The hype train has had many stops this year, some good, others less so. We've seen big companies laid low through their own lack of caution, undermined by smack talk, and the best laid plans revealed to be sorely misjudged. In terms of games, we've had darlings of the press - games that have won critics over through previews and interviews, buffet spreads and bright lights - only for the end product to be rather lacking.
In the midst of our Game of the Year Season, it is only right the we look back and reflect for a moment upon some of the disappointments of the past twelve months. It should be noted that the games that make this list aren't necessarily bad (although one or two are), but rather proved to dash our hopes in some way. We weren't necessarily cross...just disappointed.
Though there's room for both at the top end.
10. We Dare
Forget Dead Island...anyone who finds themselves disappointed by a game on the grounds of a CG trailer only has themselves to blame. The worst culprit of any sort of trailer fiasco this year probably has to go to We Dare. Did we get a raunchy party game for adults? No. Did we get girl-on-girl spanking? No. Were PEGI right to give the game a 12+ rating? Yes. The mainstream press went nuts, with the Daily Fail as usual doing absolutely no research into the actual game; but the disconnect between the trailer and the actual game was pertinent. At the end of the day, We Dare failed to launch in this country, with reports from across the Channel being that the game was about as sexy as Salacious Crumb.
9. X-Men Destiny
What was it that Silicon Knights did with that multi-million dollar bankroll from the Canadian government? Well it can't all have gone on X-Men Destiny? Can it? Really? Oh dear. Having an X-Men game in which you can't actually play as any of the X-Men was a warning from the start...the awful combat and mind-numbingly boring missions didn't help. We knew it was going to be bad, just not this bad, hence the low position on the list.
8. Crysis 2
We gave Crysis 2 an 8 on consoles, so why does it make this list? The answer lies in the PC version. The first game was a title that took the gaming world by storm, a game so advanced, a shooter so exceptionally crafted that only the very best machines would be able to do it justice. It provided a roadmap for the future, one that we've only just managed to catch up with. Crysis 2 was smaller in scope, scale and ambition, and for PC gamers it was the ultimate compromise. God only knows what Crytek might have been able to squeeze out had they optimised instead of diversifying.
Microsoft's focus on Kinect has been distressing to say the least. Games make a system, something that another company had to learn (again!) the hard way this year too. Put simply, Kinect doesn't really have that many that you'd rush out to buy. Over a year on from Kinect's release we're still not really any closer to the core experiences promised before the camera's emergence. Motion control, particularly on the Xbox 360, is still the domain of the casual gamer and light fitness buffs. Don't expect much to change, with the new dashboard update gunning more for media lovers than gamers and Kinect integration mandatory for all apps.
Splash Damage were so close, so very close. Brink was a pretty good game, but that's just the point. It provided a glimpse of exactly what it could be, but kept that grail just out of reach with innumerable, enjoyment-reducing niggles; questionable level design when it comes to choke points; a progression system that's as frustrating as it is rewarding; and that SMART system - as Jon put it, 'functional at best and borderline broken at worst'. Although the bug-ridden netcode got progressively patched and updated, Brink never quite reached the heights to which it aspired and remains, to this day, something akin to Marmite because of its flaws.
5. Duke Nukem Forever
So not even Randy Pitchford could save this one, not that we really blame him. Mired in development hell for nearly a decade and a half, the Duke's return couldn't possibly hope to live up to expectation. Perhaps we are to blame ourselves: when Pitchford addressed press last year and regaled us with a shining (and well-rehearsed) sob story, filled with fine rhetoric and a defiant tone in his voice, saying that Gearbox had preserved most of the original code, everyone cheered. A year later and the archaic, creaking mechanics were lamented as the game was proclaimed out of touch, out of date and best left out of sight.
4. Battlefield 3
Right, let's get one thing straight. I'm not saying Battlefield 3 was a bad game, but it was a disappointment...particularly on consoles. EA made a very big deal about squaring up to Activision and going toe-to-toe with them in the FPS ring. But instead of fighting their own fight, instead of playing to their strengths, DICE presented a package that desperately tried to emulate Modern Warfare. The multiplayer is saved on PC thanks to the epic 64-player battles, but where was the expansive singleplayer campaign. Where, indeed, was the destruction? Instead of looking at Bad Company 2 (the campaign to which easily surpasses that of BF3) and making it better, DICE sneaked a peek at someone else's paper...and chose to copy them instead.
3. Dragon Age 2
I'm not entirely sure that there's much more to write on this subject. Dragon Age II was always going to make the list, those of you who follow the site ( and indeed anyone who read my personal Game of the Year highlights roundup) will probably have predicted its appearance as soon as you saw the title. For those of who yet to read the rant of a disappointed and dejected fan, you'll want to click here.
An average game by anyone else's standards. A poor game by BioWare's own.
Imagine, if you will, the entire population of the United Kingdom lining up outside an enormous theme park, the likes of which have never been seen before. It's a wondrous place and the only catch is that you have to pay for each ride individually...oh, and you have to leave all of your bank details and your personal info at the gate, just to be sure. But it's ok, the people at the front desk look like they know what they're doing.
Except they don't. Someone leaps the security wall, takes down the CCTV cameras and waltzes into the compound to find that all of those 70 million people have had their private information stored in a safe made entirely from cardboard.
Not only did Sony display a worrying naivety regarding the safety of their extensive user base's private information, but it took weeks for them to 'fess up and longer still before an apology was issued. But the worst part, the absolute worst part of this, was that all it took for everyone to roll back over and return to normal was a handful of shrug-worthy free games and a month of Playstation Plus.
It's worth pointing out that hackers hit Nintendo a month later, and they were fine.
That's about the only good thing we can really say about Nintendo this year, though. Let's start with the 3DS. Why wasn't Pokemon Black/White delayed to be a launch title? Where was Mario at launch? Where was any decent first party game, for that matter. Why did we have to wait until December for a first party title to make the most of Streetpassing?! The future is still looking dicey for the 3D portable console, built as it is on a gimmick that adds nothing. Stereoscopic 3D, as it stands, is about as important to a high gaming experience as a burger van would be to a bunch of starving vegans.
Then, of course, there was the Wii U. As Jon has pointed out already, we're not entirely sure Nintendo could have done more to botch that appearance at E3. Is it a tablet? Where's the actual console? Why can't you tell me how powerful it is? Of course, when I got my hands on it, it was quite pleasant, but the booth was entirely designed around trying to explain the experience rather than actually showing off what it could do. The admittance that the demo footage had been taken from other HD consoles was a little embarrassing too.
Finally, the Wii itself. Why has it taken half a decade for a dedicated Zelda game to appear on the Wii? It's entirely possible that the Big N simply did too good a job with the Wii in the first couple of years, such a good job that for the last few the company hasn't really known what to do with itself. It now faces a difficult 2012: between somehow trying to re-enter the HD console race (the Wii is already the second console in every home....how do they top that?), attempting to hold their own against a vastly more powerful and better-supported (seemingly) handheld in the PS Vita, and having to calm investors down every time Miyamoto publicly reveals he's mortal, the next twelve months will be interesting indeed.