Usually our annual lookback at the worst console games of the year is in conjunction with Metacritic. As in, we use the site as a source.
But with Metacritic’s worst rated games of the year mostly consisting of PC and iOS games we’ve never even heard of, it doesn’t seem particularly right to go chopping and changing the list to suit our console-focused needs. Moreover, it’s incredibly difficult to write about something one has never played.
It has also been said that Metacritic does the industry more harm than good, so there’s that too.
Instead, here’s a list of our own choosing, all of which are games we’ve had the misfortune to play. Despite our chance of stance though, it’s not all that far off Metacritc’s list save for the omission of Die!Die!Die! on PS Vita and something called Motorbike on PlayStation 3.
Pity the person who receives one of these for Christmas.
Fast & Furious: Showdown – PS3, 360, Wii U
The main reason for movie tie-ins turning to be trash is that publishers will hand the license to whoever is willing to do the dirty work for the least amount of money.
As long as they end up with a game that can shove into a nice looking case in time for the movie’s release, publishers are quite content regardless of quality.
Firebird have at least worked on a few other racing games in the past, which would explain why Showdown more or less gets the fundamentals right. But rather than release something that’s basic yet playable, they tried to add a few little ideas into the mix and none of these really work.
It’s possible to switch between driving and shooting by the press of a button, but the rudimentary AI isn’t up to either role. If you let the AI drive during the time-trial events you’ll witness them stopping dead in front of obstructions, randomly reversing and just generally driving like they’re half asleep. All the while the clock is ticking down, until the event is eventually failed.
One rememberable mission involves transporting six boxes via an open back truck without them spilling onto the tarmac, but the physics engine is so wonky and predicable that this mission can take several attempts to complete. Then there’s the one where two vehicles have to drag a giant metal safe through a congested city. It’s brilliant idea, but it’s one that’s ruined by the fact that you also have to keep an eye on the AI car’s health. Should the they crash too many times you’re then penalised by failing the mission. Why make the player responsible for the AI’s stupidity? Why indeed.
It’s great that Firebird did try to include a degree of originality, but even so this would have far more playable had they taken the safe option and turned into a Burnout clone.
Ride to Hell: Retribution – PS3, 360, PC
It was Destructoid’s Jim Sterling who summed up Ride to Hell perfectly – “Rather than unfinished, I’d suggest the game feels barely started”.
Development began back in 2008 as a open-world game, only for it to then be put on hiatus after the studio was handed Activision’s newly acquired NASCAR license.
Skip forward to 2013 and for reasons unclear Eutechnyx decided to cobble together the work carried out on Ride to Hell all those years ago.
Chopped and changed into a linear adventure, sections clearly designed for an open-world adventure were now surrounded by invisible walls to suit the new structure. It truly is a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of a game, blatantly formed of whatever assets the developer could scrape together.
No matter if you’re racing, shooting or fighting other biker gangs it falls flat on all accounts – a glitch-ridden mess with absolutely nothing going for it whatsoever. To add further insult to those who mistakenly coughed up thirty quid for it, there’s a very distributing stance present against women. They’re objectified in the worst way imaginationable, frequently jumping into bed with the lead character after being rescued from the clutches of rival gangs.
You have to wonder if publisher Deep Silver knew what they’d signed up for. Plans were afoot to turn Ride to Hell into a franchise, with a spin-off XBLA motorbike racer and a mobile game once in the pipeline. Retribution’s frankly deserved reputation of being one of the worst games of all time has seemingly killed off those plans.
Good riddance. May Ride to Hell never sully the world of videogames ever again.
Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons – 360
From the worst game of all time, to quite possibly the worst XBLA game available. This Korean remake of Double Dragon 2 is so inept that it’s a miracle it even exists.
At least the official product description provided a chuckle or two:
“This is a remake “Double Dragon II” a 80’s game. The story line takes same as original game story. However, the graphic, character, action, system etc. are change. Also we are including new stage and enemy in the game. The player will be addicted to new version of Double Dragon II. Also, characters are undressed from 80’s style, and recreated with modern sexy and beautiful style that amaze you”
Or to be more exact, that was the official description upon release. While researching this article we discovered that it has been changed. The new description isn’t much better though:
“One of the greatest side-scrolling action game is back! Double Dragon II keeps the original’s story plot, while making vast improvements on all other aspects of the game. Team up and take control of Jimmy and Billy, whose looks and actions are completely modernized. Battle through the newly drawn 3D stages, which hide their own secrets and surprises. Both fans of classic arcade games from the 80’s and those who just love to have a good time punching out baddies will find a thrill rider in Double Dragon II – the Wander of Dragons”
Hopefully the high amount of 1/10 reviews it received managed to put people off from finding “thrill riders” for themselves.
Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear – PS3, 360
Not heard of this one before? We aren’t surprised – this on-shooter slipped out on the sly during the quiet summer period. The purse pleasing price tag of £14.99 predictably speaks volumes about its quality – it’s so low budget that the voice-actor sounds like he’s trying not to laugh while delivering his lines, and yet they still made the cut.
Most of the game’s budget seems to have been put into the visuals. It doesn’t look quite as horrifically ugly as you may expect, with sunlight shining through trees and a few other pretty lighting effects on show. Presumably Polish developer Teyon went to this effort so that the screenshots on the back of the box were enough to entice a few suckers into purchasing it.
Those who were fooled out of their cash would have found themselves with a clunky and amateurish mess that can be beaten in less than two hours. It makes fellow Xbox 360 on-rails shooter Blackwater look good, and that’s saying something.
Farming Simulator – PS3, 360
You’ve probably seen a whole host of bizarre PC-only simulation games mocked on gaming sites and forums over the years. They’ve become notorious for their daftness, quality and dubious box-art, with Woodcutter Simulator and Garbage Truck Simulator being just two “highlights”.
Despite their shoddiness though – the actually pretty good Euro Truck Simulator 2 notwithstanding – these incredibly bizarre simulators sell well, with Farming Simulator being so popular that it was deemed worthy of a console spin-off.
A steep learning curve due to one of the most unfriendly tutorials of recent times gets the game off to a bad start, and it doesn’t help that it looks considerably dated either. It really is incredibly low budget, and as we said in our review: “If you could physically see the game’s code, we’re sure it would be stuck together with bits of bubble gum and pieces of string”
The AI of the hireable helpers in particular is atrocious, forcing you to intervene whenever they collide into another vehicle. They don’t even have the intelligence to reverse or even avoid obstacles altogether. It’s such a laborious game though that you’ll never get a steady flow of cash unless you have an AI workforce in place.
Till soil, plant seeds, harvest the grain and then choose to either store or sell it – that’s the whole thing summed up in a nutshell, and around 90% of that involves driving up and down muddy fields in a straight line.
Worst of all, it doesn’t’ even live up to the promise of being an actual simulation – crops will always grow as long as they’re planted on tilled land, and there are no seasons to speak of. The economy is ridiculous too – you can earn more money by completing random bonus missions, most of which entail ferrying palettes of goods around, than you can actual farming.
The only feature approaching likeable is the hidden secret – there are 100 horseshoes to find within the ugly but sizeable game world, and if all 100 are found a rainbow will appear with a pot of gold underneath. It’s about the only thing to suggest the game hasn’t been designed by robots who wouldn’t know what the definition of ‘enjoyable’ is even if it him them in their stupid metal faces.
Walking Dead: Survival Instinct – PS3, 360, Wii U, PC
Like Fast & Furious: Showdown, this is another licensed game that experiments with a few neat little ideas but becomes a convolved mess because of it. In fact, it’s surprisingly ambitious for something seemingly knocked out on a low budget and against a tight schedule.
Rather than mindless zombie killing, the focus is on scavenging for supplies in order to make it across Atlanta a reported evac-zone. Between missions a map screen appears where it’s possible to choose a route, but if you haven’t found enough fuel the survivor’s vehicle will grind to a halt, prompting a short quest to find more in one of a dozen heavily recycled environments. Several vehicles can be found over the course of the game, each offering larger reserves for supplies and additional room to take a fellow survivors with you to the next mission. They can then be equipped with a weapon and sent out to find health packs and such, which is a nice idea.
The concept, then, isn’t all that bad. It’s certainly good enough to suggest that developers Terminal Reality at least had good intentions. But with not much time to get the game ready for release, we’re left with something that looks something from the PlayStation 2 era with bland and almost claustrophobic environments that have invisible walls even despite their small size.
Even for members of the undead the zombies move in a wooden manner, and although occasionally impressive in number they’re almost identical – being attacked by three zombies dressed in the same clothes isn’t a rare occurrence. We could have perhaps looked past this if they were fun to shoot, but even bagging a headshot feels unsatisfying. All attempts at trying to scare also fall flat due to the low budget looks, and sadly the same goes for all possible chances of creating an atmosphere.
We wish Activison had seen the license’s potential and given the developers another six months – or even longer – to get it ready, but sadly they’ve proven themselves to be a publisher who only sees licenses as a way of making a quick buck.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 360, Wii
Here’s another license that had potential, only to then be squandered down the drain.
Activision handed the rights to Magic Pockets – a developer whose was only experience in the past was with mobile games and a handful of licensed guff for DS and GBA.
This was their first Xbox 360 title, and even if it was a launch game it would have looked outdated. As such, it goes without saying that Ubisoft’s TMNT movie tie-in from 2007 is better than this, and in every possible way.
It’s such a basic brawler that it doesn’t even have a block button. Enemies emit a red glow when they’re about to attack, but there’s no way to dodge, counter or evade. All you can do is walk away like some sort of reluctant hero.
Unbelievably, it gets worse. When not under your control the AI takes over the surplus Turtles on screen. The AI is so rudimentary that they’re quite happy to stand still on the spot while watching you get smacked about, only attacking if an enemy engages with them first. If the AI falls behind by even a couple of yards then they magically re-appear ahead, only to then get left behind again almost straight away. Somewhat hilariously, they will even walk straight into the spinning blades that pop-up out of the floor during one of the later levels.
Then there are the speech-samples, which are repeated so often that they grate as soon as by the end of the first level. Perhaps for the sake of our sanity, it’s a good thing that it can be beaten in just over three hours.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton’s Robotic Revenge – PS3, 360, Wii U
THQ owned the SpongeBob license for many years, but when the house of WWE and Saints Row went bust it found a new home – Activision.
This article is very heavily centred around Activision, isn’t it? Sorry, chaps.
Anyway, THQ officially closed in January; this game was released just nine months later during October. With this in mind, we’re guessing that game’s development time was around the six month mark. Maybe give or take a month or two.
The plot falls way short of reaching the level of creativity shown in the cartoon series – Plankton is still after the Krabby Patty formula and so creates an army of robots. With the safe containing the formula soon in his grasp, the race is on to stop Plankton reaching the three keys required to open it.
The next two hours are then spent walking down long and narrow paths while holding down the trigger button to shoot Plankton’s mechanical menaces. The only real variation from one level to the next is the colour scheme. Boss battles are similarly lazy – they all feature the same giant robot. The only thing that changes are its attack patterns.
There are so few noteworthy features about it that Activision tried to used the fact that it’s the first SpongeBob game for PS3 as a selling point. Wow.
Adventure time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know – PS3, 360, Wii U, 3DS
Like the majority of games we’ve talked about so far, budget and time can be attributed to killing all potential here too. WayForward are experienced developers with more than a few hidden gems in their back catalogue, while the Adventure Time series is perfectly suited for a videogame tie-in. The concept alone is also appealing – a dungeon crawler inspired by Gauntlet sounded like a great idea, especially seeing WayForward have a knack of adding pleasingly retro twists into everything they touch.
So what went wrong? Simply put, Explore the Dungeon is everything the show isn’t – dull, unimaginative and downright joyless. The randomly generated dungeons are a slog to explore, full of dead ends and dreary corridors, while combat leaves much to be desired. Around halfway through the adventure we gave up fighting bad guys altogether, choosing to simply run past them in an attempt to finish the game as soon as possible. Games shouldn’t feel like a chore to play, but this one does.
For something aimed at the younger generation it’s surprisingly tough too, penalising heavily every time you die by halving your loot. This makes the incredibly expensive upgrades elusive to obtain, which has a knock-on effect on the sense of progression.
This is WayForward’s worst game for years. Yes, worse than The Smurfs 2.
Aliens: Colonial Marines – PS3, 360, PC
We were one of the first sites, if not the first, to review Sega’s often delayed bug hunt. The review embargo was set for the day of release – which is never a good sign – but we received a retail copy in the post early, and with no obligation with Sega the review went up a few days before release.
It pains me personally to say it, but it’s not a review I’m proud off. It was written and published with haste in order to warn of the game’s shoddiness before launch. Despite the review focusing too heavily on issues with the plot, overall presentation and online modes – rather than talking about its copious amount of problems elsewhere – I hope that I still managed to prevent a few people from buying it on launch day.
We didn’t start adding scores to our reviews until recently, but for the record it would have gained 4/10. That may strike you as a little high, but I actually didn’t detest it the way others did. Yeah, there’s a whiff of Duke Nukem Forever about it and we were mislead with the hype and pre-release footage, but it’s still playable even though it resembles something from ten years ago. Should we be expected to be content playing something horribly dated in this day and age of highly polished shooters? Of course not, which is why it made this list.
I’m just glad I didn’t suffer a total mental breakdown like EGM clearly did when they reviewed it. Quite how they justified giving it 9/10 is beyond me. Jesus wept.