With E3 2008 in the bag, it’s time to prepare for dozens of “best of show” designations and semi-analytical prognostications about what gamers can expect later this year and early next. We’re taking a slightly different approach. Don’t worry, we’ll still issue our “Best of E3” awards, but we thought readers might be equally interested in hearing about the titles that strayed to the opposite end of our “best of” spectrum.
DailyGame played most of the high-profile games at E3, as well as many under-the-radar titles. Because E3 was arguably uneventful, the lion’s share of the games we played had already been announced. With those announcements came hype, some of which was deserved, some of which wasn’t. This article will focus on the latter. We’ve selected the four games below as our Most Disappointing Games of 2008. These games aren’t necessarily bad, but they definitely made a bad impression, and they did anything but live up to the pre-E3 hype (if applicable). Either way, we were looking forward to playing these games or were curious to see how they were turning out. Where these games are concerned, those desires and interests have basically disappeared.
Few PS3 games have received as much attention this year as LittleBigPlanet, and with all the praise heaped onto this platform-building title, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Sony believes a large part of the industry’s future lies in user-created content, a role LittleBigPlanet fills without issue. However, as cute, sharp and content-friendly as the game may be, it relies on gamers being good game creators. We’re all infallible armchair quarterbacks, but put most of us on an NFL field, and we’ll hit the turf faster than Cliffy B. takes a drink of his own Kool-Aid. Likewise, professional game developers are paid for a reason, and most gamers are going to either struggle to create compelling levels or give up altogether because they just want to “make with the playing.”
LittleBigPlanet has personality in spades, but as a game, it’s really quite basic. The toolset is there to make huge levels with fun little decorations and obstacles, but — at least in our time with it — the game wasn’t fun. Yes, it’s powerful and new, but it’s missing that ever-important fun factor, at least as a single-player experience, and that was a big disappointment to us.
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 seemed to have all the right ingredients for a remarkable new entry in the storied franchise. A bright African setting, a more combat-hardened protagonist, a maneuverable camera and online co-op play sure sounded amazing to us. We walked into Capcom’s booth eager to run through the infected African town for ourselves. We walked out wishing we’d run through another game entirely.
Resident Evil 5 looks and sounds fantastic, but the gameplay leaves much to be desired. In many respects it’s RE4 with shinier imagery. We were hoping for some improvements. Not only does the camera only move in a 70-degree “cone,” but it acts as though it’s on rack-and-pinion steering, forcing players to manually hold the thumbstick in the direction they want to look. The aiming mechanic is also a challenge, as the laser sight never seems to aim where expected and leads to many inaccurately fired rounds — a bad thing for a game with limited ammunition. In general, the new battle-tested main character is also somewhat of a combat ‘tard who moves along slowly with no sense of power. And the fact that gamers have to manually press a face button to pick up money, items and ammunition — even in mid-fight? Why can’t Capcom finally let him gather items automatically, since we’re going to pick up everything anyway? As mentioned, the game looks and sounds as great as expected, but Capcom should spend some time working on improvements that gamers might like just as much as the multimedia updates.
Any game being developed by the former Clover Studio team is bound to get gamers’ attention. A portfolio that includes Viewtiful Joe and Okami will do that sort of thing. Bayonetta is one of several projects the team is working on with Sega, this one being a tale of a bad witch taking on everything good in the world. Taking the role of this bad witch, players use a mix of magic and guns on the witch’s arms and feet to defeat the good spirits and collect their halos as currency. Problem is, the game doesn’t seem remotely original.
Bayonetta looks and plays a lot like Otogi, ironically another Sega-published game, which in turn plays like Devil May Cry 4, which in turn has been imitated by countless lesser stylistic combat games with pretty graphics and odd enemies. Knowing the Bayonetta team’s background, it’s odd to see so little originality going into the combat and game as a whole. Magic powers, combo attacks, wildly designed enemies and aerial juggling? We’ve seen it dozens of times already. To be fair, Sega isn’t yet revealing many details about Bayonetta, so quite a bit could still be under wraps. But based on what we saw at E3, we were quite disappointed with what was being offered by such a strong developer.
When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii hardware, Miyamoto showed its functionality by opening Nintendo’s E3 press conference in a tuxedo and conducting a digital orchestra by using the Wii Remote. Although it seemed like a tech demo, what Miyamoto was playing was actually the very first game Nintendo began developing for the Wii hardware. We now have a name for that game: Wii Music. Now if only we had some interest in playing it.
Considering Wii Music was the first thing Miyamoto conceived, and considering it’s been in development ever since, Wii Music should be Wii Remote perfection. What we played at E3 was instead an exercise in “WTF gameplay.” A drum motion that doesn’t require a timed button press? A guitar strum that doesn’t actually require any, you know, strumming? A piano, violin, saxophone or marimba, none of which rely on players doing anything other than pressing a button — whenever they wish? We’re all for casual games, but this one quite literally seems pointless. It’s hard to believe that the company that brought gamers Brain Age can also be proud of a product this mindless. We expected some semblance of skill would be involved to “play” Wii Music. Instead, the game feels like a cheap excuse to listen to the Super Mario Bros. theme song in MIDI format.
There will undoubtedly be an audience for all of these games, and in light of the companies behind them, many of our complaints could very well be ironed out. But going into E3 we had high hopes, and these games did anything but deliver. We’re hoping they all live up to the hype and potential, but suffice it to say, our disappointment has made us much more skeptical about them than anticipated.
— Jonas Allen