Back in the early days of gaming, developers had to make sure they got everything right before a game was released to the public. Online patches didn’t exist yet, so there was no safety net for a game to be fixed after release. Once gaming machines started to go online, firmware updates became a reality, which was great in theory because games could now be improved over time. Unfortunately, this also enabled companies to cut corners and ship unfinished, or even unplayable, games. In the end, this practice only hurts the consumer, since the game publishers already have their money up front. These 10 titles are all examples of the current reality of a market filled with games that launch in broken states.
10. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the best open world RPGs ever made, with a gigantic, highly-detailed fantasy world for players to explore. Unfortunately, the sheer magnitude of game projects like Skyrim generally result in some significant bugs and glitches, and Skyrim had some big ones. The most significant was a bug on the PlayStation 3 version that made the game lag and become practically unplayable after a certain number of hours. Unfortunately, when Bethesda went to patch the game, a whole new bug was introduced in the form of hilarious, but frustrating backwards-flying dragons, which had to then be fixed with another patch. While Bethesda made great strides in addressing the game’s problems, it’s hard to escape the feeling that they were more concerned with getting the game out in time for its 11/11/11 release date then making sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.
9. Battlefield 4
EA and developer DICE’s Battlefield series is recognized as being one of the best multiplayer shooters in the business. That reputation was tarnished by the launch of 2013’s Battlefield 4, which suffered from a number of problems related to its online mode, to the point where many couldn’t even play the game. The situation was so bad that EA announced in December of that year that the game’s future expansion packs had been delayed so that the DICE team could concentrate on fixing the online mode. Battlefield 4 eventually achieved stability, but it came too late for many players who felt cheated by the initial problems that plagued the game.
SimCity is a city-building simulator series that was very popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, so the announcement of a modern reboot being handled by original developers Maxis was met with considerable fanfare. When SimCity was released in 2013, the game’s goodwill quickly eroded as fans realized how terribly things had turned out. The main crux of the problem was that SimCity required a constant internet connection to run, which meant that everything was dependent on EA’s servers functioning properly. The servers went down on release day and took almost a week to fix, which meant players who spent $60 on the game couldn’t even play it. Maxis was shuttered in March 2015 by EA, less than 2 years after SimCity‘s release. Adding insult to injury, an indie city-building game called Cities: Skylines was released the same month as the Maxis closure and is widely considered to be the game SimCity should have been.
7. Fallout: New Vegas
Open world games are practically guaranteed to have some bugs and glitches, given their huge size and complexity compared to other genres. Most of the time, these glitches are pretty harmless and often quite humorous (think Red Dead Redemption‘s incredible flying people). There comes a point and time though when the glitches turn from fun to detrimental, and Bethesda/Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas definitely fell into the latter category when it was released in October 2010. Numerous technical problems plagued the game, including frequent freezes, corrupted save games, and an admittedly hilarious bug that caused NPC (Non-Player Character) heads to spin unnaturally. The game did eventually receive numerous patches that made it much more playable and enjoyable (except for the PS3 version, which suffered from the same slowdown issues as Skyrim, another Bethesda release).
6. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The Halo series is well-known for its iconic main character, the Master Chief, a genetically-enhanced super solider tasked with saving the human race from an alien scourge. Anyone who is familiar with Halo, however, knows that the real draw of the games is their fantastic multiplayer component. So when Microsoft announced that Halo: The Master Chief Collection — an anthology for Xbox One that collects Halos 1-4 in one package — would include each game’s multiplayer mode, fully intact and online, Halo fans were ecstatic. That excitement quickly turned to rage when the game was released with numerous issues with its online modes, to the point where that portion of the game was largely unplayable. Microsoft and developer 343 Industries truly dropped the ball with this release, as the Halo series has always had a reputation for delivering high quality products. The Master Chief Collection tarnished the Halo brand, and with Halo 5: Guardians set to arrive this November, regaining consumer trust will be a tough objective.
Like with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the developers of Driveclub promised the world with their online features, but didn’t do enough server testing to ensure a smooth day one experience. Driveclub‘s online modes were ambitious, emphasizing player connectivity and social features that the developers hoped would be innovative additions to the racing genre. Things didn’t go quite as planned however, as the game was plagued with server issues for months following its October 2014 release. Driveclub‘s problems were so severe that the highly publicized Playstation Plus free edition was put on hold indefinitely, which was a significant PR blow to Sony and its services.
4. Assassin’s Creed Unity
If there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from the disastrous release of 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity, it’s that yearly development cycles are a practice that’s hurting game development and leading to weaker, unfinished titles. Unity was the first game in the popular Assassin’s Creed series to be developed exclusively for next generation hardware like the PS4 and Xbox One. While it’s hard to deny that the game looked impressive, it’s obvious that the game was rushed to release in order to stay on track with publisher Ubisoft’s annualized schedule for the series. Control issues and terrible facial animations were just a few of the numerous technical problems that ruined the immersive qualities of the game’s well-realized recreation of 18th century Paris. Ubisoft wound up apologizing for Unity‘s launch problems and have stated that they are committed to not repeating the same mistakes with their next title, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, due out in late 2015.
3. Sonic The Hedgehog
Poor Sonic. The iconic blue speedster has had a hard time of it ever since his heyday in the early 90s on the Sega Genesis. The main problem with the more recent entries in the series has been that Sega seems incapable of creating a high quality 3D Sonic game. They tried to go for the full reboot treatment in 2006 with the simply-titled Sonic the Hedgehog. Rather than offering a new beginning for Sonic in 3D, it turned out to not only be a terrible Sonic game , but one of the worst games ever made. The game was completely unfinished, with numerous control problems and design bugs that frequently sent Sonic careening through level geometry. The game’s incredibly creepy story, involving hints of bestiality, also didn’t do this trainwreck any favors.
2. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Game publishers are infamous for making promises that their finished products can’t keep. Aliens: Colonial Marines, a joint project between Sega and developer Gearbox Software, was one such product. However, whereas many games will simply not live up to expectations, the team behind Colonial Marines flat-out lied in their early previews of the game, as early game footage barely resembled the final game. Colonial Marines was the definition of a broken game, featuring terrible A.I., poor graphics, and shoddy gameplay. This came as quite a surprise considering Gearbox were responsible for the very well-received Borderlands titles. Their pedigree wasn’t enough to keep this one off the rubble pile, as Colonial Marines has come to represent the folly of misrepresentation in game marketing.
1. Ride To Hell: Retribution
You can’t have a discussion about broken games without talking about Ride to Hell: Retribution, a game so terrible it makes Aliens: Colonial Marines look like a masterpiece. Unlike most of the other games on this list, Ride to Hell has no redeeming qualities. The voice acting is atrocious, there are countless bugs and glitches, and worst of all, the game is barely playable. The foundations of this game are so fundamentally broken that no amount of patches could ever hope to fix it. Ride to Hell: Retribution is an example of the depressingly low quality that is achievable when publishers don’t care about making a quality product.