A Bad Egg: Blemishes on an Otherwise Great Series
The new God of War came out recently to a standing ovation of top scores. I found myself wanting to play it, especially since I enjoyed the first two games, but then I remembered I never actually finished the third installment, even after multiple attempts. The game just never clicked with me. I’m not saying that entry is bad, just that something never clicked with me. There are certainly some series though with titles that stop the momentum cold, or have gained a reputation as the black sheep of the franchise after some time, but either way they are the installments that should be skipped by anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan.
This is a list of some of the worst offenders in my opinion. We may not all agree—even I couldn’t decide between Metal Gear Solid 2 or MGS4, and I know at least one of you is shouting Survive at the screen right now—but there is a reason each of these games stand out from their brethren. My only requirements were that the series have at least three entries, and that two of those be considered good by the majority, while trying to stick to main entries in the series.
Resident Evil 6
Franchises need to evolve, which is why I have given almost every iteration of Resident Evil—one of my favorite series of games—a shot, but this is the one that failed the hardest to me. It was the entry that saw the series go full force into trying to fully mix the action and zombie genres. There are some fun parts, like most of Leon’s campaign, some wonderful visuals and cutscenes, and an attempt to further the story and expand the threat on a worldwide scale, which creates some of the problems.
The plot is literally all over the place while suffering from boring characters, overload of mechanics, and disjointed storytelling, to start. It feels crowded while repeating elements in each campaign, but attempts to add on painful vehicle sections, as well as clunky and annoying QTE parts, all before an underwhelming set of boss fights. The controls feel awkward while aiming, dodging, doing limited hand-to-hand fighting, and all of the general movement, especially when asked to do stealth or run away without being able to see too far ahead (horrible camera setup), like the character has no full range of movement. Most of the skills feel useless, there is an annoying inventory system, which I would forgive if the game paused while searching through it, and cutscenes don’t stop enemies from moving up on the characters in some parts either. This was such a big project and stretched itself too thin, failing to capture the feeling of the franchise, or do much memorable in a positive light. Instead of playing this title, just go back to RE5, since that one is only polarizing at worst (and way more fun on co-op).
Mortal Kombat 4
As a big Nintendo 64 fan, this was one of the few fighting games on the system I had access to, so I needed it to be good, especially after it was so easy to love the arcade version, which made its fall from grace to the consoles even worse. It felt new as a 3D fighter, but there were several other games out there doing this a lot better. The switch from digitized graphics wasn’t jarring, but made some of its flaws more noticeable. It was a product of the team splitting and trying to do multiple games at once, and having trouble with their engine. Several new characters were added, which is good, but the story does not do much with them and most are forgotten for the rest of the series. One of the biggest additions is the weapons, something that looks silly, takes a good while to master, and are dropped when the player is hit once, making them feel annoying and cheap when the computer rolls up with one. All of the advertisements focused on the new armory, but I spent most of my time throwing them. The fatalities are one of the main draws of the series, but here they felt weak or that they were just recycled old ones. Each character only has two anyway—but Quan Chi’s leg finisher is still incredible. Character endings suffer the same fate, boasting some of the worst in franchise history, and a large amount of God awful dialog. Even if someone is a Mortal Kombat lore enthusiast, this is a title that is easily skipped, and what were they thinking with Meat?
Dino Crisis 3
This one may be a bit more personal, as I was huge fan of the first two Dino Crisis titles and couldn’t wait for another follow-up. In an effort to stop hearing that they were just Resident Evil with dinosaurs, this time they threw those dinosaurs into space and came up with a weak and contrived story about a shapeshifting vessel. Some fans had fun with the jetpack and shooting action, but this has to be more with random gameplay than actually trying to progress in the game, as that is repetitive and frustrating in most cases. The game is plagued by a horrific camera system that makes movement and jumping puzzles tiresome, causing several issues with depth perception. There is no manual control, causing some hair pulling and several deaths that should have been easily avoided. There are no real variations in enemies or design, and a lot of time will be spent fighting them off screen. Dodging is sometimes about timing, but more often guessing. I never beat it, but I’ve heard from those that have, there is no real satisfaction upon completion. It’s a series of neat ideas that was so close to not only looking great, but actually being good, and that kind of letdown is a fair enough answer to the question of why there were never any more Dino Crisis games.
I’m not a big racing game fan, but I do feel the adrenaline offered from totaling enemy cars and causing hellacious wrecks to generate a new high score. This was the series to give the audience all that and more, until they decided to stretch the action across an entire city. The game sets speed demons lose in an open world with absolutely no direction or goal to reach, making the first few hours amusing, but incredibly shallow feeling. Having to drive all the way back to the physical starting marker of a race always annoyed me, as there is no easy way to just replay from the beginning, meaning that any amount of failure costs the player a huge portion of time. While racing, it is incredibly hard to know where to go if the other cars are out of sight, meaning the driver will constantly have to pause and look at the map for directions, slowing down the gameplay, or risk it all in a dangerous guessing game. One of the biggest offenses here was the changes to Crash Mode, taking away a lot of the fun in an effort to allow the player to attempt this challenge anywhere, losing so much of the charm from previous iterations. This isn’t a bad game by any means, but it watered down so many of the core elements that brought fans in at the cost of making things bigger and trying to cram in more, which makes me wonder how it, out of all the entries, got the remaster treatment.
Assassin’s Creed III
What an amazing idea for a setting, historical cast, and what should have been a phenomenal follow-up to one of the best entries, Assassin’s Creed II. I know that some will say Revelations is even worse, but I don’t agree, and I think there were more expectations from a main title. Like many, I truly disliked Desmond and his (thankfully short) sections, as well, what should have been his swan song in the story is only good for the father drama and has one of the most unsatisfying endings. Connor starts off looking to be a cool character, but he soon becomes a humorless and inflectionless blank slate, who unfortunately had to follow Ezio’s awesome performance. Developers increased the amount of fighting, but didn’t improve the systems for it, other than better kill animations.
The battlefield combat, which was heavily promoted in the trailers, was quite disappointing. All of the missions felt like this actually, wasting time following NPCs or barely participating in repetitious activities. There was the pivot system at the end that felt tacked on, and most of the side activities, crafting, and even the Homestead itself felt pointless. Here was where I began encountering glitches in the series, and several friends ran into problems of their own, but no one was missing a face. Somehow, it still felt more rushed than Unity. The coolest aspect of the game was the twist at the beginning. I would say to play this one for anyone who thinks they’d really be into the naval missions, but Black Flag does all of this way better.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
Crash Bandicoot is a great series with a few duds, but nothing stands out more amongst fans than the fourth main installment, which was the first attempt for the anamorphic mascot without the original creators, Naughty Dog. This was an attempt to recapture the glory of the previously successful games by taking all of those elements and simply giving more of that. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that the formula needs to be recreated almost exactly to ensure success. However, it tries to give fans almost too much variety and what they loved, resulting in overload and a lack of core gameplay. The use of space and enemy placement in several sections feels untested, like mistakes from early 3D games, making a few parts of the game too easy or seemingly unneeded.
The vehicle stages aren’t horrible, but feel slow and weaker overall, with only the jetpack sections actually improved on, while the mech suits were almost a hindrance. There was only one real boss, just with different uninteresting mechanics, while a slew of former bosses are poorly underused. The game has positives, from the controls to some excellent music, but the gameplay has a lot of trouble matching those successes. It doesn’t help that the mood is thrown off at the beginning with a long boring cutscene and some of the PlayStation 2 loading times were quite long, but it was also pretty buggy on that version as well. If that wasn’t enough to cut down on replay value though, the secret levels were almost aggressively annoying and there was no way I was going back through to collect everything just for the good ending. Figured Cortex had put me through enough torture already.
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
There are a couple of games in this series that are arguably bad, and some of them don’t hold up well to fresh faces, but no one can deny that Tomb Raider has been well revived in the wake of its most recent reboot. For most fans though, Angel of Darkness is easily the roughest entry with little to make it worth anyone’s time. It’s a set of decent ideas that were never pushed forward or realized in full, in what feels like an unfinished weekend project. The premise and story could also have used some more detail, but they are by far the most appealing aspects found within, at least until they bring in Kurtis and his random psychic abilities in—what?
The controls are simply cruel, where I could complain about the jumping and horrible close-quarters combat for quite a while, but that requires getting past how annoying basic movements, the auto-grab, or simply lining up the character is, on top of just being stiff and unresponsive. I almost forgot that the player has to do physical activities with Lara to increase her strength enough to perform certain activities, which is kind of dumb and kills the momentum. If that isn’t enough to scare someone away, there are glitches, constant crashes, and a likely risk of corrupted save data to make everyone feel welcome. The game should have been called Angel of Death, because there will be plenty of those, in what should be menial tasks. I understand that the game was rushed, even after two delays, but it was in development for three years, and still so bad that it caused an entire trilogy to be scrapped, because this angel brings death, boredom, and disappointment.
Far Cry: Primal
I enjoyed every entry in this series, no matter how odd Far Cry 2 felt in its need to try for more substance in punishing ways, or how similar the journey was in recent iterations, but it was when Ubisoft tried to take their winning formula and put it in the most outrageous setting that I was left questioning why I had spent money on the game. Primal isn’t a main series entry, but it stands out because all of the hype and materials for it had me defending it, wanting to give this unique time and setting a real chance—and I paid for that. This is a series that worked so well taking good graphics, gunplay, and a bit of the mystical in easy to digest stories to make some money, while leaving players with fun memories, and decided to go fully into the survival and supernatural aspects with little to back it up. I tried so hard to keep pushing on, but the weapons and animals weren’t interesting after the first couple of hours, the scenery blurred together with no landmarks or really notable points, and the story felt hollow and meaningless, trying to put a tribe back together that I feel nothing for, in control of an even duller protagonist than before. I can’t comment much on the voice acting and missed chunks of the dialog because it all has to be read, and as much as I appreciate them going all in on the gimmick, this was too much and interrupted enjoyment.
After the amount of hours I poured into the previous titles, this was an extreme letdown. The few strengths it has are found in the wacky side character the series is known for and base elements of gameplay, but every other entry before and after it managed to pull off those aspects and more so much better. Leave this one in the past.
They can’t all be winners. A few of these titles could be argued for, but there is no denying that they each fall short in some ways—spectacularly in most cases. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few reasons to play them. Even a bad game can provide some joy, but these will leave some yolk on your face.