Expectation and hype can be dangerous things, because as often as we get games that make good on all of their promises, the reality is that games that do the exact opposite aren’t nearly as rare as we’d want them to be. 2021, sadly, had quite a few games that failed to live up to lofty promises, and here, we’re going to talk about a few of those, before picking one that disappointed us more than all the others.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
Destruction AllStars had the bones of a great game, with solid driving mechanics, excellent visuals, and punchy car combat. But the game was riddled with far too many issues at launch, from unrewarding progression to questionable monetization to some less-than-stellar gameplay on-foot gameplay mechanics, among other things. Worst of all, rather than using the game’s live service model to improve the experience and ensure that it lived up to expectations, Sony sort of just… forgot that Destruction AllStars even came out.
NINJA GAIDEN: MASTER COLLECTION
It’s almost like 2021 was the year of disappointing remasters. Team Ninja’s rebooted Ninja Gaiden trilogy was brought back from the dead this year with the Master Collection, but fans found themselves wishing that it had been left alone, thanks to how Koei Tecmo handled it. Not only was the actual remastering work done on the games disappointingly unambitious, the collection didn’t even include all DLC for the three games, while the fact that the first two games’ remasters were based on their inferior Sigma versions didn’t help matters either.
WARHAMMER: AGE OF SIGMAR – STORM GROUND
It’s hard not to be excited about the prospect of any new game set in the Warhammer universe, especially when it promises a robust turn-based strategy experience the way Age of Sigmar – Storm Ground did. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be a case of conflicting ideas. Disappointing visuals and repetitive gameplay would have been enough to sink this ship on their own, but Storm Ground also bolts a roguelike structure onto its core that feels entirely unnecessary, and actively takes away from the areas where the game could actually have been genuinely interesting.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD HD
Skyward Sword has always been a rare black sheep in a series full of generation-defining masterpieces, so the fact that the game’s core issues still hamper the experience – which, admittedly, is not without its strengths – wasn’t entirely surprising. What was disappointing, however, was the fact that the HD remaster for the Switch had entirely new issues of its own, such as a frustrating button control scheme, or motion controls that could have been optimized much better than they were. Hardcore Zelda fans will still find plenty to love here, but this still remains a deeply flawed experience.
Post-apocalyptic kung fu action RPG Biomutant was in development for a long, long time, and launching this year, it had a lot to live up to. But while it certainly has a visually appealing veneer, and some ideas that do strengthen the world the game is set in, ultimately, it feels like a game that isn’t confident enough to go all-in on its unique premise. Instead, what we have is a hodgepodge of ideas and concepts lifted wholesale from games throughout the medium, which aren’t even executed nearly well enough to make up for that disappointing lack of ambition. Not a game without merits, no, but Biomutant is not even a fraction of the game it could and should have been.
Like a few other games on this list, Sable made people wait a good long while before they could finally play it, and though it is certainly a far better game than many others we have spoken about (or will speak about) here, it still doesn’t deliver on all of its promises. It’s a visually stunning game, there’s no getting around that, but from frustrating movement and controls to a laundry list of technical issues, there’s no shortage of flaws that hold it back from being everything it could have been.
JETT: THE FAR SHORE
JETT: The Far Shore’s flaws stand out so much more than they ordinarily would have, because there’s plenty that this game does have going for it. Its lore, intriguing world-building, and engaging storytelling do a lot to draw players in, but sadly, the actual gameplay experience here is more than a little uneven. The pacing is a bit of a mess, the controls feel rigid and keep getting in the way, and dull combat and puzzles can be found in abundance throughout the experience. It’s a game of two halves, and the half that is the actual game, sadly, is the one that falters the most.
Bloober Team attempted something truly ambitious with The Medium, and the game deserves props for that. Its dual-reality mechanic is as interesting as any we’ve seen in the genre for quite a long time, and occasionally, the psychological horror game does show flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, there’s far too much here that drags the experience down- a questionable story, a total lack of combat, a total lack of challenge, a surprisingly short runtime, and so much more. None of these are small issues to begin with, but put together, they hamper the experience significantly.
BALDO: THE GUARDIAN OWLS
Baldo: The Guardian Owls was clearly a passion project for Italian developer Naps Team, who spent a long, long time working on this game. Sadly, it buckled under the weight of its own ambitions, and buckled hard. If charming visuals were enough to elevate a game above its peers, Baldo would be one of the standout releases of the year, but beneath that thin veneer, what lies is a fundamentally broken, thoroughly unengaging, and consistently frustrating gameplay experience.
You expect to be disappointed by most annual sports releases at this point in time, but even going into NBA 2K22 with that mentality, one can’t help but be disappointed with what Visual Concepts and 2K have delivered here. While the gameplay on the court remains fundamentally fun, everything around it feels like a letdown, from predictably abrasive monetization and stagnating modes to lackluster execution of ideas that sounded ambitious and exciting on paper. The game deserves credit for trying some new things, but deserves just as much criticism for not doing a good job with most of them.
NASCAR 21: IGNITION
In a genre that has had probably one of its best years in recent memory, NASCAR 21: Ignition feels like it’s all too happy hovering somewhere between mediocrity and lack of inspiration. At its core, it offers decent driving mechanics, but they never quite match up to the best experiences in the genre, while other issues, such as lackluster production values and game-breaking technical stumbles ensure that even those strengths cannot shine as bright as they otherwise could have. With so many far better experiences available out there, NASCAR 21 feels all too skippable.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: THE TRILOGY – THE DEFINITIVE EDITION
You’d think that a company as prestigious and with a track record as enviable as Rockstar would be smart in how it remasters what are considered to be three of the greatest games of all time, but sadly, that couldn’t have been further from the truth in the case of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. Rather than taking this opportunity to deliver truly excellent remasters of three excellent games, Rockstar decided to make a quick buck with hastily cobbled-together remasters that seem almost antithetical to the obsessive attention to detail and high standards of quality Rockstar has always been known for.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: CHAPTER ONE
Frogwares has made some really solid Sherlock Holmes games in the past, and with Chapter One, the developer made some bold and interesting choices- not all of them paid off. While there’s a far greater complexity of interacting gameplay systems here, it feels like many of them exist for no purpose other than to pad out the runtime, while some of the mechanics – such as the combat – don’t have nearly enough depth to sustain themselves for as long as they needed to. Add to that underwhelming and inconsequential choice and consequence mechanics and the usual technical jank and lack of polish that Frogwares games are known for, and what you get is a classic case of wasted potential.
In the months leading up to its launch, Battlefield 2042 was looking like one of the most exciting games of 2021, what with its promise of a large-scale, focused multiplayer experience that looked to be a culmination of everything Battlefield has ever been about. The final product was… quite different. The large scale turned out to be too large for the game’s own good, the technical issues that pervade most Battlefield launches were worse than anyone could have expected, lofty promises made during the pre-launch hype cycle turned out to be little more than empty words, and series staples and crucial features were dropped for no good reason. Battlefield launches tend to be rough, and DICE is promising consistent improvements in the weeks and months ahead, but in the here and now, Battlefield 2042 feels like a low point for this series- which is the exact opposite of what so many expected it to be.
CALL OF DUTY: VANGUARD
Honestly, this has been a long time coming. Call of Duty has been riding the coattails of its past successes for far too long, and though there have admittedly been some notable highs even in recent years, by and large, it’s been growing staler and staler. Vanguard feels like a factory-made Call of Duty experience coming fresh off the conveyor belt, offering a completely by-the-numbers and utterly forgettable experience that does nothing to pull people away from even its own predecessors, let alone the competition. A half-baked and incredibly linear campaign, a shockingly barebones Zombies mode, a tired and overdone World War 2 setting. This is a creatively bankrupt game representing a series that is beginning to run out of steam, and we dearly, dearly hope it’s just a blip, rather than a sign of things to come.
GAMINGBOLT’S MOST DISAPPOINTING GAME OF 2021:
GRAND THEFT AUTO: THE TRILOGY – THE DEFINITIVE EDITION
For a remastered collection that claims to be the definitive edition of three all-time classics, GTA: The Trilogy doesn’t feel all that definitive at all. It’s the little things that add up- the poorly remodeled character models, the tiny little details from the originals that are nowhere to be found in the remasters, the careless and casual upscaling of backgrounds and textures, the bugs and glitches that pervade the entire experience, and so much more. Individually, these might all seem like nitpicks, but put together, they provide damning evidence of the less-than-respectful mentality Rockstar approached this release with. Yes, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here, since GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas are and always will be timeless classics- but all of that enjoyment is in spite of the remastering work, not because of it.