Here we are – 2017, the year of “Please, will the deaths of beloved celebrities please stop?” As is becoming tradition, I’m ringing in the new by shitting on the old, with the delightful task of naming the worst of 2016 falling to yours truly. For the number of tragedies and travesties that plagued last year, very few managed to worm their way into the gaming industry. (At least as far as big-name releases go, I’m not going anywhere near most of the stuff that was put onto Steam.)
As always, this list is a personal view of the last year; the games that appear on this list are purely what I consider to be the worst. There might be games that you think should be on this list that aren’t, and it’s likely because I haven’t played them. If there’s a game on here that you don’t think is deserving of being called one of the worst, it’s because you’re wrong, and a terrible person, but also because this is my list. And yes, these will be in order of least-to-worst games. Before we get properly stuck into things, however, there are a couple of games that only just managed to scrape the surface of rock bottom that I’d like to mention.
Released: March 8, 2016
Game Type: Massively multiplayer online game
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Oh, Ubisoft, you really screwed the pooch on this one. The Division had the potential to rival Destiny in the realm of online RPG-shooters, with an interesting story concept, great gameplay and design ideas, and a lot of room for expansion and improvement. It wasn’t so much post-apocalyptic as it was an apocalypse in progress, your character fighting against an ever growing tide of mankind’s own self-destructive nature. Laid over the top was some political intrigue, with the fate of the entire US in question, and The Division itself seemingly being eaten away from within. Nothing was what it seemed, no one could be trusted, and when you set this kind of world against an FPS-RPG, with a slight focus on PvP elements, it sounded like a real winner.
Almost immediately, the promise of an excellent story is eroded by sub-par story telling, awful dialogue, and an over-reliance on “collectibles” to provide critical details. Further to that, what is present of an actual story arch never comes to full fruition. The apparent climax was the worst kind of cliffhanger, confirming what players had already known by two thirds of the way into the game, leaving only unfinished business that made the game feel unfinished. This is to say nothing of the technical problems that plagued the game, of which there were many (and still are, if my recent play experiences still hold true.) Floating guns, floating character models, players getting stuck in the environment, mission events not triggering correctly, and the cheaters. Oh my, the cheaters. Uncounted in their numbers, they swarmed the Dark Zone, the only end-game content for some time, and made it impossible to progress, or even enjoy.
As it turned out, when the game initially released, there was never any code in place to prevent or track cheaters. With every update came more bugs, sometimes resurrecting issues that players had long-thought were put to rest, and the game was rife with exploits. Planned expansion content was pushed back to a point where the final update, The Last Stand, which was supposed to have released this past December, is now planned for a nebulous “Winter” release. Every time I’ve gone back to the game, usually when a new expansion comes out, there just hasn’t been a difference large enough to keep me interested. Despite a slowly recovering player base from the dramatic drop it experienced after launch, I’d say I’m not the only one to be disappointed with how the game turned out. Despite this, Ubisoft clearly has more faith in their franchise than I.
Released: May 3, 2016
Game Type: First-person shooter
Developer: Gearbox Software
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Regret, thy name is Battleborn. I played this for the first time back at PAXAus 2015 where, at the time, I had considered it to be the best game at the convention. I understood that what I was playing was an early beta at best, but I liked where it was heading and it was still a lot of fun even at that early stage. It wasn’t the most unique game ever created but the FPS-MOBA direction that Gearbox had taken the game looked like it could really work. I even went as far as pegging it as my most anticipated game of 2016, and so convinced was I that it would fulfill that prediction that I even shelled out for the deluxe edition, including the season pass. If I could reach back in time, I’d kick myself in the nutsack.
You can imagine my surprise when the final release version differed very little from what I had played at PAXAus, or my experiences with the early access beta’s. Technical issues from the beta had carried over without being addressed at all. Some of the levels felt like they hadn’t even been properly play tested. The decision to have a separate “story” mode from the online multiplayer meant that both parts of the game suffered as a result. There were some serious design and balance oversights that basically meant match outcomes were pre-determined by out-of-game choices. To say that it was a complete mess would be an understatement at best.
What’s worse is that, despite constant griping from the community, it was well over a month before the first major patch was released. By that time, the game was already dead – I eventually abandoned the game because the PC community had beaten me to exactly that. Finding a match could take ten to twenty minutes when the game had just released and still had a player base, but the final straw for me was forty-plus minutes of queueing time with no match found at all. One can only hope that Borderlands 3 isn’t similarly mangled by Gearbox. Seriously, Gearbox, don’t fuck that one up – I really, really want it to be good, so keep the online functionality to a minimum, okay?
Released: April 23, 2016
Game Type: Scrolling shooter
Developer: Nintendo EPD, PlatinumGames
Platforms: Nintendo Wii U
Did you know that I was actually supposed to review this when it came out? I’d called dibs long before its release, waiting with baited breath for the day that I’d finally have it in my hands. I didn’t write the review because, after just a few hours with it, I couldn’t bring myself to keep playing. I love Star Fox – at least, I thought I did. In reality, I liked Star Fox on the SNES and Lylat Wars, and that’s about it unless you also count StarFox 64 3D. (Though, admittedly, Fox and Falco’s presence in Smash Bros. may have also played a large role in building my fandom.) Despite a slew of otherwise mediocre titles, those two games endeared the franchise to many Nintendo fans even though it has less entries in its series than Metroid. Star Fox Zero was meant to be a shining return to what those games delivered and, instead, we were served a heaping, flaming pile of poo.
This is a game that feels disorienting and difficult to control from the very moment you’re given the ability to actually fly your ship. A combination of analogue stick and motion controls to pilot the arwings (and other vehicles) might have sounded good on paper but absolutely suuuuuuucks in practice. You just have to know you’ve screwed up fantastically when you need to include a mechanic that re-centers your vision because it constantly goes out of alignment. I cannot imagine at any point during the game’s play-testing that someone sat down with this for an extended period of time gave it a thumbs up, while also holding down a torrent of bilious vomit.
That’s all just regarding the Arwing controls, there’s a slew of terribly handled vehicles in this game! The chicken walker is what immediately comes to mind, included for platforming sections that require some amount of precision while handling like a brick-laden dishwasher. I didn’t even finish the game, I couldn’t, the controls made everything so difficult to progress, and the story seemed to be going in the direction of rehashing Lylat Wars again. There was nothing there to make enduring this shit show to the end worth the mental anguish that would come with it. Star Fox Zero is one giant exercise in frustration, testing your patience at every turn, and it pains me to say that this came from Platinum Games, a studio I usually hold in high-regard. I’m sure that the motion controls were forced upon them by Nintendo but sweet, tap-dancing Christ, the end result was inexcusably terrible.
Released: December 14, 2016
Game Type: First-person shooter
Developer: Streum on studio, Cyanide
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
This is a title that just managed to sneak onto the list in the last few weeks of 2016 but did so in such a startling fashion that it beat out five other games for the number-two spot. I said it in my review, and I’ll say it here, 40K games are considered by default to be terrible until proven otherwise, and it’s because of games like Space Hulk: Deathwing. I have played some pretty terrible games in the past but I’ll usually still find something to enjoy in them, even if that’s just laughing dirisively at what’s happening on screen. There was no laughter for me while playing Space Hulk: Deathwing, no enjoyment, or mirth of any kind. Playing this game was an absolute chore, and the fact that it was based on a series of games (being Space Hulk in general) that’s otherwise traditionally been decent just made it hurt.
The design was so poorly cobbled together as to give the impression that the developers didn’t know exactly what they wanted to make, which was reflected in the joyless gameplay. From having to repeat orders to your Terminators to get them to do anything at all, to AI that would suddenly go brain-dead and stare blankly into the oncoming onslaught, the game was also technically broken. For such an interesting and promising concept, involving the Dark Angels of all Marine Chapters, the story was one of the most terrifically boring I’ve experience in quite some time. To say that the game lacked polish would be an understatement, and it wouldn’t be inappropriate to say that in its place was a thick layer of dust comprised of laze and incompetence. The majority of the environments looked samey, and the few that were interesting to look at were actually the most frustrating to play through. The “new” enemies encountered in the second half of the game were nothing but a straight palette swap, even though the narrative reason for this gave way to all sorts of crazy possibilties.
Above all else, the overall observance of canonical consistency was an absolute abomination. 40K lore is incredibly expansive, and has been written over a few decades by this stage, and it’s reached a point where the odd mistake isn’t just inevitable but has been accepted as part of the lore itself. There’s an idea that because of the Imperium’s long history, and the age of the series in reality, inconsistencies will occur just from the fact that tens of thousands of years’ worth of history is being tracked. Even taking that into account, however, Streum managed to completely fuck up even some of the basic conepts that they really shouldn’t have. Things that have been enshrined in recent media and codexes that couldn’t possibly have been missed if the studio had even cared to check. Were the developers to live in the 40K universe itself, they’d be Imperial Guard fodder soldiers at best, and outright heretics at worst.
Released: June 24, 2016
Game Type: Action, platform
Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates
Platforms: Basically everything
Words alone can’t express how much I hate this game and everything it stands for, but I’m going to try nonetheless. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the poor shmucks that got suckered into backing this doomed project, and I cannot apologise enough for my small part in conjuring this virtual failure into existence. Comcept was a company started by Keiji “I’m actually a complete hack outside of Capcom” Inafune, a man that sold thousands of gamers on the idea that Mighty No. 9 would be Megaman incarnate. Any person that even tries to imply that Mighty No. 9 approaches Megaman in terms of quality needs to be slapped in the God damned mouth for spewing such filth into the world.
Already quite promising in appearance and concept when it was announced, Mighty No. 9’s Kickstarter campaign quickly picked up speed. It eventually became one of the biggest campaign successes that the crowd funding sight had ever seen, and alongside this success grew the project’s ambition. Releasing on every platform available at the time, plus a few extras that cropped up during development, oodles of additional features, and extra rewards for backers were just some of the announcements for the project. From the moment that the campaign ended, things started going to shit. Features were removed due to “a lack of funds,” shady practices surrounding a second Kickstarter from Comcept, and the community (mis)management is a saga so long that I couldn’t even begin to describe it here.
All of those issues are beside the massive shift in Might No. 9’s art style part-way into the project, which didn’t appeal to anyone except Comcept, and the continuos delays to its release. When it finally did come out (ungracefully, I might add), the end-product was woefully under-developed and, frankly, a flat-out terrible game. A story that feels like it never left the story-boarding stage before being slapped into a script, voice acting drier than the dialogue itself, and characters that lacked charisma of any kind. The gameplay was glitchy and stiff, and the overall design was incredibly tired and frustrating in every way possible, with instant-death traps being the height of the studio’s creativity. Mighty No. 9 was a long, drawn out wait for a complete turd of a video game, that Inafune cared so little about that he clearly abandoned it at some point to go make Re-Core (which also sucked.)
For these, and many other reasons that I haven’t the room to list, Mighty No. 9 is hands down the absolute worst game of 2016. I want my money and time back, please, Inafune.
I personally didn’t play No Man’s Sky, so for the purposes of this list it doesn’t qualify for a full entry. One didn’t have to play the game, however, to see the level of dishonesty from Hello Games, and Sean Murray, in the lead up to the game’s release. The promised feature list prior to release was naught but a litany of lies, and what did make it into the game (by all accounts) didn’t live up to expectations set by the developer. To sell a game on a steaming pile of broken promises would be one thing, but completely ignoring your very angry audience is completely reprehensible. In the face of overwhelming backlash, Hello Games’ Sean Murray still hasn’t been heard from in any official capacity since the first couple of days after NMS’ release. What’s more, even after Hello Games’ official channels said that they’d be working to make the game into what was promised, the first major update was a rather banal base-building update. For shame, Hello Games – I expected more from the creative team behind Joe Danger.
Deus Ex: Manking Divided was one of those games that I really enjoyed while playing it, but upon reflection realised how immensely flawed it was. It was already going to suffer as the middle child of a trilogy (unneccessarily so, in my opinion), but Square Enix couldn’t help but dig as deep into players’ pockets as they could reach. While intriguing, the story was clearly a setup for the third game, and nothing more, with very little of consequence happening on-screen. Moreover, a lot of burning questions from the previous game, not just regarding the ending, were either quickly glossed over, or outright ignored. SE did calm down a little by cancelling the whole “augment your preorder” debacle, but still couldn’t help themselves when it came to the ludicrously overpriced and under-developed deluxe edition, and season pass. A season pass, I might add, that gates off story elements that were clearly scalpeled out of the main game to be sold as “extra content.” Scummy business practices marred what could otherwise have been one of the best games of this year, which makes me sad.