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 lard pirates dawt cawm  §  The Top Five Most Disappointing Games of 2010 / by Spoony Spoonicus
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 ~Spoony Spoonicus on 10:14pm 06/29/11 (09:59pm 01/25/11) in 1h46m35s  §  3908 eyeballs
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Because the first wave of stuff I'm actually interested in this year isn't actually out until February, so I don't have anything to complain about in depth in 2011. Yet.

And no, I'm not playing that piece of childish, exploitative trash called "Dead Space 2." Piss off.

5. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

The Castlevania series has been in a rut for quite a while, what with one uninspired Metroidvania title after another plaguing the handheld systems, a crummy fighting game on the Wii and a lousy Xbox Live multiplayer cashin. But then came Lords of Shadow, promising to reboot the entire franchise and start fresh. In that regard, I suppose it succeeds - the game abandons everything that comes to mind at mention of the name to deliver a third-person action-adventure title, not unlike Prince of Persia or Ninja Gaiden. Unfortunately, this scheme quickly falls flat when you realize that almost none of it has been implemented particularly well.

For one, the camera cannot be controlled, at all, and you'll constantly find yourself wishing you could zoom in, change perspective or see what's going on just offscreen. (In fact, the game actively rubs this in your face by having several of the collectibles hidden in areas obscured by the lousy camera positioning.) Combat becomes extremely monotonous as every enemy you encounter takes dozens of hits to kill, and major enemies have to be dealt with in overwrought quick-time events. Failing one of these harshly punishes you by not only having the enemy recover nearly half of their health, but by having them hit you with an attack that drains upwards of 40% of your own health. Puzzles are often of the tedious "find the key" or "come back twelve hours later when you have Skill or Item X" variety. Levels are extremely long with few checkpoints, and death sets you back a huge chunk of the stage (assuming you don't slip up and choose "Quit" at the continue screen - which I should note is the default option).

So in trying to redeem itself and create something new, Lords of Shadow eventually just ended up copying notes from half a dozen other games, bringing none of the refinement along that made any of those other games' ideas work. I'd hate to say it, but as Castlevania games go, just stick to the classics on PSN and Virtual Console and don't even bother with Lords of Shadow.

4. Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol had a lot going for it, most prominently the company it had to its name - Obsidian Entertainment. A company comprised of several of the minds behind Fallout and Planescape Torment, titles which I consider to be the pinnacle of storytelling in video games, and damn fun to play besides.

In the narrative department, Alpha Protocol was brilliant, with an intriguing storyline and an innovative dialog system that radically changes how the game and its story play out depending on what you answer, and every line of it was well-written and expertly acted. Unfortunate, then, that it ended up being wrapped in a clunky shooter engine with bad enemy AI, frequent and tedious mini-games and terribly shoehorned RPG elements. The whole game just felt really... unfinished, like they had everything they wanted down in a basic form, but didn't have time to go back polish any of it up before the publishing deadline.

In short, Alpha Protocol is a prime example of wasted potential - a game that could have been golden if only a few parts were fleshed out more (or cut completely). Pair that with some grievous flaws that render the PC version unplayable, and you've got a golden train that jumped the tracks halfway to its destination and burst into flames.

3. Final Fantasy XIII

For a time, I had just the slightest bit of hope that Square had finally climbed out of the pit they'd dug with horrible shit like Final Fantasy X-2 and Unlimited Saga. Final Fantasy XII and The World Ends With You were both well-designed, inventive games with interesting characters and fun mechanics. Then this one got announced. And holy fuck, what a waste of a comeback this was. The whole game is nothing but a hallway full of monsters and twenty-minute cinematics, the combat is clunky and badly designed, the characters are the exact same boring cast they've rehashed over and over again since 1997, and the plot is a fucking mess. Now, allegedly, the game breaks away from the drudgerous format and becomes "Really Good!" once you hit Chapter 11. There are fourteen chapters in the game. Fourteen. And you have to suffer through ten of them before it gets good. I don't know about you, but that's about ten chapters more than I'm willing to wait for any game to cut the bullshit and get to the good parts.

Oh, and if all of that's not bad enough, there's already a direct sequel called "Final Fantasy XIII-2" in the works. Yes, I'm serious. It's like they're actively trying to ruin this franchise by just recycling 70% of the code of its worst entries to make even shittier sequels. So I say: let them. Don't buy it, don't rent it, don't watch the previews or download any demos they release. Spend your money elsewhere and let Final Fantasy rot.

2. Epic Mickey

This was probably my most hyped game of the entire year, if for no other reason that it marked the return of Warren Spector. If you have to ask who that is, just turn in your gamer card immediately - you don't deserve it. Then go play Thief: The Dark Project, Thief 2: The Metal Age, System Shock, Ultima Underworld, Wing Commander, Worlds of Ultima and Deus Ex and we'll consider returning it.

Well, Epic Mickey did get off to a damn good start by having a neat concept - Mickey inadvertently destroying a world full of archaic and forgotten Disney creations, then being drawn into it and forced to bear witness to the madness he's unleashed. The main gameplay feature of being able to draw in and erase sections of the stage to solve puzzles and discover hidden items is very well implemented, and - big gasp - your actions have actual consequences. You can help out citizens and be helped out in return later, or you can just be selfish and destructive to earn immediate rewards, but also pick up a lot of enemies as you spurn characters left and right. It's Fable's "defining" mechanic, but it's actually done right in this game.

So where did it all go wrong? To put it bluntly, the camera in the game is god-awful. I haven't seen a camera this uncooperative in any game since the early Dreamcast era. It takes forever to reposition manually, it locks in place at the most inconvenient angles (like under the ledge you're trying to jump to), and there's no option to center your viewpoint on an enemy you're fighting. Simply put, it's a fucking pain no matter what you're doing. Having to "aim" your short-ranged attacks with the cursor is also really irritating. "Whoops, your wrist moved slightly and you aimed one centimeter off, now you're firing at a completely different angle and wasting a ton of paint!"

The game does have some gold at its core, but it's really hard to look past its heavily flawed outer shell to enjoy it.

1. Mass Effect 2

I didn't have any high hopes for Mass Effect 2 as the previews broke, mostly because the first game was such an insufferable bore - a retreaded scifi story with dull characters, uninspired cover-shooter gameplay, endless boring driving scenes and 75% of the dry, cliche-ridden plot being relegated to a handful of short paragraphs in an external codex I have to interrupt the game to read (much easier than bothering to explain anything interesting or important, oh, IN THE NARRATIVE). But when a game gets released and is ultimately hailed as one of the top twenty games EVER MADE in any source, there's a certain expectation for it to be something special, even if the original failed to hold your attention.

Now to be fair, Mass Effect 2 is a better game than its predecessor - combat is much more dynamic and requires a degree of thought and strategy instead of just having you hide behind a box and shoot at enemies' limbs the whole fight, several of the more tedious aspects of the original were greatly streamlined (collecting 30 useless weapons after every battle and being forced to melt them down one-by-one is now a thing of the past), and the game was tweaked to run far better on the PC platform - there were actually keyboard shortcuts now (something the original sorely lacked), and no more inconsistent framerates or crashing after an Alt-Tab. But almost everything else I disliked is back in force. The story is generic, the characters are bland, the voice acting is flat and unenthusiastic, and worst of all, the new alien race - a group of corny Gollum-voiced lizard aliens - is just too damn hokey to be taken seriously as any sort of threat. So while ME2 is a better game than its predecessor, it still failed to hold my interest beyond the first few hours.
 rawks  §  rad comments, dogg.
 ~Spoony Spoonicus  §  at 01:18am 02/02/11
Honorable Mention for Metroid: Other M as well. I admit I don't care for Team Ninja's new Ninja Gaiden games (stages are way too long, combat is extremely repetitive and the action has no energy), but hell, the game looked like it was going to return to the classic style of the Metroid franchise and throw in a few hand-to-hand combat moves to spice up combat a bit.

It did not.

It's a clumsy amalgamation of Metroid's exploration (reduced to a bare minimum), Ninja Gaiden's combat, Metroid Prime's first person shooting, and a storyline that's drawn-out, excessively talky and only serves to subtract from the character of Samus Aran - the archetypal female action hero of gaming. A prime example of a game that tries to please everyone, but ends up pleasing no one.

It's also pretty bad that it comes with a game-ending glitch that forces you to restart from the beginning, and the solution they offered to bypass it isn't really much better.
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