It was a weird year for electronic gaming – Nintendo came out with a console that seems destined to bomb, while Sony and Microsoft just kept on working the same old stories and worn-out franchises. Although there weren’t any spectacular, industry-killing disasters on the slate this year, there were still plenty of games that were not very good. In this feature, we’ll run down the 10 worst video games of 2012.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
The Steel Battalion games are widely known as being for the hardest of the hardcore. The first games for the original Xbox required a separate controller to play them that featured two control sticks and over 40 buttons, designed to simulate the actual controls of your giant robot in the game. The thing cost $200, for God’s sake! So when Capcom announced that the latest installment would use the Kinect instead, eyebrows raised. They raised even further when the game was released and the Kinect couldn’t ever figure out what the player was doing, turning the simplest maneuver into an exercise in frustration. Although the technology of the Kinect is fairly good at gestural recognition, it couldn’t keep up with the demands of Steel Battalion. We never thought we’d miss an 18-pound game controller, but here we are.
Survival horror is a genre that is hard to get right. Hell, even Capcom, the people who invented it, sort of screwed the pooch this year. But Amy, a downloadable game by VectorCell for the Xbox 360 and PS3, showed exactly how horrible survival horror can get. The concept is great: you’re a woman tasked with escorting a strange, little autistic girl through a creepy city. And lead character Sabine is an interesting contrast to your typical steroidal game heroes. Unfortunately, the game itself is just a mess. Horrible controls (Sabine walks slower than she crawls for some reason), an unresponsive camera and frequent, boring combat sunk this to the bottom of the charts. The nail in the coffin was the broken save system, which often left players stranded and forced to reset.
Mass Effect 3
This was a particularly rough one to put on the list, as we’re huge fans of BioWare and their epid sci-fi RPG series. But Mass Effect 3 didn’t do anything but disappoint as an end to the trilogy, and fans worldwide were left upset when the game finally dropped. The reasons were myriad, but we can go into a few of them here. First, the day one DLC (downloadable content). Sure, we expect to pay for extra content a few months after a game drops to keep us interested, but Mass Effect 3 expected gamers to shell out $10 for the From Ashes pack the same day. The other big downer came in the form of the game’s endings. The Mass Effect games have traditionally given you a vast spectrum of moral choices to make as you adventure through the galaxy, and one would expect those choices to have serious bearing on the ending, right? Wrong, buddy. The endings were all totally similar, with one of the only variables being how much multiplayer you played. Not such a good choice for an RPG.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
The Call Of Duty series is widely regarded to be the absolute top of the line when it comes to console-based shooters. They boast huge production values, incredible immersion and complex plots. So why was Black Ops Declassified for the newly-launched PlayStation Vita such a total turd? Blame it on first-time developer Nihilistic, who obviously rushed the game out the door in order to capitalize on the hot license. Where do we even begin with this one? Well, how about the single-player campaign. In past Call of Duty titles, this was guaranteed to be a rousing, involving story that dropped you right into the world. This one was not even an hour long from start to finish. How about the multiplayer? It’s equally disastrous, riddled with bugs that have players spawning right in front of enemies or floating in mid-air, and the maps are embarrassingly tiny.
Men In Black: Alien Crisis
Movie tie-in games are never very good, but Men In Black: Alien Crisis, released to cash in on the third Will Smith movie, was such a disgusting, brazen cash grab that it moved the goalposts for everybody. With graphics that would have looked bad two hardware generations ago, this rush job doubled down; not only was the gameplay repetitive, but there wasn’t very much of it. A full-priced retail title, most gamers reported getting through everything Men In Black: Alien Crisis had to offer in just three hours. And that’s even counting the load times, which sometimes were as long as thirty seconds in between gameplay portions.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Fighting games are undergoing a renaissance in recent years, with a new Street Fighter series prompting updates of Tekken, Mortal Kombat and all of your other favorites. One of the most interesting new games to hit the shelves was Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken. The concept is awesome: all your favorite fighters from both franchises face off in a battle for supremacy. Unfortunately, the execution was pure crap. Essential balance testing simply didn’t happen before the game was released, leaving some characters way overpowered. Simple strategies like pressing the jab punch button over and over dominated much of the cast. Many characters had game-breaking infinites and bugs. Oh, and DLC characters like Mega Man and Pac-Man were on the disc, but couldn’t be unlocked on the Xbox 360 version. Patches have addressed some of these issues, but the game is still a mess.
Orion: Dino Beatdown
Sometimes the best-laid plans of game companies result in unmitigated disaster. Case in point: Orion: Dino Beatdown, a first-person shooter released on Steam by Spiral Games in May. This wasn’t a big-budget title from a major studio, so we’d be inclined to cut it some slack, but the dudes put out a game that was so buggy it was almost unplayable, and then “patched” it and made everything even worse. Being chased by a T-rex is terrifying enough, but when they start clipping through the walls of your base you're just screwed. Oftentimes joining a server would lock up the game in an inescapable loop. Cars don’t make any sounds when you hit things with them. Only one of the game’s three classes – the one with the jetpack – has any chance of survival. Spiral employees later went on Reddit to talk about the absolutely horrific working conditions at the company, so it’s no surprise the game turned out this bad.
Ninja Gaiden 3
The Ninja Gaiden series has fallen a long way since its glory days. Starting out on the original Nintendo Entertainment System as a bracingly hard side-scrolling platformer, it transitioned to modern consoles as a bracingly hard 3D action game. Then, series creator Tomonobu Itagaki left the project, and everything went to shit. The game’s action was severely streamlined, removing the knife’s edge of danger that protagonist Ryu Hayabusa walked on in earlier titles. The game’s enemies are harmless meat bags who pose absolutely no threat to the player, so it boils down to dull action sequences punctuated by endless confusing cutscenes. Even the boss fights are recycled several times throughout the game. It’d be a bad game on its own, but as the end of a proud legacy, Ninja Gaiden 3 is truly horrible.
The best thing about the introduction of the Wii U is that the original Wii can now rest for eternity, a repository for the cruddiest shovelware the gaming industry has ever seen. The console went out with a bang with the January release of Zombii Attack, a slapdash, lazy downloadable Wii Ware title that sums up everything wrong with modern gaming. Let’s face it: zombies are over. We’ve explored every possible permutation of them and now they’re just a crutch for lazy designers. In this inept game, which would probably work just fine on a second-generation iPhone, you stand behind a fence with a slingshot chucking rocks at staggering undead, occasionally slingshotting one up into the air to be caught be a helicopter. And…that’s it. Boring, ugly and unoriginal - that’s a triple play right there.
Next: Video Games That Should be Movies
Probably the biggest disappointment of the year came from Blizzard and the long-awaited Diablo 3. First, a little rewind: Diablo 2 was a game so good it was genre-defying. The randomly-generated dungeon crawler offered so much challenge and was so deep that people continued to obsessively play it for over a decade after its release in 2000. So stakes were high for Diablo 3, and Blizzard fell right on their face. Gone was the addictive replayability – the majority of gamers finished it once and put it away, never to play it again. The game catered to the company’s new World of Warcraft audience, making it linear, more casual and unable to be played offline.