As a fan of the first game, I was excited to return to the horribly twisted version of Wonderland and see what monstrosities American McGee cooked up. While the game looked fantastic and utilized some pretty nifty graphical effects, the gameplay was exceedingly dull. The platforming and jumping puzzles were ripped right from the late 1990s, ignoring the genre’s evolution since then. The result is a game that just wasn’t very fun. A semi-broken save system didn’t help things either.
Honorable Mention: Rage
Jeremy: F.E.A.R. 3
I loved the first two F.E.A.R. games when I played them. They reminded me of how Doom 3 scared me but in a more realistic setting that I could relate to. The bullet time shooting was fun and the games created a great sense of tension. F.E.A.R. 2 really stepped it up and I felt like it was a much better game so I was highly anticipating F.E.A.R. 3. Unfortunately that was met with a faulty story, repetitive gameplay, uninteresting environments. I felt like there was one solid section of the game and the rest just fell apart. If they could have taken the middle of the game and just expanded it and added more variety F.E.A.R. 3 could have been a great ending to a horror series.
Honorable Mention: Homefront
As an old school Nintendo fan, I have came to grips with the fact that they have evolved into an entirely new company focusing on a different audience. But who is their audience? They release the 3DS device back in March and have just now started releasing decent games for it. They charged too much and had to drastically lower the cost just to get people interested. The Wii is still selling strong, yet they continue to not support the console with anything of interest, only shovelware crap for 90% of the year with a couple 1st party releases throw into the mix. Let’s not forget that terrible showing of the Wii U where they confused everyone on what exactly it is. I seen reports thrown around that it was an attachment for the Wii because all they did was show a controller that looks like it could have been for the Wii. Also Wii U is a terrible name that is sure to start up some confusing conversations. Thanks for the Mario games Nintendo, the rest I could care less about.
Honorable Mention: Sony and the rocky year it’s had with PSN problems and mediocre exclusives
Stefan: Killzone 3
The first failing of the game was the villains. New antagonists Stahl and Orlock were weak replacements of regular series bad guy Scholar Visari. Even with more screen time, the duo were not nearly as well developed as Visari because they lacked his gravitas, as well as his acid-spitting propaganda that hounds the player throughout the levels.
The linear level design also disappointed with enemy placement that made the game feel more like a monster closet. Encounters are predictable and never really demonstrate the great AI that Guerrilla had coded for Killzone 2. Every character, including the player, instead feels like a bullet sponge to unload the conveniently placed hardware into. Genre tropes - like the out-of-place stealth level and the dull on-rails shooting sections - failed to excite me and just made the game feel like it was trying to create more variety through very superficial means. Transitions between levels are also nonsensical at times: for example, one minute we are in a mountain base, then after a loading screen we are suddenly driving along a snowy canyon with zero explanation. How did I get here? What year is this?
The narrative is also all over the place, jumping forwards and backwards through time whenever it feels like it. The 'intro' is actually set in the last third of the game, a sort of "here's where it's all headed" teaser, but the journey back to that point isn't particularly interesting. However, the most disappointing part of the story is the conclusion, which provides a ridiculous amount of closure one minute, then goes on to set up a Killzone 4 the next. We should probably blame Kojima for popularising these post-credits bait-and-switch endings.
In terms of gameplay, controls were a typically tweaked version of Killzone 2, a game which I did enjoy. A welcome improvement was more analog stick responsiveness, but sadly it came at the expense of the weighty feeling KZ was known for. The Call of Duty influence runs even deeper into the multiplayer, with a new-found barrage of XP points, two shot kills, and less emphasis on using different player classes to accomplish objectives. Personally I have nothing against COD, but it was not the game I wanted KZ3 to be. The series was its own beast and fans wanted it to remain that way, and if sales figures are any indication, the general public just didn't care either way.
Overall it was an average letdown which served the PS3 better as a tech demo than a game.
Honorable Mention: L.A. Noire for clumsy detective bits, little over-arching story, and an interrogation mode worse than all the dodgiest bits of Phoenix Wright’s courtroom battles put together.
Joel: X-Men Destiny
My pick for the biggest disappointment was also one of the worst games I have played in the last five years. Developed by Silicon Knights who at some point was a reputable developer, X-Men Destiny takes a great concept and destroys it into the most mundane video game of the year. You start with selecting an unknown hero and your goal is to work with other X-Men to save the world. The final product is buggy, uninspired, and thankfully short. I truly feel sorry for anyone who spent full retail or anywhere near that point on this game.
At no point during the game was a unique idea used. We have seen all of these beat em' up tactics done before and done far better. It's a shame that a lot of these Marvel Comics are getting such lacking experiences in video games. There are so many incredible ways to use a universe like the X-Men that make the experience in X-Men Destiny even more disheartening. Please do yourself a favor and avoid this game at all costs.
Honorable Mention: Madden NFL 12 and Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Nick: Dragon Age 2
While Dragon Age 2 kept some of the charm of Dragon Age: Origins, it feels surprisingly lifeless compared to the rest of BioWare’s catalog. The overhauled art design was more unified, but bland. The combat was dull and repetitive.I had a lot more fun with the companion sidequests than with the main story. That does speak to the game’s best point, the compelling companion characters, but also speaks to the frustratingly binary nature of the story.
Then there were a lot of little annoyances: Why can’t I change the gear on the other members of my party? Why do all of the caves around Kirkwall look exactly the same? Who cares about Mages vs. Templars with another Darkspawn blight at our doorstep?
Ultimately, some of Dragon Age 2’s ideas sound great on paper, but the execution was lackluster and uninteresting. Dragon Age 2 is far from the worst game released this year, but given the promise showed by the first game, the franchise has fallen a long way.
Honorable Mention: L.A. Noire: I thought I really liked this game on my first playthrough. Then I started playing it a second time. When the charm of the (legitimately groundbreaking) facial capture technology wears off, this game is left with only the sum of its not-fun parts.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.