Not every game can be good, some are just outright awful, but I approach even the crappiest of games with the kind of mentality one would have while watching a movie they know is awful. It’s the hope that what you’re watching is so bad that it comes right back around to being great again, enjoyable in its own demented way. It’s for this reason that I mostly enjoy playing terrible games, since, even if they’re not traditionally fun, I’ll usually still find a way to have a good time with them. Then there are some games that start out bad and only shift from that position to sink further into a quagmire of shoddy design, awful gameplay, and offensively terrible narrative. In no particular order (except for Hatred, I’m saving the blurst for last), here are five games from 2015 whose awfulness is so thorough that I couldn’t resist bashing them again just one last time before the year was out. But before we get to those…
These are the games that I debated putting on the list but, for one reason or another, didn’t make the cut. I still think they were exceptionally shitty, however, so while they haven’t earned one of the coveted “Worst 5 Games of 2015” slots, I’mma give each one a quick shout down, starting with Godzilla. Godzilla was hands down one of the worst games I’ve ever played but still stands as the single greatest movie-to-game adaptation ever made. The controls are clunky, the visual design (while beautifully consistent with the movies) is kind of sad to look at, and gameplay is painfully slow and repetitive. What makes Godzilla so bad it’s good is the fact that it’s like a literal Toho movie in game form, honoring all the style, detail, and goofiness of those films. There are so many little nods to the franchise, and the developers clearly made this game for fans of the movies instead of trying to make an entertaining game for a more general audience. Like its lumbering, gargantuan namesake, Godzilla for PS4 is simultaneously horrid and amazing, a heart-warming love letter to the original Toho films.
Then there’s Fallout 4, which very nearly ended up on the list below and likely would have were it not for Nintendo sneaking TriForce Heroes in at the end of the year. Fallout 4 ruined the roleplaying the series is known for, allows you to become a walking God by bumping up every skill with little to no restrictions, and generally shits on the series’ reputation. I’d rescue settlers dozens of times only to have them question who I am and dispense another cookie-cutter fetch quest. Let’s also not forget that Bethesda were stretching the same engine that Fallout 3 used beyond it’s capabilities (and it showed), once again perpetuating their reputation for overly-buggy releases. Prior to its release, Todd Howard boasted that the game had been in development for six years, and it’s like they spent that entire time forgetting what a Fallout game is supposed to be. Whether or not you consider it to be a good game on its own is irrelevant, by the fifth entry in a series, a bad sequel is the same as a bad game in my books.
As a fan of just about anything set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, I love the Mad Max series and the character of Max himself. A hardened, tortured, violent and nigh-silent man with a kick-ass car and a very tiny heart of gold, just trying to survive amidst the chaos and insanity into which the world has plunged. Mad Max was released off the back of Fury Road, and is set up as something of a prequel to the events of the movie, despite that being officially denied by Avalanche. This should have been the first sign that creativity wouldn’t be found anywhere within this project since the game isn’t connected to the film but still uses the same locale and a character who is canonically tied to Immortan Joe. Max in Mad Max is Max Rokatansky in name only; far from being a virtual embodiment of the character I know and love, the whinging cretin running about on screen is the antithesis of the film persona.
Mad Max would have you believe it plays host to a dying, barren Wasteland but the place is paradoxically just brimming with natural resources. You’ll trip over gas canisters and water every five feet, despite both supposedly being in scarce supply, and you never really need the former anyway. Since your car practically never runs out of fuel, Max has no qualms about carrying out mandatory objectives like destroying oil pumps in settlements you’re capturing for local warlords. There’s repetitive and confusingly frequent on-foot combat that has Max taking down dozens of dudes at a time like the goddamn Batman. A story that puts you through hell only to render all of your accomplishments entirely moot and is as satisfying as having your ear canal scraped. Max himself will not shut the fuck up, constantly muttering to himself or screaming at others about how much he hates everyone around him, despite throwing hired help at anyone who asks. That includes the henchmen of the very asshole you’re supposed to be hunting down, but that’s okay because narrative dissonance is just a couple of funny sounding words to Avalanche so I doubt they care.
There’s just not enough space to describe all the ways in which I hate this game and the way it so completely mishandled the character of Max, with that up there being but a small slice. It’s almost like Avalanche Studios were developing another action open-world game at the same time and figured, “Fuck it, surely no one will notice the similarities in design.”
Developers Techland didn’t exactly know what they wanted Dying Light to be, just that they didn’t want it to be Dead Island. In a bid to make their new IP stand out from their previous works, they took aspects of several different genres, such as crafting, RPG-like skills, and survival, put them into an open-world environment, and added zombies as the main enemies. There’s also a ruined city to explore, some vaguely evil human antagonists with spurious motives, sub-par voice acting and a story that made me cringe so hard my face nearly imploded. I actively hated the player character, Kyle “Cardboard Cutouts Have More Personality Than Me” Crane, and was hoping for a scripted death by the end. With the way they nailed so many of its classic, terrible tropes, at least in the narrative sense, Techland absolutely made an unofficial sequel in the Dead Island series.
Dead Island: Not Dead Island, We Prefer To Call It Dying Light has a lot of good ideas that are executed in a lot of terrible ways. The game boasted a scavenge-for-survival system in an environment that drowns you in resources and items. There were touchy controls that lead to free-running in an open-world game where your character is just as likely to run face-first into a wall as he is to grab onto a ledge. Running could even be stopped by a zombie just looking at you the wrong way (literally). God forbid you should ever actually slow down to take an enemy on because doing so is an exercise in frustration and death, with the game inconsistently deciding what is and isn’t damaging. To enemies. What’s damaging to enemies is inconsistent – everything is damaging to you.
This is only the second of three open-world games on this list, and I’m really starting to tire of this genre. In the attempt to create a massive world with seemingly infinite possibilities, gameplay is often reduced to a samey mess. Just like Techland’s development record.
Christ, it wasn’t enough that Zelda Wii-U got pushed back to next year, Nintendo had to drop another hot, steaming faux-Zelda load into our open, slathering maws just a year after Hyrule Warriors. Think about everything that makes a Zelda adventure great: Exploring huge worlds, solving challenging puzzles, grand fights with giant enemies, and discovering treasures of untold power! Now, fuck off everything about exploration, dumb down the puzzles and the fighting, and provide the solution item at the beginning of each level’s puzzle. Aside from ruining everything the Zelda series has stood for since its very inception, you’re also pretty close to touching on the design of TriForce Heroes.
Doing away with a consistent world, TriForce heroes favors broken up “levels,” each one providing a single, so-easy-it-hurts puzzle that would insult the intelligence of children. As mentioned, this also means that the game just gives you whatever you need to solve each puzzle at the beginning of the level, obliterating what challenge there might have been. The main mechanic of the game, the Totem Pole attack, renders one of the players totally useless the entire time it’s active, which is frequently given that it’s the main mechanic. Obnoxious info prompts will quite literally crawl across the middle of the play screen whenever something of “significance” happens to any one of the three players, obscuring your view of whatever is happening. It’s as though they took every annoying part of Hyrule Warriors’ visual and audio design, then forced it into an even worse gameplay design.
What’s worse was that this was a fully priced, full-fledged release, not just some cheap throw-away idea on the eShop. Two years and two shitty Zelda games, Nintendo – Zelda Wii-U better be the videogame equivalent of the second coming of Christ because you’re actually starting to take the piss now.
Next up we have an utterly shameless cash-in for a series based on shameless cash-ins. Saints Row started out as a tongue-in-cheek GTA parody at best, and a GTA clone at worst. As the series progressed, it found a ridiculous, over-the-top style all of its own while still maintaining the original GTA parody/clone basis and I’ve been in love with it ever since SR2. It seems, however, that we’ve come full circle, with the latest entry in the series, Saints Row: Gat out of Hell (SR: GooH, hee hee), being a shameless parody of the Saints Row series. Let it never be said that story and narrative aren’t important in a game, because SR: GooH takes all the best elements of the previous four games and fucks it up with a half-baked plot.
Gat Out of Hell sends you to hell, which is actually Steelport again because fuck it, if Volition weren’t going to put in the effort for SR:IV then they weren’t going to for this. Main story missions are dull and kind of pointless, whereas side missions often provide story critical information or character progression. The game’s narrative progression is quite literally on rails, with every little thing you do pushing you towards the end whether or not you realise that it’s happening. Before you know it, you’ll be placed before the final boss, unprepared and unaware, just for him to slap you down and quickly end whatever fun you might have been having.
As mentioned in the review I wrote for SR: GooH at the time, Volition had all the right pieces for what could have been a fantastic stand alone game that was beyond comparable to SR:IV. As it stands, SR: GooH feels like a sad, phoned-in job from Volition’s B-team, conceived purely as a way to squeeze more games out in the future and have it make a modicum of sense.
And finally we arrive at my absolute, number one, shittiest game of 2015, the aptly named Hatred, such is the detestation that it’s inspired in me for developers Destructive Creations. I can only imagine the target audience for this game being ten-year-old children who’ve just learned to swear, depressed teenagers who need an edge to cut on, and Anders Breivik. At best, Destructive Creations are complete hacks who started a brainstorm with the keyword “controversy,” then devolved into doodles of guns, willies and swears. At worst, they’ve portrayed a mentally ill person as a “righteous” distributor of violence, while simultaneously glorifying senseless murder because they knew it would sell. And when you consider the story behind Hatred, yeah – this dude is fucking crazy, and not the fun kind.
Hatred casts you as a nameless protagonist I dubbed Shotgun McGrumpyface, who, after a brief, mewling monologue, steps out for a casual massacre in suburban America. Moving from location to location, your character is given objectives (presumably by the voices in his head) that instruct you to murder so many people because that’s just how you roll, apparently. The narrative explains that this is all happening because Shotgun just hates everyone around him so much that he doesn’t even need a reason for that hatred, it simply drives him to kill. Eventually, you slaughter your way to a nuclear power plant and set it off, killing yourself and likely millions of innocent civilians. If you want to complain about spoilers, I don’t care – I saved you some time because the gameplay isn’t worth checking out either.
Hatred’s biggest challenge is either learning how to play at a slide-show framerate or enduring repeated restarts of the game just to get it to run okay-ish. Taking a leaf from Sin City’s book, while also totally missing the point, the game also has a black-and-white-with-colour-highlights appearance that does more to distract the player than help. Half the time you couldn’t see where you were shooting, or even what it was you were shooting at. Enemies could stealthily murder you from right beside you because they blend so perfectly into the environment. It may as well be using the same engine as Fallout 4 for all the technical faults this game has. I got stuck in a wall during the tutorial for fuck sake. With a barely existent story and shiiiiiiiiiitty gameplay, I have no idea what this game was hoping to accomplish, and I’m not sure the developers did either beside, “If we make him say ‘cunt,’ people will look at us.”
Whatever the developers try to claim, the game has no deeper meaning, no greater subtext, it’s just ultraviolence and crassness to generate controversy in the hopes it would sell. I’m all for lighting on taboo subjects and poking fun, but that’s not even close to what this game is attempting to do. If you’re still in two minds as to the intentions of Destructive Creations, I can assure you that they are the embodiment of the phrase, “better to be thought a fool.” Offensive, immature and ultra-violent portrayal of the mentally ill, or just outright shit at making games – take your pick, Destructive Creations, it’s definitely one of them. Probably both.
Author’s Note: And, of course, #FucKonami, because Konami are the worst.