We’re not going to give you that whole “hasn’t 2016 been pants” spiel. In the world of gaming, it’s actually been quite good. Dishonored 2! Watch Dogs 2! Other things 2! But let’s not pretend every game has been astonishing.
In fact there are plenty of games that came out this year that left us feeling deflated, whether it was because their premise was over-sold, their delivery fell flat, or some horrific combination of the two.
Let’s tuck in.
No Man's Sky
Let’s get this one out of the way, then. No Man’s Sky, by any metric, even if you’re being particularly generous, was a disappointment.
This was because of the monumental promises made by some of the people behind its development - promises they perhaps knew, even then, that they couldn’t keep. The trailer showed giant sand worms, stampedes, seamless space travel; and the game delivered none of them.
Without those promises, the game might have blown people away entirely, but as it was, it failed to match up to people’s expectations - expectations that were set by the company itself.
At least, in future, studios will know to keep their trailers realistic.
Mighty No. 9
OH BOY, if you want an example of disappointing games, don’t look to No Man’s Sky - look at Mighty No. 9, a game that was crowdfunded for over $4 million and turned out to be a total hot mess.
Mighty No 9 promised to be like the beloved Mega Man and turned out more like a lengthy, terribly voice acted demonstration of How To Get It All Wrong.
The lighting didn’t work, the graphics looked like they were from a PS2 game, there were unexplained crashes and ugly, ugly boss battles. How did they get it so wrong with so much money and time on their side?!
It’s been a long road to get Pokémon Go back into the hearts of the public. When it first came out, everyone was thrilled and it was downloaded in the millions - which would have been great were it not was a lot more people than the developers, Niantic, had anticipated.
Technical issues and the lack of promised features meant a drop off in users over the months after its release, and it’s only now - six months later - that the long-awaited “Nearby” feature actually works.
Niantic didn’t exactly help their case by shutting down sites like Pokéfinder, which filled in the gaps in the game by helping players find the exact locations of nearby Pokémon. But it’s all okay now, right…?
A much-hyped early 2016 game, Quantum Break featured some pretty big actors in Shawn Ashmore and Aiden Gillen, as well as being an anticipated release by the face of Max Payne and writer of Alan Wake, Sam Lake.
Unfortunately, many found the game to be overly cheesy - partly because of the TV series on the side that gave the whole thing an inconsistent tone, and made everything look like a low-budget crime drama.
The platforming in the game was lacklustre, too, and even the shooting sections weren’t exactly universally loved - pretty damning given that it’s ultimately a third-person shooter.
Paper Mario: Color Splash
After the letdown that was the 3DS Paper Mario game, Sticker Star, fans were wary of what the Wii U’s Color Splash might bring. Turns out that they were right to feel that way: Color Splash is a drab shadow of what Paper Mario games used to be - full of life, humour and silliness.
Color Splash felt polished to the point where it rubbed all the detail off, leaving players with a perfectly serviceable game that just never managed to hit the high points of the GameCube’s Thousand-Year Door, nor capture the spirit of what the games used to be.
We were excited about ReCore. With the director of the Metroid Prime series at its helm, and Mega Man cited as a key influencer, the game looked to be a refreshing throwback to the kinds of exploration games that aren’t as prevalent in modern gaming.
It certainly had the best of intentions, but the final game felt like a repetitive chore across both its numerous fetch-quests and uninspired combat, a problem worsened by the game’s excessive length, which stretched an already thin premise to breaking point.
At least the game launched the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, which, though initially buggy, has moved the twinned pillars of PC and Xbox One ever-closer together.
Back at the beginning of 2016, the battle to bring the kind of strategy gameplay present in games such as DOTA2 and League of Legends to the first-person shooter genre was well and truly on.
In one corner of the ring we had Blizzard’s Overwatch, and in the other we had Battleborn, a game developed by Gearbox, a studio that’s learned a couple of things over the years from its work on games such as Borderlands, Brothers in Arms and, ahem, Aliens: Colonial Marines.
At the time it felt like a two horse race, but Battleborn was more or less completely obliterated by Overwatch, which has gone on to win multiple game of the year awards. Meanwhile Battleborn players have been forced to to get the servers populated enough to find a decent game. Ouch.
Star Fox Zero
Billed as the game that would make full use of the Wii U’s complete set of bells and whistles, Starfox Zero ended up being nearly unplayable thanks to its overreliance on motion controls for aiming in addition to having you constantly switching your gaze from your gamepad to your television.
It’s a shame, because we’ve long been of the opinion that the true potential of the Wii U’s innovative control scheme has never been fully explored. As it turns out, Starfox Zero ended up feeling gimmicky, and ruined what many believed had a half-decent StarFox game at its core.
A lot of people loved the Division, but it’s hard to argue it was completely flawless. The missions got repetitive, there were long sections of uneventful walking, and the overall atmosphere was drab and dreary.
Some of these criticisms can be brushed away by the game’s pseudo-MMO setup, but this genre makes the game’s unappealing atmosphere that much less forgivable.
After all, if a game’s world is designed for players to spend time with each other in, it helps if it isn’t too bleak, depressing, and similar looking. This was something The Division suffered with.
It’s definitely much more accomplished than a lot of the other games on this list, but when you’re coming up against the likes of Destiny even that’s not enough to polarise critics.
Homefront: The Revolution
Nothing messes a game’s development up quite as much as a company going bankrupt, and Homefront: The Revolution was hit hard when its original publisher THQ went bankrupt.
But the game’s difficulties didn’t stop there. Pretty soon it was hit by further financial difficulties via its co-publisher Crytek.
After all these difficulties, hopes weren’t exactly high for the game, and predictably the game was beset by technical problems that got in the way of the game’s original ambition.
- For a look at the better games out there, check out our 2016 Game of the Year Award winners