I’m easily annoyed, so don’t read too much into what’s included on this list. I “finished” only one of these games, so feel free to dismiss my views by that criteria too.
Also to keep in mind: These aren’t the worst of the year by any measure as I don’t play nearly as many bad games as I used to. (Oddly enough, I miss the terrible, terrible games.)
I was tempted to put “Spore” on this list, but it wasn’t that annoying. Or interesting, for that matter. And I loved the Creature Creator too much to dismiss it outright.
So, here goes:
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC, 360)
I’ve always been a big Command & Conquer fan—it’s the only RTS series that has interested me enough to get me to try each installment—but they lost me with this one. This has always been the cheesy cousin to the main “Command & Conquer” line—what a weird thing to type, since the main series isn’t exactly serious—but the silly campaign and its “crazy” objectives and claustrophobic levels was just too much for me. It was more “move little things through narrow corridors” than an RTS.
I also find it cynical that a multi-billion dollar company says, “Let’s spend tons of money to make the cutscenes look self-consciously cheesy” It’s like “Mars Attacks,” Tim Burton’s $100 million ode to B-movies movies that cost $100K (or less) to make. Those movies were incompetent because the people making them couldn’t do any better with their level of talent or budgets.
But if you want to go down that route, go all out. Don’t hire professional actors and polish them to a fine sheen while they overact their terrible dialogue. Have people in the office act out each role. Shoot it all on bad video. Make all of the audio slightly out of sync. You’ll save millions and end up with the same level of camp and cheese.
Grand Theft Auto IV (360)
I’m an unabashed fanboy of the series, and have completed every previous version until this one. Something just felt off. Maybe some of the unfortunate holdovers in the series, like bad minigames and a constant need to re-watch cutscenes or re-start missions at distant locations finally wore me down. It’s not like I replaced it with something else; I just didn’t feel like playing anymore after I unlocked the second area.
I’m tempted to buy the PC version, configuration hassles be damned, because I’ve played its previous versions on the big beige box. My past experience doing this with “Gears of War” did nothing to change my negative opinion of it on its home platform, so I think I’ll wait for it to get a wee-bit cheaper before taking the plunge.
Left 4 Dead (PC)
Yeah, this will generate tons of hate and kill all of my credibility with the cool kids, but I just can’t get into this. It’s relentless, which is fine in small bursts but exhausting when you’re talking about a multi-hour long experience. Sure, it gets the pulse going, but so does doing sit-ups.
It’s obviously well-produced, and I can’t find fault in its execution beyond, “it ain’t for me.” Which is weird, because I assumed I’d love shooting wave after wave of zombies, but there just isn’t enough downtime to make the waves of zombies that awesome. And awesome quickly becomes the norm when there’s nothing normal to contrast it with.
Little Big Planet (PS3)
Really? This is your system seller? I get that it’s an amazing toolset, but I don’t buy games for what people may turn them into down the road. And why should I care about what’s coming when the controls in the base game are so floaty? Granted, I haven’t put the time into this to get too worked up about it one way or the other, but I’d think something this hyped and important to its platform should grab me pretty quickly. And this, I’m afraid, didn’t.
Prince of Persia (360)
I have no problem with its controversial “no dying” mechanic because I’m a big fan of “easy” games. (“Fable II” also has no death, but no one really talks about it being an issue there.)
What I do have a problem with is the banter between the Prince and his female partner; if this isn’t a preview for the big-budget, Jerry Bruckheimer version of this game, I’ll be shocked. (The prince even looks a little like the promo photos of Jake Gyllenhaal in full Prince garb). It was like someone was trying to emulate the anachronistic dialogue of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and came up short, though I admit that I love the “banter button” concept. (This lets you skip a lot of the dialogue if you want; you initiate additional banter.)
A bigger annoyance is that the game puts its amazing animation in control of its gameplay. There are times when you feel like you’re playing “Dragon’s Lair,” pressing a button while a canned multi-second animation plays. It gets even worse later in the game, when you use the power buttons, or whatever they’re called, to shoot around the levels. The results are frequently dazzling when you’re watching the game, but you get the feeling you’re only indirectly piloting the game to completion instead of being in full control if you’re playing.
The combat, which has never been the series’ strong suit, is frequently fluid and gorgeous, but it’s also kinda retarded. Fighting a boss that needs to be pushed in one direction is fine and dandy, but don’t give me quick-time-events that do this amazing animation that has me flip over him and hit him from behind. There are two obvious reasons why this is bad: 1) I can’t damage him anyway, which is why you have me pushing him around instead of slicing him with my sword, and 2) I’m now pushing him in the opposite direction that I’ve previously been pushing him. For fuck’s sake, Ubisoft; why do you hate me?