last two years or so. GTA V, Metro, The Last of Us, Halo, Tomb Raider, just to name a few. It strikes me that although consumers have been hot to trot on a new console generation for some time, the industry just hasn't been prepared for how quickly it would take off. We stood at the end of last year, excited and hopeful for a year of progression, but what we've seen instead is recycled material -- both in terms of old games given a spit and a polish and, quite literally in the case of Destiny, new games and sequels rehashing the same stuff over and over again.
Consider this for a moment -- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare could feasibly be called one of the most creatively brave top-tier titles of the year.
Thank god for the indie market and PC gaming sector, but the new-gen consoles, for all of the bluster and hype (and there's been so much of it over the past eighteen months) are yet to live up to that generational prefix. Put simply, there's little "new" about them. We're still waiting for developers to untether themselves from the last generation, and really tap into the new machines. Thankfully, it looks like 2015 could well be stuffed with such experiences.