Well, we've reached the end of the year which means it's time for us to take a moment to reflect. On the highs and on the lows. Though this year, there seems to have been an awful lot of lows. Now don't get me wrong, there was some fun to be had this year with games like Shadows of Mordor, Far Cry 4, Sunset Overdrive and Dragon Age: Inquistion. While most years, games like Shadows, Far Cry and Sunset would be fun suprises that, while a lot of fun, would be overshadowed by the bigger AAA titles. While you could argue they were overshadowed by those titles this year, it's not for the reason you'd think.
The biggest and unfortunately most common narrative to emerge from this years gaming season was that games were released and they came in hot. Too hot. Like the developers were still hosing it down even as it sat on store shelves. Even if the games weren't broken, sometimes they were just disappointing.
The first disappointment of the year was Watch Dogs. The game worked, yes, but it was a victim of it's own hype. Ubisoft did it to themselves. They announced the game at E3 2012 with that incredible trailer showing a world that the player could easily manipulate and displaying the graphical prowess the next gen systems would be capable of. Cut to May 2014. Watch Dogs finally comes out riding a wave of hype and numerous delays. Gamers, expecting to blown away by an innovative gaming experience were met with one that was simply servicable. With graphics that looked like they were just rezed up versions of the last generation it didn't deliever on that front. The hacking mechanic that Ubisoft was so excited to trumpet felt less like an innovation in gameplay and more like a novelty. Throw in a milquetoast protagonist and less than compelling narrative and you have a game that, had it had less hype, could've been a pleasant surprise a la Far Cry 3 as opposed to being a game everyone forgot about within a month.
Now journey with me to the far off distant land of Fall 2014. I know that seems like forever ago but please follow. At the begining of the year this Fall looked incredible on paper. Assassin's Creed, The Witcher 3, Halo: Master Chief Collection Batman: Arkham Knight, The Crew, Dragon Age, so many good games! Well the fall started to thin as more and more games got delayed to next year. It still seemed solid though. But then. Well then the games came out.
It started off with NHL 15. The game released to PS4 and Xbox One and the general concensus was that the game was unfinished. Modes fans came to know and love were either completely gone and greatly simplified. There was marked improvement of the gameplay but there wasn't much to do. I'm sure fans would rather have the modes they love over improved puck physics.
Then came Driveclub in October. This was supposed to be a launch title for the PS4 that was delayed almost a year. You would think with that time that the game would be the best version of itself. Nope. The game came out with a litany of issues. Most flagrantly, people couldn't play the game. The game was marketed for it's social experience and was sold specifically on it's online functionality. The title of the game references the clubs you could make with your friends online to compete with. You couldn't even do that. The weather effects that Sony trumpted as so essential to the experience weren't even added until two months after release. Additionally, the PS Plus version of the game that was set to launch alongside it has been indefinately postponed. What was supposed to be the Playstation's answer to Forza has become a nonstarter.
What most players saw.
Driveclub wasn't the only one to face connection issues. These same issues would go on to plague Halo: The Master Chief Collection. To me, that is the worst offense. A series known for it's multiplayer facing server issues that servere. It's Halo. One of gaming's most prestige franchises, the series that defined console multiplayer, not having functioning multiplayer. It's insane.
And then, there's the grand daddy. Assassin's Creed: Unity. I don't think, at this point, I need to elabortate on what happened with this game. This game was broken, unfinished, and the lowest point in an already hit or miss series. The game was sold on it's co-op multiplayer yet trying to use it results in it not working or just breaking your game. It was sold as a graphical powerhouse but it glitches out frequently and the game isn't even operating at peak capacity on certain systems. Add in the fact the game doesn't even try to improve or eliminate player's long-standing problems with the series and you have a game that isn't just disappointing and broken, but simply embarassing. This game is mark on the series legacy and a serious damage to consumer trust in the franchise. Maybe Assassin's Creed: Victory can turn it around next year but serious damage has been done to the franchise, time will see if the series will be able to recover.
If there was any victor this year, strangely, it would be Nintendo. They released two Smash Bros game across two different platforms and unlike Ubisoft they made both work. Mario Kart 8 launched without a hitch, as did Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. While they may not have quantity, they have quality. With the way this fall went down, the Wii U has suddenly started to look like an attractive option.
"Hahaha, my game works!"
With 2015 on the horizon I'm both excited and nervous. Excited because, who wouldn't be excited that has a new Witcher, Uncharted and Batman:Arkham. Nervous because after this fall, it seems developers are content to put out half baked games in the hopes of patching it later. Yes quite a few of these games were delayed, but so were some of the games released this fall. I truly hope that this was all just a case of a rocky transition between the last and current generation of systems. If not, well, we're gonna be in for a rocky generation.