This year has seen its fair share of great video game experiences worthy of both praise and recommendation, but it’s also seen plenty of stinkers too. Now this list isn’t meant to imply that these games are the worst games of the year, because they simply aren’t. These are just some games that I happened to play this year that I really did not enjoy for one reason or another. A lot of the games in this list either already have or will eventually see significant fixes and updates that can technically fix a game I had issues with, but some of the games on this list are beyond what a bug fix can rectify.
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
Ghost of Tsushima isn’t a bad game, but it definitely left me wanting something more engaging and technically proficient than what I played back when it launched. I wrote about my issues with the game back when it released, focusing on a bevy of story issues and just the mechanical weirdness I had encountered during my truncated play time. I found the camera to be the most formidable foe in the game because I would die more often than not due to its ineptitude.
But that was all back in July. I would imagine that after several months of existence some of the rougher edges of Ghost of Tsushima would have been ironed out through patches and updates, ultimately leaving the game in a much better place. This could very well be the best time to jump back in, especially considering that there’s a new cooperative mode where you and 3 other friends fight demons and stuff. That alone kind of makes me kind of want to boot it back up, but considering I lack any friends who have any interest in doing that, I don’t know that I’ll be able to enjoy that particular aspect of the game.
While that all sounds cool, it doesn’t change the fact that I was deeply underwhelmed by Ghost of Tsushima upon release. Unlike most of the other games on this list however, I do think that with a lot of the technical jank fixed Ghost of Tsushima could be a really fun stealth/action title. It’s one of the few games here that I would actually consider revisiting, and that’s kind of the highest honor one can achieve on this list.
Where do you even start when talking about Cyberpunk 2077? I tried to capture as much as I could in a short post a few weeks back, but there’s so much to take issue with in that just thinking about all of my grievances is exhausting. What I will say is that it’s a buggy mess of a game that falls apart the second you look too closely at anything, boasts a introductory sequence that’s just a real slog, contains an abundance of convoluted and confusing menus, and doesn’t even feel especially fun to play. I don’t see the silver lining around Cyberpunk 2077, and I don’t think I ever will.
From lying about mandated crunch for their employees, lying and misleading investors, getting pulled from the PlayStation store, and having a couple of retailers issue refunds for the game, Cyberpunk 2077 has destroyed the goodwill that CD Projekt Red earned throughout their time working on the Witcher series and the GOG platform. It’s absolutely nuts to see how hard everyone turned on the company for their unfinished and unpolished game in just like two weeks, although it seems entirely justified.
The worst part is that even if the game worked perfectly, I still don’t think it would be very fun. People have told me that the game doesn’t really get going until about 8 hours in, which is an insane requirement for someone to endure in the hopes that they might be interested in a game. Aside from that, I don’t think the combat, driving or conversational stuff is that good, at least from the little of it that I saw. Truth be told, I think Cyberpunk 2077 fails to encourage players to stick it out for 30 or 40 hours of gameplay, and it doesn’t sound like that argument ever really gets made.
WATCH DOGS LEGION
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that I had some issues with Watch Dogs Legion. From its nonexistent story and its horrendous performance on PC, I found that Watch Dogs Legion felt like an afterthought rather than sequel to a very positively received game. Watch Dogs Legion‘s failings are only exacerbated when compared to the previous game in the franchise, Watch Dogs 2, a title that had its fair share of issues but was way more of a cohesive and complete product than this latest release.
I’ll stand by the assertion that the core gameplay mechanics are still solid and rewarding, but outside of that, Watch Dogs Legion offers nothing new or interesting aside from the incredibly lame ability to “recruit anyone” in London to fight alongside you. The mechanic sure sounds nifty, but in practice it’s an incredibly tedious element of the game that I eventually abandoned because you would just get cooler playable characters after completing story missions anyway. The incentive to hunt for NPCs with unique and helpful characteristics and abilities vanishes under the weight of being upstaged by story progression unlocks, and by how monotonous it really is. It also feels so firmly rooted in the traditional “Ubisoft open world formula,” that it’s just a complete bore to progress through.
Watch Dogs Legion just feels like a complete misfire of game that failed to not only capitalize on what made Watch Dogs 2 so successful, but completely abandoned any attempt at providing a cool story or characters in favor of a stupid mechanic that wears out its welcome after a few hours. If I haven’t made it obvious enough yet, I really did not enjoy Watch Dogs Legion. It’s yet another example of a game that even if it was technically solid, it would still be an absolute slog to play through.
Unlike my severe distaste for Watch Dogs Legion, I don’t actively dislike Marvel’s Avengers. In fact, I’m not even that disappointed with the game because I never really had any expectations for it. For as long as I’ve wanted a good, big-budget Avengers game, when the news came out that it would be a live service game I kind of just wrote it off.
The weirdest part is that it’s a pretty decent game, but by being shoehorned into this business model that just didn’t make sense for the license, it just felt overly convoluted and messy. Unlike other games on this list, I can’t really point to one aspect of the game that’s particularly bad. The issue is that there’s nothing particularly good or bad about Marvel’s Avengers aside from being a really weird and oddly dated feeling live game. I would love a great Avengers game, but this isn’t it.
The main issue is that the game is constantly undermined by being a live service product. With an abundance of tiered gear and currencies, Marvel’s Avengers, despite having a decently interesting superhero story, was diluted by being a licensed game that tried to offer a lasting live experience for players without being able to get too wacky with the property. None of your gear was visually represented thanks to Marvel being overly precious about their characters, which led to a bunch of invisible items that just made numbers in the background go up. The whole game just seems like it was designed by committee, which left it feeling bland and forgettable.
I was so excited for the return of skateboarding games, especially when you had some of them trying to illicit the same warm feelings people got from the Skate series. Skater XL seemed like the game that would bring that pseudo-realistic style of skateboarding game back from the dead, but it was more of a wet fart than anything else.
Skater XL allows you to ride a skateboard and do all sorts of tricks and grinds, albeit in a messier way than expected. The thing that made the Skate series so approachable was the way it made you feel like you were being technically adept while not having to really do that much. All of your tricks were done with the right analog stick and maybe another button for a grab or spin. It was simple but required a level of competency to pull off more advanced tricks and lines.
Skater XL on the other hand ditches that approachability in favor of turning your controller into a game of Twister for your fingers. The controls are overly complex and require you to do unnatural things like steer with the triggers. It never felt intuitive or satisfying because for every successful trick I managed to pull off, there was a trail of blood and viscera behind me that chronicled my failure. Also, there’s not a game in Skater XL. There’s no story or challenges or anything that could qualify as connective tissue. It’s just a level select with some overly convoluted controls at this point.
To be fair though, it’s been a while since I’ve actually checked in with the game, so maybe they’ve incorporated more usable control schemes or some sort of progression system. But I genuinely have no interest in returning to the game after the bad taste it left in my mouth when it launched.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: SHITTY CONSOLE LAUNCHES
That’s right motherfuckers, I took some time off of complaining about this, but by far it’s my least favorite trend of 2020. I have been inducted into a miserable realm of the internet where I’m following people who track the stock of consoles in several different retailers. You might be thinking, “Ari, that sounds insane,” and you’d be absolutely correct in that thought. It’s beyond wild that I’ve had to invite a bevy of Twitter notifications to light up my phone whenever they please just for the opportunity to spend $500. It’s maddening.
Overpriced bundles, terrible website infrastructures, scalpers and bots, all of it is absolutely infuriating on its own, but nothing is more annoying than these Twitter accounts trying to capitalize on this sudden surge in followers by constantly trying to build a community around people who are being fucked over by retailers. I don’t want to watch a live stream of you checking retailer websites so you can announce a stock drop. I get it, you gotta capitalize on whatever little slice of fame you can get, but when all I want is to know when I can be disappointed by Best Buy, getting notifications for YouTube videos, shouting out other people who are tracking the same shit, and the really bad memes, are all things I could do without.
I don’t mean to go so hard at these people who are just trying to help, cause I do appreciate their efforts. But every tweet that isn’t about stock availability is just another reminder that what I am doing is crazy, and it didn’t need to happen. Look, I know that COVID went and fucked up everything this year, especially manufacturing and shipment lines, but despite knowing how constrained stock was going to be, neither Microsoft or Sony did anything about it. Because at the end of the day, seeing an entire company’s stock of their console vanish with seconds is great news for them.
You could write this off as me being salty about not being able to get my hands on one of these new funny looking boxes, but it’s been genuinely demoralizing to finally be in a position in my life where I can actually afford to drop half a grand on console, but I just don’t have the chance to. Every logical part of my brain screams at me when I feverishly click on links to retailers because deep down I know that there isn’t really anything to play on these boxes. I also know that eventually I will be able to get my hands on one of these things, but that’s the power of consumerism I suppose. I don’t need this thing, I just really want it. Unfortunately the whole release of these consoles has been a colossal shit-show from top to bottom, which is hands down my least favorite gaming trend of 2020.
This has been day 3 of The Bonus World’s Game of the Year 2020 coverage. Check back tomorrow for our final list about video games from this year.