Though 2011 might go down as delivering some of the best video games the industry has seen yet, it wasn’t without its blemishes. Amidst titles like Skyrim, Portal 2, and Batman were some games that left gamers with broken controllers and tarnished expectations. Overall, it may have been a winner, but 2011 still had its fair share of stinkers.
And it is here that will look back on some of those vessels of suck that seemed worthwhile in concept, but fell flat on their face in execution. There were sequels to games that were actually pretty great and adaptations of film properties that were box office successes, but none could capture lightning in a bottle like they had hoped. So without further ado, let’s start with the first disappointing game of 2011.
Thor is not the only movie adaptation to make the list, but it sure is the more egregious of the two. Featuring some extremely lackluster combat given that its protagonist is a god who wields an awesome hammer is no doubt the most confounding part about this game, but there are areas beyond just that where Thor struggles. Its enemies are dull, its boss battles even duller, and the story, which was meant to be its own entity, made us pine for Natalie Portman.
Thor is the reason that Marvel movie-to-video-game adaptations have a stigma attached to them -- they feel rushed and they lack any of the joy that comes with watching their big screen counterpart. Thor might be able to wield lightning, but he struck out with this one.
SOCOM 4 was supposed to be a return to form for the series, a chance for Zipper Interactive to give fans the same experience they remember from SOCOM 2. As someone who spent upwards of 100 hours in the first and second games’ online matches, I have to say that SOCOM 4 is the most disappointing game of the year personally.
This entry, whose new focus is on a Ghost Recon-esque single player campaign, just couldn’t find a balance between updating the old and keeping things fresh. The multiplayer is passable, but it’s still ultimately plagued by the conventions of today’s shooters, and, in the end, suffers. Our sights were set on loving this game, but we couldn’t hold our breath long enough to take the shot.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Nothing about this game sounded like a good idea, except for the fact that it was going to deliver another Call of Juarez. Achieving marginal status because of its unique genre and clever storytelling techniques, any Call of Juarez title wasn’t going to be much more than a passable shooter set within the Western genre anyways.
So what did developer Techland decide to do? They decided to take the game out of that Western setting, and put it into the “new Old West,” the gang wars of the Mexican border. No sequel misunderstood its audience more than Call of Juarez: The Cartel, and the game was pretty broken to make matters worse. It was high noon, and nobody showed up for this shootout.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The other contender for worst movie adaptation of the year, Transformers: Dark of the Moon repeated Thor’s sins by trying to step outside of the film’s story to try to escape the negative connotation. Instead, developer High Moon Studios — who do know how to make a pretty good Transformers game — dumbed down their own mechanics and reduced the game to lackluster action sequences.
It’s almost like High Moon, in order to make a War for Cybertron sequel, had to first survive the trial by fire that was this game. It’s not all bad since the WFC formula is there in some form, but it is no way a worthy follow-up. Who would have thought that the one to rise would be a Michael Bay movie, and the one to fall would be a High Moon Transformers game?
Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Another repeat offender, this one of the Activision rushing a super hero game variety, Spider-Man: Edge of Time was Beenox forced to streamline their formula in order to meet a one-year deadline. The story had promise, and was meant to make up for the lack of Spider-Men, but even that was a chore that facilitated reusing the same locations several times. Boss fights lost their magic, and even switching between Spider-Man 2099 and contemporary Spider-Man brought less of a variety. It was too much forced on a developer too quickly.
Just like High Moon, Beenox is getting another chance to get it right, but unlike Fall of Cybertron we fear Spider-Man is doomed for the near future. He may be amazing, but Spider-Man can’t escape a tangled web when it’s his own.
Duke Nukem Forever
What is there to say about Duke Nukem Forever that hasn’t already been said? Surviving longer than some endangered species, Duke defied all the odds and released this year, only to be critically panned for being dated and juvenile. All the right pieces to the Duke formula were there, but it seemed like gamers’ tastes had evolved, and were looking for something that wasn’t just poop jokes.
One has to imagine that Gearbox Software isn’t done with Duke, releasing this game was probably a stipulation for acquiring the property, but it’s hard to escape not associating the word disappointment with Duke for the near future. Forever never seemed so long, until you slap Duke Nukem to the front of it.
Perhaps the new IP with the biggest promise, Homefront was a compelling idea that just couldn’t make good on all of its promises. Instead of topping Call of Duty, the game ended up repeating its competition’s sins, only with less pizzazz. Yes, many military shooters feel on rails, but this was one where one could see those tracks travelling beneath them.
Multiplayer did provide enough variety to be unique, but when Black Ops or Battlefield are lying around, it’s hard to make a worthwhile argument. Homefront was meant to be poignant and emotional, but instead it was vapid and brief. If this is what a domestic invasion looks like, I’m moving overseas.
Oh X-Men: Destiny, you are all that is wrong with making a superhero game. You made an action RPG version of the X-Men, and didn’t let us play as any one of them. Yes, that allows us to craft our own story, but Batman: Arkham City proved that you could have your cake and eat it too.
Combat was boring, the story was boring, and it was only when someone like Gambit showed up that our attention was even moderately piqued. In a year where X-Men movies were able to redeem themselves, X-Men video games moved in the opposite direction. Destiny might be written in stone, but this Destiny was written in something else.
On paper, Brink seemed like a great idea, an online objective-based shooter where players work together rather than simply shoot each other in the face. There’s still all of that and more, including a pretty exciting free running mechanic, but online problems galore just shut this game down from the get go.
It was fun if you could get into it, but there were very few that were willing to dig as deep as developer Splash Damage required. And with a single player variant that showed just how inept the AI was, Brink further began to show its cracks. We were taken to the Brink, and just jumped off lest we be forced to play more.
There you have it, Game Rant’s most disappointing games of 2011. There was a surprising amount of symmetry between a few of the entries — rushed by Activision, bad sequel to a good game — which makes us wonder when publishers will ever learn.
Make no mistake; this is not a list of the worst games of 2011. Each of the games are absolutely playable, but are simply those that failed to meet our expectations for one reason or another. Some of these games might have even been some of your favorites from 2011, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It was a great year for video games even if a few dark spots showed popped up here and there.
Were there any games that failed to make our list but that would have been high on yours?