4. Assassin's Creed - I think this has more to do with oversaturation than anything. Had they stopped at Assassin's Creed II, and then followed up with Assassin's Creed III, it'd be a tight, compact, well told trilogy. But instead, they released two pseudo sequels to Assassin's Creed II in rapid fire, which overall taken as the Assassin's Creed II trilogy may have told a compelling story, but each game failed to progress the gameplay and instead felt like episodic content at a full $60 price tag.
Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed II were fine games with okay mechanics, a fun open world to traverse, and they looked great. They were also tedious, overlong, full of filler, had convoluted and poorly told stories, and hit or miss modern day sequences.
The episodic sequels continued the story of Assassin's Creed II. Perhaps unnecessarily so. Concepts brought into the episodes was hit or miss. The games had an exciting cat and mouse multiplayer mode, but shockingly dull vehicle sequences, quick time events, and even tower defense for some reason. After the content dump that occurred, they began teasing that Assassin's Creed III was finally a real, full sequel made by the A Team at Ubisoft Entertainment. Which is a retroactive way of admitting Assassin's Creed: Revelations and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood were less than spectacular, but hey buy this one because it's going to be what you thought those games would be.
3. Halo - Don't get me wrong, Halo: Combat Evolved was a revolution when it first came out on the Xbox. It essentially launched Microsoft's first console into the mainstream, and forever changed first person shooter mechanics. And the sequel, Halo 2, was also pretty great and further cemented the foundation for Xbox Live, and led to modern console online gaming. That deserves some major credit. But a formula became apparent. Silent generic soldier protagonist #725 would wake up, do some tests to configure the controls and would instantly be dumped into a fight against generic aliens known as The Covenant. And at the exact halfway point of the game, the player would begin on a long quiet corridor section, where predictably some sort of virus appears, only instead of the tired cliche of zombies, Halo uses The Flood, a zombie like parasite that has some sort of hive mind sentience, but for all intents and purposes, it's zombies. Then you fight them, the Covenant reenter the plot, the Flood and Covenant clash and Master Chief passes through this battle, then finally he detonates a Halo ring. Which is a confusing and generic plot device which seems to be whatever the writers want it to be. In one game it's a weapon, the next it's a tool, the next it's a religion. Whatever Bungie needed at that time, they stuffed the Halo rings into it. It's like Nanomachines in Metal Gear Solid or The Force in Star Wars. Need an answer? Just throw in a Halo ring and shrug.
By Halo 3 the formula was firmly in place. But the rise of Call of Duty also occurred with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. First Person Shooter mechanics had again evolved, and Halo 3 was the first game to show it's age. Left trigger had become the "look down the sights" button, but Halo kept it as the "throw a grenade" button. Most guns in Halo 3 had no sights to look down. These may seem like a small control difference, but at the time it was a massive fossil in the genre. Halo 3: ODST was an interesting experiment, but ultimately just that. A short, slight, downloadable experiment. And seemingly as an apology for their experiment, Halo: Reach came out and became the most formulaic title in the entire series.
Halo 4 could be a breath of fresh air, with a new studio in 343 Industries taking over for Bungie. The game looks impressive graphically, and has a new alien race, although surely the Covenant play a large role. But clearly this game won't be the zeitgeist phenomenon it was. It won't push the genre ahead. It won't lead the charge. It will simply be an iteration on a popular franchise.
2. Call of Duty - No, I'm not going to be that guy. Call of Duty is a great franchise, that first set an amazing standard with Call of Duty, then became a benchmark game in the current gen's hardware development. The franchise has played a larger role in the lives of both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 than I think anyone is willing to admit. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare changed gaming forever. And up until a major rift within Activision, Infinity Ward was consistently innovating and pushing the medium forward with their Modern Warfare series. But during the production of Modern Warfare 2, trouble began between creative and business, and the minds at Infinity Ward were attacked and ousted from the company. Treyarch, the B Team which filled off years with standard but passable entries in the overall franchise, took over and accepted the larger role in the company. They're the one's using the old tech. Infinity Ward, the one that finished Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, isn't even close to the same developer. They're Infinity Ward in name only. Treyarch was always the company using the Infinity Ward engine and model, but simply plunked down a new setting (usually World War II), and characters. Now that Infinity Ward is no more, realistically, Treyarch has no one to hide behind. They can't ride the coattails of more creative developers. And now that they must lead the way into the future, you can see how they're doing it. By not doing. Old graphics, tired gameplay, hallway shooting, frivolous story. Sure, Call of Duty: Black Ops II looks to be somewhat unique. But considering the model has existed since 2007, a few tweaks don't make an old dog new. The tiredness of the franchise, and the community backlash comes from Activision's hatchet job of what was a great development team.
But no matter how you slice it, there is a new Call of Duty every October, and it's not nearly as good as sales would suggest.
1. God of War - I know I'm going to offend some here. God of War to me, is as tired as Call of Duty, if not more. Three games with no true innovation other than graphics and a raging hard on for gore. Two handheld spin offs with the same lack of innovation and same raging boner. And now God of War: Ascension, a game nobody asked for, that takes the incredibly dated isometric camera, button mashing combat, health orbs, and quick time events into the future. Were you dying for another prequel that tells the uninteresting story of the uninteresting Kratos, yet again? We know how he got his markings, scars, whiteness, chains, anger, death, rebirth, vengeance, more anger, but this time... you get to do it again. Ascension (taking the new approach of not calling an unnecessary sequel "4" but instead slapping on a colon followed by a random word; see Gears of War: Judgment) looks to tell the already told story of an angry Kratos before he finally killed everyone. The game will no doubt star an angry Kratos killing everyone. But before he killed those guys, and after he killed those guys. The story really needed to be told. The world was waiting to find out how he killed these guys, before those guys, and after those guys.
But it's not all old. Sure, the camera is still isometric, because it's 2002 apparently, and sure the combat is still stilted and mashy, and sure there is still a goofy quick time event to finish off every enemy, but hey did we mention Kratos has a bracelet that can rebuild broken buildings? See? NEW! SHINY! Buy us! We have multiplayer!
God of War: Ascension's redeeming quality may be as a tech demo for the final years of the PS3, but little else. It's a game no one asked for, and it's just a way to cash out before the next gen, and a full God of War game graces the launch, or shortly thereafter. Surely Gears of War 4 will look to do the same.