Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Year in Review: The Worst Games of 2008
Today through Christmas Eve, we'll be recapping the year that was. Today: The worst games of the year.
To start with, let me say that I played nothing this year as cynical, calculated, or insulting as the two worst games of last year. The generally acceptable level of quality in 2008 extended to the weaker games, most of which were at least competently executed, and only lacking imagination in some crucial way or another.
Take Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. It was exactly like a (marginally) interactive version of the television program, which I enjoy. But it turns out that it is not fun to (barely) interact with a TV show, or to (almost) affect its storyline. Even when the jokes are good. Who knew?
And when I say that Dark Sector was one of the worst games I played this year, part of the reason why is that it could have been really good. I loved using the glaive, at least at first, and for the first couple of hours of play I was convinced that this game would turn out to be a real sleeper. But then I started getting bogged down in all the little annoyances and aggravations, and it became harder to appreciate what the game was doing well. Ultimately, I think there were too many possibilities left unexplored. Why could you only electrify the glaive in designated hotspots? Why couldn't you shoot out a lightbulb and electrify it that way? If that would have messed up the play balance, there's a simple solution: make an enemy that's invulnerable to electricity. There you go.
Similarly, The Bourne Conspiracy was a great game to look at, but that was all you could really do: look at it. Its total reliance on quicktime events meant that you'd have about all the fun you were going to have with it by the time you'd reached the first driving level. Matt Damon was right when he said they could have made a better Bourne game by trying to be more cerebral.
Look, I just don't find Super Smash Bros. Brawl fun in any way. I apologize. I'll accept that I'm wrong about this. But to the guy who commented on that review at thephoenix.com to make sure everyone knew that I was an idiot and it was a surefire game of the year contender: how are you feeling about that prediction now?*
But there was one game this year that soared well beneath the rest. A game that was not just poorly conceived, but actually physically painful to play. I speak, of course, of Guitar Hero: On Tour, whose non-ergonomic peripheral was even more agonizing than listening to the hot licks of guitar legends like Maroon 5, Smashmouth, and Los Lonely Boys. As I said, on one level I'm amazed they could even put together a Guitar Hero game for the Nintendo DS, but otherwise there was nothing good to come of this. Easily the worst game I played this year.
*Note: After writing this post, I recorded the Brainy Gamer podcast with Spencer Greenwood, who actually did choose Smash Bros. as his game of the year. So much for that zinger.
Tomorrow: The best games of 2008.