Missed Opportunities

Biggest letdowns I've experienced in gaming.

This list is in no order, despite the number listings.

List items

  • I waited patiently for eight years to experience this game. Remedy formally leaving the franchise for Alan Wake was a blow to me that I thought tragic. If only younger me knew of the greater tragedy: actually playing Max Payne 3. In an almost meta-aware move, Rockstar made the actual Max Payne 3 experience a hard-boiled tragedy for the player, assuming they were a long time fan of the series. Initially, the game starts of great, but the obnoxious Tony Scott style visual effects, self-loathing dialogue without the flair or self-awareness of Remedy's writing, and the movie-of-the-week plot slowly dragged this game down into the gutter. Max Payne 1 and 2 were defined by the personal tragedy of the story, Max is constantly dragged through hell but he keeps fighting on. This story pulls him in like he's a stock character, and eventually, he becomes one. It has nothing to do with him as a person and develops him in no significant ways. What a terrible, terrible waste of a terrific character.

    What offends me the most, however, is the game design. Truly abysmal. The bullet time element was always a flashy selling point, but it had its practical use as well. Diving into a room, guns blazing, was often the most strategic way to play Max Payne, using slow motion at tight moments where you weren't sure where enemies would be. In this game, the cover system and horrific checkpoint system make bullet time completely pointless (in fact, the only reason to use it is to get headshots, apparently the only way to kill people). The game gives players more ammo after a few restarts because of such poor ammo and health placement and awkward checkpoints that can leave you defenceless. Awful, just awful. The combat has lost all finesse by implementing the auto-lock function of Red Dead Redemption, so you just hold and shoot and you'll clear a room in an instant. That made sense in Red Dead, to simulate the blink-and-you'll-miss-it showdowns in the mythic old West. It makes zero sense in a pulpy noir. It's just another case of Rockstar copy-and-pasting elements from one franchise to another which is an on going problem with their games in general.

    Finally, Max Payne looks terrible, the character and the game. This extremely straight-forward, linear shooter has horrific load times masked by excessively long cutscenes. Glitches cause scenery to cut in-and-out, audio going out of sync or dropping altogether, and other specific and irritating issues. The standard issue Rockstar defence has always been that the scope of their games makes it impossible to fix everything (this is the Open World Game manifesto). That excuse isn't applicable to this game, and yet, the problems are more prevalent than ever. It hints towards a troubled production and constant delays, and yet it's baffling for a studio with such resources and accessibility to talent.

  • My skeptic alarm was going off when the initial trailer hit for Killzone 2 showing a mesmerizing battle that blurred the lines between gameplay and cutscene. I wasn't so interested in the "is it pre-rendered?" conversation as I was about the fluidity of the gameplay. And wasn't all this a bit suspicious after "Killzone" tried to push the same "wow" hype only to come up empty? Guerilla didn't learn apparently, and Killzone 2 turned out disappointingly (if predictably) static. Much more polished, showing off a bigger budget, Killzone 2 was far superior to its predecessor in every way, but it was still a long shot from the fluid combat we were promised. Unclear mission markers, irritating characters, a dull colour palate, and the worst FPS controls in memory sealed Killzone 2's fate. I respect the bold approach to an FPS cover system, but rather than feeling ahead of it's time, it felt stubborn in its refusal to accept that this mechanic doesn't work and rather than ditching it in early development, the game choked it down our throats. I was fooled twice by the Killzone games, so shame on me, so by this point I never bothered with Part 3.

  • The ugly duckling of the RPG genre, Fable II can crudely be summed up as the Call of Duty of RPGs. Simple, stupid, and readily accessible. Aspects of better RPGs are boiled down to their essence in one big, easily digestible mouthful. The simplistic combat doesn't get better with time and shortcuts on appearance customization don't exact scream dedication and thoroughness from the developer. Lionhead has had a mixed history of ambitious projects and after Fable failed to ignite the RPG world, the studio redirected its aim. The lofty ambitions of the first game which even codenamed itself "Project Ego" were drastically reduced for Fable II. The most ambitious element of the game was to create a dog companion that you would love so dearly you would be upset if it were injured. Spoiler: you weren't.

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