Every now and then, I’ll come across a game that absolutely deflates me. I buy into the hype and get super excited for it, only to experience soul-crushing disappointment when I actually play it. As I grow older and wiser, this tends to happen less because I’ve become better at sniffing out bullshit marketing pumped out by publishers.
However, I’ve been had many times when I was younger and less wise. What makes the sting even worse is when the potential is there, but the game falls short of the mark. This doesn’t always necessarily mean the game is bad; it means it’s not as good as it could have been. As it should have been. Here are a few of those games:
One of the most hyped up pieces of trash I’ve ever played. I hate to be so harsh, but damn this game was a huge letdown. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I was thrilled with the prospect of exploring a virtual version of The Windy City and seeing familiar places I’ve frequented my whole life. Unfortunately, Ubisoft’s idea of Chicago is soulless, sterile, and lifeless. Crappy renditions of famous landmarks like The Willis Tower, Grant Park, and The Daly Center can be visited, but no neighborhoods, not even well-known ones near The Loop like Old Town and Gold Coast, are represented.
It wasn’t just the butchering of Chicago that let me down; the gameplay sucked, too. The hacking mechanics are oversimplified, which is a shame because they could have been so cool. Most of the time, you’re simply pressing a button to hack into the city’s infrastructure or enemy gadgets. Additionally, the story and its lead character Aiden Pierce are blander than a dry salad. Nothing interested me about either, leaving me half asleep through the entire campaign. I’m honestly surprised I finished it.
While it ended up bad, Watch Dogs had a lot of potential. Even if it did a better job capturing the geography and atmosphere of Chicago, I would have liked it much more. Perhaps it would be more fun if the hacking mini games were more complex or if you could shoot from your car. I would hope some of these issues were corrected in the sequel, but I wouldn’t know because I was too turned off by the first to play it. I would hope so because it’s an interesting concept that deserves a better game. Moreover, the city of Chicago deserves a better game.
The Entire Fable Series
Remember in the early 2000s when Peter Molyneux made grandiose promises of the greatest game of all time? A game where you could kill a child’s family, only to have them hunt you down years later to avenge their parents’ deaths. Where you could cut a blade of grass and see it regenerate over time. Where you could knock an acorn off a tree and ANOTHER fucking tree would grow from it years later. Of course, we now know none of this came to fruition in Fable, leaving me and many other gamers disappointed in a game that actually is pretty good.
In 2008 Molyneux had an opportunity to make amends for all these broken promises with the sequel, and again with the third installment in 2010. Unfortunately, the end result was 2 forgettable follow ups. In hindsight, it was crazy to think that most of what was promised could be accomplished, especially considering the limitations of technology at the time. But when you’re just a 13-year-old gamer, it’s easy to be wooed by silver-tongued devil with a charming English accent.
All these years later, I still wonder what it would’ve been like if Fable turned out to be the game it was meant to be. Now a fourth installment is in the works, and a new developer named Playground Games has taken the reins. It will be interesting to see if they can elevate the series to places where Lionhead couldn’t. As for Molyneux, he isn’t involved with the development, but he still has his Molyneux-esque ideas. He would like to see a more organic morality system where decisions have more weight, a greater variety of beasts, and a more fluid and visceral combat system. That makes both of us, Petey.
Far Cry 2
Funny enough, Far Cry 2 is the only installment in the series that I actually like, but it could have been so much better. It drops you in a vast and dangerous African setting where a civil war between the United Front for Liberation and Labour and the Alliance for Popular Resistance rages on. You also have malaria and need to medicate yourself throughout the game, which I found to be a unique game design choice that strengthened the immersion.
However, while there were a lot of pros, they were overshadowed by some glaring cons. Foremost, it was buggier than a garbage dump on a hot day. I couldn’t even complete my first playtrough because of a game-breaking bug during the penultimate mission. Also, while there are two sides at war with one another, you just end up doing dirty work for both of them. I think it would be more interesting if you could pledge allegiance to one or the other and have two different storylines to choose from. In addition to making things more interesting by giving you choices, it would add replay value.
What I loved most about Farcry 2 was its setting. Wildfires blaze through the tallgrass, wildlife like zebras and gazelles gallop across the plains, and taking a wrong turn can send you into an outpost full of armed and dangerous enemies. Whether it’s Ubisoft or another developer, I’d like to see someone take another crack at an African setting because there’s a lot of potential that Farcry 2 didn’t live up to. I would also like to see more factions and have a choice in which one I align with.
25 to Life
Yet another game that didn’t live up to its potential. 25 to Life was an exciting new concept at the time, allowing players to choose commit crimes as gangsters or uphold the law as police. It’s a shame because the online multiplayer could have been great. Criminals can rob locations, police can raid criminal hangouts, or both sides can choose to engage in an all-out deathmatch. Unfortunately, the finished product is a half-baked game of cops and robbers, with horrendous visuals and clunky controls.
Equally as bad, if not worse, is its storyline. I appreciate the ambition of allowing you to play as three different protagonists (years before GTA V did it might I add), but 25 to Life didn’t execute it well. The characters are uninteresting, and the plot is utterly ridiculous and full of clichés. One of the main character’s names is Freeze for crying out loud. And yes, he is just as corny and uninteresting as his stupid name.
If anything, I would like to see the multiplayer from 25 to Life reinvented. I know APB tried to do something similar, but it sadly also missed the mark. There is a lot of potential with the whole criminals vs police multiplayer concept. Perhaps, one day, a good developer will make something worthwhile out of the idea. If and when that day ever comes, they’ll have my hard-earned money.
The Sopranos: Road to Respect
If you ask me what my favorite T.V. show is, I’m going to give you one of two answers: The Wire or The Sopranos. Although I was just a kid during the sensational mob drama’s initial run, I was fortunate enough to have an older brother introduce me to it, and I’ve re-watched it in its entirety twice since. Its exploration into the psyche and family life of a mobster makes it unique to any other crime drama, diving into topics and themes no other movie or T.V. show ever has.
So you can only imagine my grand disappointment with The Sopranos: Road to Respect; that is if you have even heard of it. It’s a shame that the name of such an extraordinary T.V. show is slapped on such a crappy game. Unlike The Godfather, which was much better and released in the same year, it’s not set in an open world, so there is virtually no exploration. Additionally, the visuals are blocky, the gameplay consists of mindlessly beating up faceless thugs, and there are meaningless game mechanics that don’t affect anything, such as the “Respect Meter”.
What The Sopranos: Road to Respect does right is include nearly all of the main characters, and have their respective actors voice them. However, it makes it even more of a shame that there wasn’t an open world to interact with characters like Tony Soprano, Paulie Walnuts or Silvio Dante in. It would have been so much better if you could accept jobs from them and work your way up through the DiMeo crime family. Unfortunately, I highly doubt another game based on The Sopranos will ever be made, so all I can do is dream about what could have been.
What games do you think had potential to be better than they were? What would you change about them to make them better? Share in the comments section below!