This past year saw the release of some truly impressive video games. From Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to Overwatch and Titanfall 2, 2016 could very well go down as one of the best years in gaming. However, not every game lived up to the hype (can they ever?). As is the case every year, there were a number of games that deeply disappointed fans and left game developers scrambling to come up with solutions and excuses.
While the majority of the following fifteen offenders are by no means bad games, for a multitude of reasons, they failed to deliver on their initial promise and represent the biggest disappointments in gaming for 2016.
15. Dishonored 2
The original Dishonored was one of the biggest surprises of 2012; a stealth-action game featuring a unique Victorian steampunk aesthetic and smartly-designed levels focused on providing players with many choices in which to achieve their objective. Four years later, Dishonored 2 delivers much the same experience, but ultimately does little to advance the series forward. At the same time, it suffers from an overall lack of polish, especially in the PC version, which may well be one of the most poorly-optimized ports of the year.
The main problem with Dishonored 2 is that it feels more like an expansion to the original game than a full-fledged sequel. Although the game offers a brand new playable character in Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of original Dishonored protagonist Corvo Attano (who is also playable here), the game rushes through its opening chapter and makes the choice between playing as Emily and Corvo a permanent one, which wouldn’t be so bad if the two didn’t have considerably different abilities. That being said, Dishonored 2 is still a very good game overall and will likely please anyone who adored the original, but for a sequel to a game of the year contender — and one that took four years to make at that — it’s hard not to wish Dishonored 2 had more to say.
14. The Walking Dead: Michonne
Telltale’s previous adventure games based on The Walking Dead were both excellent takes on the source material, so many assumed that the spin-off based on fan favorite character Michonne — appropriately titled The Walking Dead: Michonne — would follow suit. Unfortunately, TWD: Michonne is a prime example of all the bad qualities Telltale is known for; terrible animation, disruptive load times, and a plodding pace are just a few of the major issues that make this game feel like a chore for much of its length (which actually isn’t even all that long to begin with). The Walking Dead: Michonne is a poor examination of one of the franchise’s most intriguing characters and one that only the most diehard fans will likely derive any enjoyment from.
13. Homefront: The Revolution
It was hard to know what to expect from Homefront: The Revolution. The original Homefront, released in 2011, received a mixed reception from critics and gamers alike, but its core concept of an alternate history in which a unified Korea invades the United States was promising nonetheless. So when news came out that a sequel was being made and that development duties would be handled by a new and more reputable team — Crytek UK — there was hope that Homefront could actually become the premier first-person shooter franchise many had hoped it would be initially.
Unfortunately, Homefront: The Revolution went through a troubled production, with development being handed off to Koch Media and Deep Silver partway through, and the evidence is clear in the finished product. Repetitive, unpolished, and lacking any real standout moments, Homefront: The Revolution is a disappointing sequel that looks even worse when compared to many of the fantastic shooters that were released this year.
12. Mafia III
Mafia III delivers one of the most hard-hitting narratives in recent memory and its unflinchingly realistic focus on depicting the racial tensions of its 1960s Louisiana setting is commendable, as very few video games — especially in the AAA space — are willing to take these sorts of risks. It’s just too bad that, as an actual video game, Mafia III leaves much to be desired. If Mafia III had been a linear, narrative-driven game, it probably would have been one of the best games of the year, as its story elements are absolutely its greatest strength.
Unfortunately, the game’s open-world framework detracts from Mafia III’s narrative by featuring some of the blandest and most repetitive gameplay in the genre, with a small variety of side tasks that seemingly exist just to pad out the game’s length. Ultimately, Mafia III’s bold narrative design is undone by its uninspired gameplay, but it’s still reassuring to know that it sold very well, as developer Hanger 13’s work here could inspire other devs to explore issues such as racism in their own games.
11. Quantum Break
Balancing gameplay with story has become an increasingly difficult task for developers in recent years as gaming, particularly in the AAA space, has increasingly become more cinematic with advances in computer technology. When Remedy, the studio behind the critically-acclaimed Alan Wake, revealed that their next game would be a TV show hybrid, featuring multiple 30 minute-long episodes strewn throughout the game, there was worry that Quantum Break would be too story-focused, thus taking away from its innovative time-bending gameplay.
While the finished product certainly qualifies as a good game, it doesn’t live up to its pre-release status as a potential system seller for Microsoft’s Xbox One. Although Quantum Break sports beautiful graphics and some pretty entertaining third-person shooting, these elements constantly come into conflict with the TV show moments, as it feels like the gameplay is used as filler to get you to the next cutscene. Its experimental design is indeed praise-worthy, but ultimately Quantum Break feels too at war with itself to be a top-tier experience.
10. Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go’s meteoric rise in popularity was certainly one of the most fascinating entertainment stories of 2016, as it was impossible to avoid being sucked into the hype back in July when millions of people became obsessed with catching ’em all. Although Nintendo’s mobile take on its popular Pokemon franchise was a massive success, strip away the licence and you’re left with a mediocre app that was plagued with technical issues upon release. Server problems, the inexplicable removal of key features, and having to keep the app open constantly for it to register player movement were just a few of the problems players had to put up with post-launch (which, to be fair, many of them were willing to do because they were still so infatuated with the novelty of catching Pokemon).
However, once the novelty started to wane, it was easier to see Pokemon Go for what it was — a shallow, repetitive tie-in that didn’t even replicate the experience of being a Pokemon trainer all that well. Although improvements have been made in recent months and the game remains popular, its player base has dropped off dramatically since the summer and it’s hard not to think that if Nintendo and developer Niantic had put out a more polished, feature-rich game to begin with, Pokemon Go could have been a legitimately good video game rather than a passing fad.
9. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
It’s still hard to believe that we even got a sequel (okay, technically it’s a prequel) to Mirror’s Edge at all. The 2008 original won a lot of admirers due to its unique first-person parkour gameplay, but a combination of weak sales and somewhat mixed reviews seemed to indicate that a sequel was unlikely. However, Mirror’s Edge built up quite the cult following over the years, to the point where EA was convinced to greenlight a follow-up, which finally made it out this year. Unfortunately, while Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst improves on the first game in some meaningful ways — most notably, by focusing more on parkour and less on combat, which was easily the weakest element from the original — it also introduces some all new problems that hold it back from greatness.
Admittedly, the parkour is as fun and fluid as ever, but the problem is that the game simply doesn’t do anything interesting with it, especially in the many repetitive side missions that were included, because of course Mirror’s Edge had to become an open world game. While the story missions are definitely the highlight, they’re held together by a weak narrative that does little to flesh out protagonist Faith or her free-running world and overall, Mirror’s Edge fans deserved better than waiting eight years for this uninspired sequel.
8. The Last Guardian
After nearly a decade of development hell, Fumito Ueda’s long-awaited follow-up to his 2005 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus was finally released at the tail-end of 2016. Many gamers long ago hopped off the hype train for The Last Guardian — perhaps because it’s still, even now, hard to believe it was actually completed — but the game largely delivers on the promise of Ueda’s initial vision that was first unveiled all the way back in 2009, when it was still being developed for the PS3. Unfortunately, that vision seems to have remained largely unchanged in the seven-plus years since we first saw The Last Guardian and although it’s a beautiful game with breathtaking level design and clever environmental puzzles, it feels like a game that just completely ignores the last decade of game design.
The controls and camera are frustratingly archaic, to the point where some have labeled TLG as a PS2 game dressed in PS4 clothing, and while the relationship between the unnamed boy you play as and his adorable griffin-dog hybrid companion Trico is evocative and well-realized, the game often devolves into frustration as you struggle to get Trico to do what you want, which is a problem when pretty much every single puzzle involves him in some way. In the end, The Last Guardian is still a great game, especially if you’re able to put up with some of these questionable design decisions, but it’s hard not be disappointed that a game many of us have been looking forward to for nearly two console generations feels like it arrived half a decade too late.
7. The Division
The Division is a game that starts out promisingly, but only gets worse the longer you play it. Admittedly, that is true of most games in a broad sense, but The Division was also billed as a shooter meant to compete with the long tails of games such as Destiny or other titles with MMORPG elements, and this is the area where it falters the most. There’s little doubt that The Division is one of the best-looking games of the year and its third-person shooting mechanics are solid and made even more enjoyable by the game’s RPG elements.
Unfortunately, once the campaign is over, it’s hard to find a reason to go back to The Division, as the end game content is both frustrating and repetitive. The much-touted Dark Zone, in which players could group up or betray other players they encounted and also acquire some of the game’s best loot, also wears out its novelty quickly; a situation made worse when hackers started figuring out how to game the system to their own benefit. Although The Division is in a much better state now, especially with a few DLC releases under its belt, you only really get one chance to make a first impression in this crowded gaming landscape and unfortunately, The Division’s wasn’t as great as it could have been.
6. Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V may have improved since it launched earlier this year, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Capcom shipped an unfinished game. After releasing multiple different iterations of Street Fighter IV throughout the last console generation, Capcom touted SFV as the “last” Street Fighter game, with new content to be added on a continual basis to keep the tournament crowd satiated and to avoid splintering the game’s fanbase with “Turbo” and “Arcade” edition releases. The problem was that Capcom seemingly thought that selling Street Fighter V as a platform for future content meant that they could ship a threadbare game at full price, which understandably ruffled a few feathers.
At launch, SFV had little more to offer than its multiplayer mode, lacking many of the features players have come to expect from fighting games, such as an arcade or story mode. If that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s online modes didn’t even work properly for the first few weeks after launch, meaning that players were stuck with a brand new, $60 game that they could barely even do anything in. Although Street Fighter V is already one of the most popular games in the tournament scene — and rightfully so, since it’s still a fantastic fighting game at its core — the way Capcom launched it was disappointing, to the point where it easily stands as one of the most bungled game releases of 2016.
5. Mighty No. 9
Mighty No. 9 was supposed to be Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s spiritual successor to one of the most influential 2D platformers of all time, so it’s not difficult to understand why the game’s Kickstarter campaign raked in $3.8 million. With Capcom refusing to make more Mega Man games, fans naturally placed their hope in Inafune’s project, but the sense that something was wrong started to creep in after Mighty No. 9 suffered multiple delays and finally released in June of this year. Fans were hoping to find a polished 2D platformer in the vein of their beloved blue bomber, but instead found a mediocre-at-best ‘tribute’ with terrible mechanics, a washed-out artstyle, and just generally uninspired game design. At least it was only $20 (assuming you didn’t donate more than that to its crowdfunding).
4. Super Mario Maker 3DS
Super Mario Maker was arguably the best game Nintendo released for the Wii U in 2015, so the news that they would be porting the game over to the Nintendo 3DS — a system owned by millions of more people — was a smart move on their part. And just like in the Wii U version, Super Mario Maker 3DS allows you to easily build and create your own Mario levels and all-in-all is a great portable version of one of the Wii U’s very best games.
Unfortunately, while Nintendo nailed the first two ideas behind the game’s “Create, Play, Share” mantra, they completely hobbled the last and arguably most important part of that design philosophy, as there is no way to share stages online. That means unless you have friends to trade with locally or use the system’s StreetPass feature, there is no way to access stages other players have created, at least to the degree you can on the Wii U. This effectively makes the 3DS a massively-inferior port and one of the biggest missed opportunities of the year.
3. Star Fox Zero
Star Fox 64 is a fondly-remembered Nintendo 64 game and helped establish the Star Fox brand as a Nintendo mainstay. Unfortunately, it’s also almost twenty years old at this point and Nintendo has failed to produce another game in the franchise that lives up to its pedigree. Star Fox Zero was an opportunity to return Fox McCloud and his band of anthropomorphic starship pilot buddies to their former glory, and with Shigeru Miyamoto himself involved and the usually brilliant Platinum Games at the helm, what could go wrong? A lot, as it turns out.
The main problem with Star Fox Zero is that it’s a good game undone by some terrible design decisions. In an apparent effort to try and justify the exitence of the Wii U GamePad yet again, Nintendo decided to implement forced motion controls and they are, in a word, terrible. It’s hard to think of another 2016 release, other than the odd poorly-optimized VR game, that controls as poorly as Star Fox Zero, which forces players to not only tilt the GamePad around awkwardly but also demands that you take your eyes off the TV screen to attack enemies.
It’s a shame too because underneath the shoddy controls, Star Fox Zero feels like classic Star Fox and would probably be the best game in the series since Star Fox 64 if it didn’t have these detrimental issues. As it stands, it’s probably safe to say that Nintendo has effectively killed the franchise for the foreseeable future and all fans are left with is yet another disposable Star Fox game.
Battleborn deserves to be labeled one of the year’s most disappointing games through no real fault of its own, as it’s a competently made shooter with a diverse cast of colorful characters. Unfortunately, 2K and developer Gearbox picked the absolute worst time to release their MOBA hybrid, as it shipped right around the time Blizzard was also putting out Overwatch and it quickly became apparent that the market can only handle so many competitive shooters revolving around characters sporting unique abilities at a time (hint: the answer is one).
Overwatch became a sensation, to the point where it is being declared one of the best games of the year, while Battleborn was quickly forgotten about by the gaming community at large. Overwatch simply proved to be the better, more popular game and with Blizzard’s powerful marketing push, it quickly left Battleborn in the dust. In hindsight, Gearbox probably would have been better off making Borderlands 3 than spending their time on this doomed experiment.
1. No Man’s Sky
No game in 2016 better illustrated how dangerous the hype machine can be than No Man’s Sky, the ambitious space exploration game developed by small indie studio Hello Games. Ever since it was first revealed at the VGX Awards in December 2013, No Man’s Sky was touted by many in the gaming press as the next big thing in games and it certainly didn’t help that the game’s lead developer, Sean Murray, hyped the experience up at every opportunity. Unfortunately, once the game finally released in August of this year, the veil was lifted, only to reveal a game that delivered far less than was promised.
While No Man’s Sky’s most prominent feature — a procedurally-generated universe that created a near-infinite variety of planets — was certainly intact, in practice this algorithm presented players with palette swaps of the same few different environmental templates. rather than breathtaking new worlds waiting to be discovered. It also didn’t help that many of the promised features were nowhere to be found and that there ultimately wasn’t all that much to do in the game besides repetitively mine resources and engage in the occassional clumsy on-foot battle with annoying drone enemies. Hello Games has taken steps recently to add more features to the game, but this has largely proven to be a case of too little, too late for the many gamers who felt cheated by years of false promises leading up to release.