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Weekend Hot Topic: Worst ever video game launch

Readers discuss the most disappointing video game launches they’ve ever endured, from Cyberpunk 2077 to Project CARS 3.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Helix, who asked whether the game was disappointing because it was not what was expected, or because it was misrepresented by its marketing or reviews.

It was interesting that many people said they no longer pre-order or buy on day one, because of the increasing problem with bugs and broken games at launch.

Joy deficiency
Disappointing games of recent times? I’d nominate Back 4 Blood and Deathloop. After waiting a long time for a Left 4 Dead successor, I’d just found Back 4 Blood to not really expand the formula after such a long time and the randomised constant spawning of zombies behind you does not give me joy. Also, the game being online only at launch is not favourable but I’m glad they are doing an offline mode.

Deathloop was disappointing because the best PlayStation 5 game, Returnal, did the time loop idea much better. Returnal has good frantic gameplay that really keeps you on edge. Deathloop being cut into levels did not work for me. I did initially think the game was proper open world to tackle objectives how you want, so maybe it’s my fault for assuming how the game would be.

It’s a good concept but not executed well and I had to stop playing it. Both games are not broken in any way, from what I experienced, but they were both underwhelming.
Sub-Zero Solid Snake

Shadow of its former self
For me, the most disappointing I’ve been with a game launch would be with Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow.

I had excitedly picked up the game, full of anticipation at the prospect of a big budget 3D-vania. However, when I came to play it I soon realised that I didn’t much care for the derivative God Of War style combat, and was even less impressed by the awful fixed camera areas you’d get at times. And much as I love Patrick Stewart, the plot, and his narration of it, really did nothing for me.

The game felt like all the essence of the series, which had survived fine in Iga’s Metroid style games, was completely gone, and in its place was a bland workman-like 3D action game keen to borrow from others with no ideas or identity of its own. As I moved forward in the game, I found it a boring trudge and disliked it so much I never even bothered completing it.

From memory reviews in general were positive, and many speak of it well to this day and focus more on how bad its sequels were. I can’t pretend to feel too misrepresented though, as many mentioned that it was a reboot and the God Of War influences (though in a more positive way then I found them), but I was not prepared for how mediocre a game this would end up being.

Lords Of Shadow had no technical issues I can recall, and I am not particularly tolerant of very buggy releases. In more recent years I have held off buying games at launch until I knew there were no major issues, unless from a developer with a track record of releasing finished games.
Lord Darkstorm

Failed Project
I’m not normally one to buy games at launch. I will normally wait until they have been patched, bugs ironed out, and prices drop. I’m not fussed about playing day one or often even year one! I will also always read reviews before getting a game so I’m not normally disappointed.

There is one exception and that is racing games, these I will get on release. I will, however, still always read the reviews, so the game in question has actually not been purchased by me. Maybe it therefore doesn’t count, I will let you decide.

I’m a huge fan of the Project CARS series, the first was a great game, with a great handling model and a fantastic selection of cars and tracks. The best part? No unlocking or modding of cars – all cars and tracks are available from the start and other than set-up changes (downforce, gear ratios, that kind of thing) none of the modding that other more arcade racers have (it’s great for Forza Horizon, I just don’t want it in a proper racer).

Project CARS 2 refined and improved on this, with things like dynamic weather. Then Project CARS 3 comes along. The build-up didn’t look good, less sim more arcade. The reviews appear and my worst fears are realised. The track list is shorter than the previous games – with two key circuits, Spa and Monza, missing. That alone was worrying.

Then the reviews confirmed it. The thing I really didn’t want… you have to buy and modify cars to make any progress! They removed what made the series so great! That ability to just…. drive. And to make it worse, the model they used meant progress was really slow.

No pit stops, no tyre wear or fuel usage, no damage, none of the things that make a car game a sim! The move to a more arcade handling model (surely already well served) disappointed. I haven’t bought it, and it’s interesting that the league I occasionally race in still uses Project CARS 2, no one bought PlayStation 3. Physical copy sales were 80% odd lower than Project CARS 2 apparently.

It may even be the death knell for the series, who knows as in the past year or so Slightly Mad Studios have been bought by Codemasters, then Codies bought by EA, and then founder Ian Bell left.

I would love to see a Project CARS 4 going back to the series roots. But I just can’t see it happening now. Ahh well, I’ve still got Project CARS 2.
The Dude Abides

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Launch ending
Cyberpunk 2077 is the obvious example for this but since I waited for the reviews I didn’t end up getting it, so I can’t actually speak from personal experience on that. Except to say it’s shocking how quickly CD Projekt used up every once of goodwill they got from The Witcher 3. Just goes to show…

My actual choice though is Mass Effect 3, which might seem a bit odd because in general I do like it. You’ve probably already guessed that the issue is the ending but as terrible as it is I think a lot of people forget that it was actually worse at launch.

Before they patched it with an update, to make it slightly less terrible, it was an even bigger kick in the teeth. Like they’d spent years making the game and then suddenly realised they only had a couple of hours to get the ending done, so slapped together whatever that was supposed. Just terrible and almost killed the franchise, especially given Andromeda was the follow-up.
Gorman

Corridor role-player
I think Final Fantasy 13 is the most letdown I’ve been by a game at launch. Being a big Final Fantasy fan I didn’t really pay attention to the reviews (I know!) and so was genuinely shocked by how linear and on-the-rails it was.

What was even weirder was that it did open up to be more open world, but only after about 30 hours. What was that about?! Then there was all the attempts to push Lightning on us as someone we should like. Those were dark days for Square Enix and I’m glad to see they’ve had a bit of a renaissance recently.
Preston

Obvious example
I am sure this will get mentioned a lot but one of mine is Cyberpunk 2077, I saw this trailer for it a while ago and was impressed by it and even forwarded it on to a non-gamer friend as I
thought the trailer was so good. Although the game isn’t bad it was a big disappointment from the good trailers and articles I read about the game before it was actually released.

I did pre-order as I was hyped by it and also by the fact that they had made The Witcher 3, which was highly rated but not everybody’s cup of tea. I don’t buy many games full price, day one but I did buy this; I do tend to buy a lot of indie games. I have enjoyed what I have played of Cyberpunk 2077 so far but I have stopped playing to wait for the PlayStation 5 upgrade, having bought the PlayStation 4 version.

Another game I was disappointed by was Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. Hear me out, both me and my brother really enjoyed Mario Kart 64 on the N64, playing two-player races and two-player battle mode, which we played to death and then some. Looking for a similar game like that my brother ordered Diddy Kong Racing for N64 and I was quite hyped for it, as it was another karting game like Mario Kart 64, I thought. Until I played it and I didn’t get on with it like I did with Mario Kart 64, because of how it controlled. So I didn’t play it very much.

As it was my brother’s purchase, he played it a lot as he had spent a lot on it and we didn’t get games very often because of the expense and he got into it. At first he wasn’t keen on the way the game felt compared to Mario Kart. If they remade or remastered it today I would definitely give
it a go again and put a lot more time into it to see if I could like it now, as I have heard all the good things people have said about the game since then.
Andrew J.

What Zelda’s missing
Zelda: Breath Of The Wild for me. I remember getting it and starting it up when suddenly I realised that things functioned properly in the game world. I keep trying to get Link to fall through the ground into an alternate void, get a full game crash or glitch into a tree and it just wasn’t happening for me. It was the same with Super Mario Odyssey. I was apoplectic with rage for buying games that actually work upon launch and don’t need a 28GB patch to fix so I took them back.

Genuine response is Tekken Tag Tournament at the launch of the PlayStation 2. I picked it up with SSX, and that went on to become a personal highlight of the whole PlayStation 2 era. The other was something I used as a coaster for my tea. There wasn’t really anything terrible about it or anything that brought out displeasure it was just a ‘meh’ experience.

I still have a fondness for Tekken though and I could never stay mad at Namco as they’re much like Capcom. Something to be cherished and hugged like an old friend.
Andee

Sickening reaction
My most disappointing game was Super Mario 64.

I’d spent the previous few years obsessively playing through the 2D Mario games on my SNES (the Bros. and the Worlds) and absolutely loving them.

I was good at them as well, every exit in Super Mario World had been found, and every red coin in its sort-of sequel.

Then suddenly everyone was talking about the latest Mario game – it was 3D! It was the best Mario game ever! I did not agree…

My first experience was playing it in a department store (Fenwicks for any Geordies out there, we add the ‘s’), after what seemed like hours of waiting I finally got my turn.

I ran around in circles, I fell off ledges, goombas chased me, bigger boys laughed.

It seemed impossible to play. I stopped playing and made a sharp exit.

The next part’s hazy, but I guess I must have come back for further punishment. Eventually I could at least control Mario, I could run up that little ramp bridge without falling off, I could not panic when a goomba ran towards me – wait till it nearly reaches me then jump straight up so when I land it was on his sorry little head. I was still not good at it, but I began to sense that maybe I could get good at it with enough practice.

Christmas came around and guess what was under the tree! I spent a few hours running around as Mario and feeling I was getting the hang of it.

Then I felt ill. So, so ill. I’d never felt travel sick in my own home before. This was horrible! This was the worst game in the world, to make me feel like this! I vowed never to play it again.

The next morning I played for a short period. At the first sign of nausea I stopped, felt OK after a few minutes. I carried on like this, playing slightly longer each time and overcoming the problem.

I quickly learned to love 3D Mario games, I still prefer the 2D ones though…

On a side note I also seemed to cure my persistent problem of getting ill whilst travelling – the positive powers of video games!
Dominic

GC: Super Mario 64 made you feel travel sick? We’ve heard of first person games doing that but never a third person one.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

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