Some say that marketing is the greatest art form of the last century. It's easy to see why. You don't even have to be a fan of Mad Men to understand that some of the world's best brains are in this field, working hard to make us want to consume. You'll find prize marketeers in every field, from cars to drinks, films to toilet paper, and video games are no exception. That's fine, we accept that's just the world we live in. What's less fine is when the product fails to live up to its hype. If you preorder a game for $60, you have a right to expect a certain level of polish. You expect the trailers to depict what actually happens in the game, and what you can expect to get your hands on.
Sometimes, however, games let us down. Whether its due to features being cut due to budget constraints, graphics that would disappoint a PS2, or shoddy level design, there are a huge number of reasons that games have let us down over the years. In this article, we've pulled together 30 of the biggest let-downs from this generation. Some, you've probably been burnt by yourself, while others, you may have been lucky enough to avoid. From the outright misleading marketing of No Man's Sky to the microtransaction-stuffed mess that was Star Wars Battlefront 2, if it's disappointed gamers, you'll find it here. Have you been badly burnt by a game from this generation that we've missed? Let us know!
30 Watch Dogs
When I watched the trailer for Watch Dogs, I was so hyped. It looked to be a fantastic cyberpunk game that gave its players unparalleled control over the world. You could hack into pretty much every aspect of the world, or so it seemed. What happened when it came out? Well, first and foremost, it looked terrible, at least compared to its trailers. The hacking was pared down significantly from what was promised in the trailers, and the cars handled like terribly designed milk floats.
29 No Man’s Sky
Where to begin with No Man’s Sky. I don’t believe the devs were lying, but boy did they get economical with the truth. Its trailer at E3 2013 made it appear to be the follow-up to Elite that we all wanted. You could seamlessly fly between gorgeously-rendered planets, we were promised that the story would be superb, and that we’d be able to meet up with friends on planets across the universe. What we actually got was a hollow universe of uninteresting planets, no multiplayer, and an insultingly dull story.
28 Star Wars Battlefront 2
After the kind of dull affair that was Battlefront, it’s a wonder that anyone was hyped for Battlefront 2, but they were. I can understand why, the originals on the Xbox and PS2 were fantastic, and if we could get that with upgraded graphics, then fantastic! But we didn’t, did we. The lootboxes were emblematic of everything wrong with the game. It was pay to win taken to a disgraceful level, with the amount of grinding required to gain the same characters and advantages you could through lootboxes essentially requiring a second job.
Yooka-Laylee looked to be a return to the Rare style of platforming games. We wanted a new Banjo-Kazooie, but we got a mediocre 90s platformer with a smiley, Rare-designed mask on. The levels suffered from a quality that wasn’t so much mixed, but as variable as Florida’s weather during hurricane season. The game controlled badly, and did absolutely nothing to reinvent itself as a modern, interesting platformer. This insult to the Rare school of design belongs in the trash, not on your console.
A game where one player controls a huge monster with the others attempting to take it down? That sounds cool as hell! Shame Evolve screwed it up. The game’s pacing was more sedate than a slow march by a retirement home’s residents. It shoved microtransactions in your face so aggressively you felt like you were being singled out. It should, and could, have been incredible, but it turned into a slog. It’s no wonder that the game went F2P on Steam, but honestly, even if that was it had been originally, it needed far more polish.
25 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
No, Robomodo, you don’t get to desecrate Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s good name like this. Remember how fun the originals were back in the days of the PS1? Well, strip all that away and prepare for Pro Skater 5. Nothing works about this game. It looks terrible, has ridiculously long loading times, a terribly designed UI that takes ages to restart should you bail, and a trick system that entirely misses the point about the Tony Hawk games. Oh, and don’t expect missions like you’d have found in the originals, instead expect Sisyphean torments.
24 Sonic Forces
Including a Sonic game in this list does seem rather like kicking someone when they’re down, but still. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the shambling corpse that Sonic has become, we got Forces. It brought a darker tone to the franchise yet again, as though nothing had been learned from Shadow the Hedgehog. It’s buggy, about as funny as having your car towed, it establishes Eggman’s world domination in about a second, and the whole idea of creating your own character is effectively pointless, with you playing as Sonic for most of the game.
23 For Honor
For Honor should have been fun. It should have been the playground used to test out those grade-school questions of “who would win?” It’s AWFUL. The gameplay’s premise has been put together by some weird messiah who’s hot for warriors, and sod all is achieved by the conflict. You complete level after level after level, and for what? Essentially nothing. The game suffers terribly from Dynasty Warriors syndrome, where effectively, the battles are utter grinds devoid of any actual meaning or consequences.
Gracing our consoles with as much grace as a dog's leavings grace the sole of your shoe, we have Godzilla. Look, I know the movie was a big pile of tosh too, but let me get some kicks in. It’s a game that could have been great, looking to be vaguely Rampage-esque, but it turned out to be a big old pile of Kaiju-sized dung. It’s repetitive, handles like a slug that you’ve somehow fitted a steering wheel to, has lame graphics, and doesn’t even manage to do fanservice well.
21 Halo 5
Remember how hyped people were for the big showdown between Master Chief and Locke, but then it turned out to be a cutscene? Yikes. Talk about a kick in the teeth. Its multiplayer may be as fun as ever, but that’s like praising a clerk for not stealing. It’s not hard to maintain quality when you’re handed a golden egg. What we’re asking for is something compelling in the single-player too, and what we got was something as satisfying as a kick to the testicles.
20 Rugby World Cup 2015
Ah, Rugby. One of the most popular sports around the world, you think it would have a FIFA-style yearly game, but no. Instead, back in 2015 we got this buggy mess. Its bugs would have been hilarious had they not been charging full price for it. The bugs made the game literally unplayable. Players would be able to run off the pitch without any consequences, tries would either score or not score, depending on how the CPU was feeling that day, and it was an embarrassingly ugly game to boot.
19 Mass Effect: Andromeda
Following on from the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3’s ending, it was expected that this game would go some way to win back its fans. Instead, we got a game with facial endings that stop-motion laughs at, as well as quests that contained so much busywork, it offered less fun and tension then cutting your toenails. It was also horrendously buggy, with players reporting everything from the game simply stopping during any driving sections to the screen turning green during gameplay.
18 Thief 4
No thank you. I had a lot of fun in the original Thief games. They offered an interesting world, compelling robbery, and exceptionally well-made levels (The Cradle, I’m looking at you). This installment offered none of that. Instead, Garrett had gone from the antihero we knew and loved to being as flat as a piece of cardboard, a bland story, dumb AI, and an array of badly designed levels. This game had nothing that offered the returning Thief player a sense of satisfaction, and instead probably put interested players off the old classics.
17 WWE 2K18
Wrestling is fantastic. It’s overblown, silly soap-opera filled with oiled men. Its games vary hugely in quality. 2K18 was awful. Sure, it looks nice, but the career mode feels like an RPG designed by an alien who has had the genre described to them by someone with a terrible memory. It also had lootboxes. While you couldn’t buy these with real money, it’s still not what we come to wrestling games for. We come for the absurd, ridiculous matches and characters, and we want those from the off.
Do you remember how, when the Wii came out, there was a huge variation in the quality of its games, between the sublime Wii Sports and too many terrible games to mention? 1-2-Switch is not worthy of its price. It repeats the exact same mistakes as a huge number of third-party games did for the Wii, but doesn’t have any excuse, as it’s developed by Nintendo. The game featured numerous half-baked minigames that, had they come free with the Switch, would have been tolerable, even playable. But as a game, you have to shell out for? They don’t come close.
15 Agents Of Mayhem
Coming from the developers of the storied Saints Row franchise, we had the right to expect a lot from Agents of Mayhem. We got none of that. While the game itself may be somewhat solid, and not littered with bugs, it's not got any life, either. Its gameplay hinges upon repetitive fights, and its writing isn't spellbinding either. It tries to meld the innocent airs of a Saturday morning cartoon with the cursing from Saints Row, but it just becomes cringey after a while.
14 Sunset Overdrive
A game where you fight evil energy drink mutants, complete with a fantastic character creator that allowed you to play as basically anyone under the sun? It should have been incredible. It wasn’t. It looked nice and wasn’t terrible to play, but by god was its tone ropey. It had the same radical and hyper colored look you’d expect from a 90s cartoon but with none of the fun. You can’t just label every second thing in the game as being rad without it getting a little cringey. Look at the assault rifle, it’s called the AK-FU. That’s not charming.
13 Game Of Thrones
The opportunity to develop a Game of Thrones, uh, game is surely the opportunity of a lifetime. You get to play around with one of the most popular franchises in the world today, and put your own spin on it. Unfortunately, the games’ writing just can’t carry this considerable weight. The QTEs are dull and all too punishing, while player choices seem to have a negligible effect on the story. It was far from a terrible game, but when you're carrying the weight of a beloved franchise on your shoulders, you've got to live up to it.
Cliffy B heading up a new project should be a cause for excitement, or at the very least, interest. This is thoroughly undeserving of that. The game has “attitude” in a similar way to Sunset Overdrive, and is, again, cringey as heck for it. The characters look like they’ve been made by a super limited identikit, and it was pretty much DOA thanks to terrible marketing. Had a little more work gone into character design, and a little less into the kind of writing that your dad would write, then it could have been a compelling shooter.
11 Umbrella Corps
Umbrella CORPSE more like, hahahaaaa. This is one of the worst games I’ve seen from this generation, full stop. The singleplayer is absolutely terrible, but let’s ignore that. The multiplayer is boring and full of a ridiculous amount of bugs that would mar whatever enjoyment could be dragged from this ugly mess of a game. Just calling it a generic first-person shooter is an insult to a genre that's produced Doom and Wolfenstein. It's absolutely abhorrent. At least Resident Evil 7 was good, else this franchise may well have ended.
10 Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I had totally forgotten this game even came out. It did, though, believe it or not. Back in 2016, we were graced with its presence and then immediately forgot about it. The repetitive combat feels unfinished, as does the world. When you stepped out into Mirror’s Edge and saw a glowing white dystopia, it meant something. This game fails to take that anywhere. I guess it's kind of a lesson: don't wish for a sequel to a game just because you loved the original. You never know what kind of poisoned chalice you'll end up with.
9 Ghost Recon: Wildlands
With devs not about to stop spinning money off Tom Clancy’s name, we come to this mess. The trailer, while featuring a weird tone, looked like it could be very fun indeed. As well as being somewhat prejudice, portraying Bolivia as a torn narcostate, it failed to capitalize on any of the multipronged approaches you could take to the missions. Just have snipers deal with everyone. That’s by far the easiest way to deal with it. What kind of fun is that?
8 Forza Motorsport 7
If this generation’s failures can be represented in a single word, it is lootbox. Forza 7 isn’t free of this plague. The Forza franchise is close to my heart. Personally, I think it is better than Gran Turismo. However, its seventh installment smashes you in the face with a huge amount of microtransactions and grind, while those who’d splashed the cash on the VIP and Ultimate editions got sod all in return. If you're going to insult people who buy any of your game's editions, just don't bother releasing it.
7 Homefront: The Revolution
I don’t even know where to begin with this prejudice, horrible piece of trash. So, let’s get one thing out of the way: it is exceptionally toneedaf, even coming up with its own slurs. The story is terrible, the voice acting sounds like it was recorded by people on the street, via a tin can, and it is swamped with bugs. The game has one good part: the gunplay. That's literally it. Everything else about it is terrible, though, maybe not as bad as the original Homefront.
6 Life Of Black Tiger
To say this game looks like it belongs on the PS2 is an insult to that console. The PS2 had Okami. This has terminal boxiness. In this game, you control a tiger (who’d have thought), charged with ending humans and goats in a number of quests. The gameplay could be interesting, but hunting is handled with a single button press, meaning you could replace the human with one of those drinking birds and have no effect on how this shoddy piece of trash handles.
5 The Division
We're not done with games that are attempting to extract a bit more money from Tom Clancy's corpse. The Division was a game that promised a lot. Its trailers made the game look immersive, beautiful, and varied. It's not, though, is it. It's just a grind. Like, were it more engaging, I wouldn't have an issue with it, but when it has effectively revealed itself to be something of an MMO in shooter clothing, that's when I take issue with it. If I wanted an MMO, I'd play one. That's not what I come to shooters for.
4 Need For Speed
It's sad to see a franchise fall from grace quite like Need For Speed has. Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted are both two of my favorite ever racing games. This game, which has the arrogance to not even adopt a subtitle, is an abortive attempt at a racer. It's got FMV that I thought we'd left behind in the 90s, acted with all the charisma of a bored meth dealer. Then you get into the races, and fall asleep. Really, they could be used as a sleep aid. The AI doesn't seem to give a damn, and they're extremely repetitive.
3 The Order: 1886
If you want to talk about wasted potential, look no further than The Order. It absolutely nails its presentation. It has a filmic quality that other games can only aspire to, accompanied by fantastic music, both of which contribute to an atmosphere that is extremely immersive. Then it goes and ruins it all by just weighing it down with QTEs. The game feels like it's on rails, like it's being run by an overenthusiastic tour guide who wants you to notice every detail, but without ever giving you the freedom to explore.
2 Mighty No. 9
If you’re a Mega Man fan, this game will be scorched in infamy in your mind for all eternity. The game had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign thanks to good looking concept art. Over time, it built up a huge amount of hype, with many fans thinking this was going to be the return of the Megaman-style game that they’d been missing for so long. In the end, it turned out to be ugly, not fun at all, and insulted its backers with a particularly terrible trailer.
I'm setting myself up for hatemail with this one. I do not like Destiny. Bungie are a developer who could do so much better than they did with this game. It's an MMO shooter, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that, if it had learned the lessons of either genre. It's got none of the innovation that you'd expect from a modern MMO, nor any of the exciting action you'd expect from modern shooters. It's simply a grind, and that's all there is to it, like World of Warcraft at its very worst. It's addictive, but not good.