In the realm of video games, there’s often a moment or two that makes you scratch your head; whether it’s a developer making a not-so-brilliant decision or watching a game series or company hit rock-bottom, these moments beg the question ‘’what were they thinking?’’. The games in this list aren’t all necessarily bad but they all had me pondering this very question based on personal experience. Here are the top ten ‘’what were they thinking moments’’ mainly from the seventh generation of consoles from my perspective.
10. InFamous 2 being just plain lazy as a sequel
The original InFamous arrived in the second wave of the PS3’s exclusive line-up in 2009 and marked Sucker Punch’s (The team behind the Sly trilogy on PS2) debut on the platform. It was a huge hit, being a superhero game which offered something that no other game of its kind had done before; the choice to be a super-hero or super-villain. The story was highly engaging, and the combat was responsive and action packed. So what was Sucker Punch thinking with InFamous 2? The game was still fairly enjoyable and fun but just about everything had taken a step back from its superb predecessor. Cole wasn’t making his own choices anymore; he was just going along with whatever character he liked the most and on top of that, his choices in the original game had no weight whatsoever in the sequel. The design of the game was such a lazy effort; some of the main missions, yes, the MAIN STORY MISSIONS took about five minutes to complete while the side missions used the same scenarios over and over again. It’s as if Sucker Punch couldn’t be bothered to make some decent missions so they put in a level creator to have the community do it for them. InFamous 2 was a bad effort from Sucker Punch but hopefully with InFamous Second Son coming out for PS4, they can bring themselves back up to speed.
9. Bionic Commando’s disappointing 2009 outing
Bionic Commando looked awesome from the moment I saw the initial trailer and the series was looking to make a comeback with two new titles. I bought the first on PlayStation Network in 2008 (which was a fun and quirky 2D remake of the original game), beat it 100% and waited patiently for the 3D sequel the following year. So what was the game like? Bad, that’s how I describe it. Well, it wasn’t an awful game. It was fun to swing around and execute some attacks on enemies but it stumbled in so many areas including having a dull and clichéd plot, basic multiplayer and, awkward combat and gameplay that was far too linear. But the nail in the coffin was the horrible checkpoint system which made Bionic Commando one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played; whether it was plunging into deep water with no hope of escape or jumping into an irradiated area you would get sent back to a far off checkpoint with all the enemies respawned and all the collectables back in place. In the end, I was glad that they cancelled the 3D sequels and went back to 2D; from my experience with the game, the character belongs in that genre and should stay there.
8. Call of Juarez: The Cartel being a huge step back from Bound in Blood
One of the few games I rented from the local Blockbuster (before they shut down for good) was Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and it was a pleasant surprise, boasting a deep story and action packed Wild West gameplay. There were a few things the game desperately needed though, such as cooperative play and more multiplayer support which I hoped Techland would introduce in a sequel. A sequel did eventually come, and it was horrible; Call of Juarez: The Cartel was a fantastic flop, removing all that was good with its predecessor and replacing it with faults of all shapes and sizes. The biggest flaw though was leaving the Old West behind, which not only spoiled the potential for a good story but also made the game blend in with most of the other modern shooters. What was Techland thinking? They were doing so well with Bound in Blood and then they put out a game which was worse in every way. It’s as if they didn’t learn from what they did with Bound in Blood and instead wanted to appeal to what the masses were buying the most. While Techland did make a comeback with Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger, a game as good as Bound in Blood has yet to make an appearance; quite a shame seeing as BIB was arguably their best title to date.
7. Sony’s once maddeningly arrogant plans for PlayStation 3
The PlayStation may now be a brilliant system with some of the best exclusives around but back in 2006 and 2007 it was a laughing stock with hardly any exclusive games to its name. No one wanted to embrace the system’s Blu-Ray capabilities, the online service paled in comparison to Xbox Live and worst of all; the PS3 was outrageously overpriced causing many gamers, even long term fans of Sony to abandon the system from the get-go. It was a rough start for Sony which begs the question ‘’what were they thinking?’’ Of course at the time Sony was on top of the gaming world with the PlayStation 2 being the best-selling system so perhaps they thought they could get away with anything, given how high their profits were. Thankfully in 2008 the PS3 bounced back and earned its place amongst its competitors and Sony have now learned from their mistakes and have worked to make the new PS4 a success from the beginning.
6. Resident Evil’s descent into action-focused stupidity
Resident Evil is an enduring series but there was something off about its latest offering, Resident Evil 6; it’s just not scary, in fact there’s nothing in the game that comes close to resembling the survival horror the series was famous for. Capcom struck gold with Resident Evil 4 in 2005; the game really did revolutionise the survival horror genre and indeed gaming in general with its innovative over-the-shoulder viewpoint and deadly foes to face. Resident Evil 5 wasn’t as ground-breaking but it was still undeniably fun, especially with a coop partner. But with Resident Evil 6 the series degenerated into Michael Bay territory without a hint of what made the series so memorable to begin with. What was Capcom thinking? Were they thinking that everyone would get bored with a slower paced survival horror design? The answer most likely lies in how RE6 attempted to satisfy everyone by going full-on action but unfortunately it only served to dig the series a deeper grave. Resident Evil may return but judging from the latest main entry in the series and the spin-off Operation Racoon City it’s difficult to see this franchise going back to what made it great.
5. Microsoft’s attempt to control the gaming masses
Gaming history seems to have repeated itself in 2013; just as Sony’s PS3 was a much disliked system at first, nowadays it is Microsoft who is on the receiving end of a great of hatred and joking. The reveal for Xbox One was quite simply a disaster; first they focused too much on television over gaming, then they fell on their faces again at E3 with a high price tag of $500. But it was the DRM policies and required Kinect sensor that really sent gamers into a frenzy; a feature that was made worse by Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying programme. Many lost faith is Microsoft completely, believing them to be out for controlling the consumer and snapping up their money whenever possible and while Microsoft did reverse the controversial policies and take out the Kinect requirement this has undoubtedly kept the Xbox One from keeping the same pace as PlayStation 4 in the worldwide market since its launch last year. What was Microsoft thinking? Even now their focus is muddled, pushing gaming off to the side in favour of being an all in one system and some are still wary and refuse to trust them. Maybe the Xbox One will rise up again just like the PS3 did but right now that time seems a little ways off.
4. Crytek’s downward spiral from the original Crysis through to Ryse
Crytek was once a household name in the industry in the way in which they made technically stunning pieces of work that also boasted some decent gameplay. But an interesting thing seems to have happened to them in the years following the original Crysis in 2007; while the graphics and production values of their products have remained top notch, the gameplay has slowly gone downhill. Crysis 2 was solid but some thought it was too linear for its own good, Crysis 3 didn’t improve things very much and with the release of Ryse with the launch of the Xbox One the company Crytek has now fallen into the trap of graphics over gameplay. Ryse certainly looked the part but its graphics didn’t mean much when the gameplay was just endless monotonous ‘’press this button to execute’’ based combat. What was Crytek thinking? They had the chance to do for the Xbox One what Bungie did for the original Xbox with the original Halo but then they took the easy route and put out a lacklustre title that doesn’t do justice to their pedigree. It’s hard to say where Crytek will go next but Ryse will still stand as their first dud in all their years in the industry.
3. The obnoxious ‘’Jarhead’’ soldiers in Haze
Haze should have been the PS3’s killer app back in early 2008 but it was a miserable failure, sporting underwhelming gameplay and mediocre graphics; a huge shame considering how it was developed by some of the minds behind Goldeneye on the N64. But the biggest sin committed by Free Radical was the ridiculous, distasteful and utterly unlikeable Mantel Soldiers who single-handedly ruined what would have been an interesting concept for a story. These horrid characters bantered back and forth with terrible fist-pumping dialogue that made it impossible to care about either side of the conflict portrayed in the game, splashing more mud on an already lacklustre product. What was Free Radical thinking? Were they aiming to make players hate the troopers so much that they want to go against them with the Rebel side? That may be so, but it’s still inexcusable that Free Radical thought that this sort of character design would bode well for the fans.
2. Stripping back the multiplayer for Resistance 3
To see this happen was probably one of the most frustrating moments I’ve experienced in gaming. Resistance 2 was an incredible title that went bigger and better than the original in every way, boasting a lag-free online multiplayer mode for up to 60 players and best of all, a unique and chaotic coop for 8 players, something that had never been done before on a console. And what happened then? The 8 player coop was dropped in favour of a two player campaign coop from the original Resistance and the multiplayer fell from manic 60 player matches to 16 player run and gun fests trying to be like Call of Duty. What was Insomniac Games thinking? They once did what few dared to do on a console game and then they ditched it because they were afraid that Resistance 3 wouldn’t be able stand up on its own unless it blended in with what was popular at the time. Insomniac is still a great developer; still putting out Ratchet and Clank games and now the upcoming Sunset Overdrive for Xbox One but that one decision will always irk me as one of several reasons why Resistance 3 was a huge disappointment.
1. EA (JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING THEY’VE BEEN DOING UP TO NOW!)
With the dubious honour of ‘’Worst Company in America’’ two times in a row, and hordes of angry gamers berating them endlessly, Electronic Arts name has been tarnished in recent years. But it wasn’t always like this; back in the days of PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube and even the early years of PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii EA was acting like a proper gaming company that cared for its fans and put out it’s titles purely for the enjoyment factor. But that focus has been thrown out the window in favour of horrendous scheming. The publisher has done some truly remarkable things recently that have led to become easily the most hated company in the gaming industry; whether it was ruining Mass Effect 3’s ending, butchering Dead Space 3 into an action game, forcing micro transactions down our throats or releasing games in poor conditions. What was EA thinking? When did these practices designed to grab as much money as possible while putting in a reduced amount of effort? These days it always seems to be about money above all other things and if EA doesn’t change its ways soon, it could be facing be facing heavy reductions in profits in a year or two. The burning question is why should we pay a company that doesn’t care about its customers? If that’s what it takes for EA to realise what an awful decision they’ve made then perhaps that’s the best way to proceed.