Falling short of expectations.
2020 was a year of many, many big releases, and though there were many games that blew our expectations out of the water, there were also some that fell on the other end of the spectrum. Not every game can be a winner, but when they end up falling short of high expectations, their deficiencies hurt even more. There were a few of those in 2020 that disappointed us and many others, and in this feature, that’s what we’ll be talking about.
The battle royale genre has quickly become among the most popular in the industry over the last few years, and with major publishers like EA and Activision (and hell, even Bethesda with that Fallout 76 battle royale mode) having thrown their hat into the ring, it was only a matter of time before Ubisoft joined in as well. They did that earlier this year with Hyper Scape– but it’s fair to say things could have gone much smoother. Battles can be a bit too chaotic, the balancing of the weapons is far from the best, the world and lore are rather uninteresting, and by and large the game feels just a bit too generic. Ubisoft are reworking the game to address some of its more major issues, but in its current stage, it’s perhaps the most disappointing high profile entry in the battle royale space.
Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto and his team at V1 Interactive tried something different with Disintegration, and their blend of strategy and shooter gameplay deserves props for freshness. The concept, however, was far more interesting than the execution. Both combat and strategy never really felt as punchy as they should have, and though the campaign was a decent experience, on the multiplayer side of things, the game had major issues. Merely months after the game’s release, its online servers were already taken down, and that really says all that needs to be said about how V1 Interactive’s debut game turned out.
POKEMON MYSTERY DUNGEON: RESCUE TEAM DX
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’s first outing on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS is considered one of the most unique and enjoyable spinoffs to carry the Pokemon name, so a remake for the Switch was an interesting idea. And though the game surely still carries a lot of charm on the narrative side of things (which is embellished even further by the beautiful visual aesthetic), on the whole, Mystery Dungeon DX had a lot of issues. A repetitive structure, dull combat, and bland, uninteresting dungeons were a few of the many flaws that plagued the game.
WARCRAFT 3 REFORGED
Blizzard have been having a rough go of it these past few years, but they had a great opportunity early on in 2020 to win back a lot of fans with Warcraft 3 Reforged. A major remaster of one of their most beloved games of all time? If this had turned out well, fans would be a lot less disgruntled with the developer. It did not turn out well, sadly. Not only was it a poor remaster, it also had a plethora of bugs, weird ownership stipulations of user generated content, and many more issues. The fact that Reforged’s client essentially replaced the original game made matters even worse.
SURGEON SIMULATOR 2
The first Surgeon Simulator has built up a strong following over the years, having maintained a consistent playerbase thanks to its hilarious operating room shenanigans. Surgeon Simulator 2 should have been s surefire hit, but the game stumbled out the gate. Awkward controls are kind of the point in this series, but even so, in Surgeon Simulator 2 felt a bit too awkward, to the point of being frustrating. And though there were still plenty of laughs to be had, they weren’t enough to keep the game’s repetitive structure at bay.
RESIDENT EVIL 3
Demand for a Resident Evil 3 remake was ridiculously high after RE2 came out in 2019, and for good reason. Capcom had an amazing blueprint to work off of, especially in terms of Mr. X essentially being a proto-Nemesis- or so it seemed. Resident Evil 3 ended up being far less impressive than it should have been. Raccoon City was woefully underutilized, Nemesis’ threat as a stalker enemy was heavily neutered, significant portions of content were cut from the original game, the gore factor was a big step down from RE2’s remake, Mercenaries was dropped for the underwhelming Resistance- the list goes on. RE3 wasn’t a bad game- not at all. But even with the high production values and solid narrative tweaks, it ended up being a bitter disappointment.
MAFIA 2: DEFINITIVE EDITION
The Mafia series has gone through wild ups and downs since its inception, and though it definitely got an unreserved victory this year with the Mafia 1 remake, shortly before that, it had yet another botch as well. Mafia 2: Definitive Edition should ideally have been a solid modernization of the 2010 game, but ended up being anything but. Issues from the original were still problematic, of course, but even as a remaster, it was a shoddy release, with a bunch of technical issues, performance bugs, visual glitches, and more.
MADDEN NFL 21
EA Sports’ Madden franchise has been on a downward spiral for a few years now (like a few other sports franchises), and this year’s Madden NFL 21 was, perhaps, its lowest point in a long, long time. Sure, on paper it was more of the same- but that was a big part of the problem. This is a series that has been in need of significant improvements and changes for a long time, but Madden 21 chose to ignore those problems. Its disappointing Franchise mode was perfectly emblematic of that.
Godfall was the first game ever to be officially announced for the PS5, and that combined with the fact that it was promising a deep loot-driven role playing experience in a rich fantasy setting meant that quite a few people had their eye on this game. The final product, as it turned out, did not deserve that attention. Combat in Godfall was fun, sure, but the grind was intolerable, there were some really weird design decisions, most of the mechanics felt far too generic, and the world and the story were disappointingly shoddy.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS COLD WARGiven its troubled and rushed development, it’s no surprise that Black Ops Cold War turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Treyarch (with Raven Software in support) had to take the stage a year in advance, and the game definitely showed that it needed more time. Though the campaign was solid enough, Zombies felt one-note and stagnant, while multiplayer was let down by a relative lack of content at launch, design changes that made things a bit too chaotic and arcade-y, and maps that were far too inconsistent with the quality of their design.
When Echtra Games and Perfect World Entertainment announced that Torchlight Frontiers had changed course during development and would be releasing as Torchlight 3, they caught the eyes of many series fans, but the game, in the end, did not deserve to be a numbered entry. A classic case of all flash, no substance (or little substance), Torchlight 3 looked good enough, but was let down by a repetitive structure, unrewarding progression, and mechanics that were far too simplistic, especially for a loot-driven game. As is the case with any game of this nature, Torchlight 3 can surely turn things around with post-launch support, but as things stand right now, it needs a lot of work.
For a few years now, NBA 2K has been let down by its solid gameplay mechanics clashing with its monetization, and NBA 2K21 sadly carries that series tradition forward. Even if one were to look past that aggressive monetization model, NBA 2K21 still turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, owing to how little it fundamentally changed from its predecessor, resulting in an upgrade that felt far too repetitive even for an annual sports series. Thankfully, the game’s next-gen version fares far better- but if you’re sticking with the PS4 or Xbox One for the foreseeable future, prepare to be disappointed by this year’s NBA 2K installment.
DESTINY 2: BEYOND LIGHT
Given how many times Destiny has hyped up its fans over the years, only to let them down when it counts, it’s a surprise that the series is still as wildly successful as it is. Bungie brought about some major changes to how Destiny 2 will function going forward with Beyond Light, and though some of them were definitely worth the wait – such as the raid and the Stasis subclasses – a laundry list of other issues combined to drag the game down. A barren new environment to explore, a forgettable story, bland mission design in the campaign, disappointing post-campaign quests, a lack of content in some of the major modes- the list goes on and on and on.
If you’ve been following Marvel’s Avengers over the last year and a half, you’re probably aware of how much skepticism the masses were feeling about this game since it was first shown off at E3 2019. The game was unable to shake ambivalence right up until its launch- at which point it turned out that ambivalence had been well-earned. Marvel’s Avengers turned out to be repetitive and bland and an absolute technical mess. It had some strengths that stood out, such as its mindlessly fun combat and the decent campaign, but crippling issues like the uninspired post-game content and the shockingly meaningless loot system were major blows to the game’s longevity.