It’s happened to all of us – you get a game that you’ve been chomping at the bit for and everyone has been raving about. You marked the release date on your calendar, cancelled all your appointments for a month, and settle in for epicness. Then, just as you were really getting into it, whammo! Something so awful happens that it completely ruins your groove. Boss battles, mechanics, bad plot twists… and you wonder if you’ll ever get over it, or if the bad taste in your mouth will ever dissipate. A few years down the road, you get hit by nostalgia and pick the game back up, only to throw your controller when you’re confronted with the same ridiculous thing you hated before.
Here’s our list of otherwise great games that were ruined by one stupid thing.
Mass Effect 2 – Scanning for Resources
There is no question that Mass Effect 2 is on my shortlist of favorite games ever. The game-play was fantastic, the plot was an emotional rollercoaster, and the cast of characters were some of the best I’ve ever seen. In the first five minutes, you watch Sheppard die, get brought back to life (with science!) and your new ship is like if the old Normandy went on Pimp My Ride. Life is sweet… until you have to gather resources.
Part of me wants to be forgiving, here. BioWare listened to fans of the original Mass Effect complain endlessly about how annoying the Mako (all-terrain vehicle for exploring planets) was. And how annoying combing every inch of a few square miles of copy/pasted planets was. And how annoying almost everything involved with exploring. Unfortunately, instead of polishing up planet exploration, they ditched it entirely. What’s the point of having a sweet spaceship if you can’t visit alien planets? But that’s not the biggest problem. That distinction goes to the resource gathering system.
Resources in ME2 are used to upgrade your weapons, equipment, ship, and companions, so they’re kinda important. Unfortunately, gathering resources is such a pain in the ass that I might have screamed at Jack to get her own damn Element Zero, then rage quit and sobbed in a corner. You have to travel to various planets, scan for minerals while remaining in orbit, then launch probes (which you have to buy) to obtain the minerals. It’s tedious, mind-numbing, and absolutely ruins an otherwise brilliant game.
Red Dead Redemption – Mexico
With a sequel/prequel about to be released upon an expectant world, a lot of people are dusting off their old copies of Red Dead Redemption. It’s an excellent game, and despite being nearly 8 years old, it’s aged quite well. It’s just as fun to turn simple sticks of antiquated dynamite into veritable homing missiles now as it was in 2010.
What’s also just as fun as it was in 2010 is playing through the Mexico portion of the main game, which is to say it’s still not fun at all. Up until that point, you’re cruising, finishing missions left and right, making good progress, and constantly being reminded why you’re the greatest cowboy of all time, when you hit the wall of dreariness that is Mexico. Even if you were okay with the dull scenery, there’s a good chance you soldiered on through the story missions for the sole reason that you knew it would get better, eventually.
Whether you’re ambivalent toward the Mexico portion of the game or straight-up loathed it, it’s most likely that you enjoyed Red Dead Redemption in spite of that section, rather than because of it.
Hellgate: London – Repetition
Who’s ready for some discussion about a game no one remembers? Well, too bad, because we’re doing it, anyway. You may have forgotten 2007’s Hellgate: London, but if you were into gaming back then and not into hiding under rocks for prolonged periods of time, you definitely heard about it. The developer, Flagship Studios, was formed from a good chunk of former Blizzard North employees, and the expectation was that, as the title implies, Hellgate: London would be a like a first-person Diablo game in modern day London.
It was. For about five hours.
It’s no secret why Hellgate fell on its face. There were plenty of business reasons, but a glaring one stood out for gamers. For some reason, Flagship failed to deliver on the primary aspect that has made all of Blizzard’s major releases so successful – replayability. Not only was Hellgate not replayable, after you made your way through the first quarter of the game, it was barely even playable at all. Your weapons hardly changed; tactics stayed the same; the storyline was decent, but hardly enough to keep you going; and to top it all off, there were only a few different map types, meaning map after map was identical in every aspect, save for specific layouts.
But I hear you ask: If Hellgate: London was so horrible, then why is it on this list? And it’s a fair question. The truth is that the monotony was the only truly bad thing about it. Sure, it had other flaws, but so do Skyrim, Far Cry 3, and Pokemon. If hadn’t been for this one (albeit, massive) flaw, I sincerely believe Hellgate wouldn’t be remembered as an abject failure, at least, by those who remember it at all.
Brutal Legend – RTS Mode
There is absolutely no denying that Brutal Legend was a brilliant idea. The game starts with a live-action video, as Jack Black sneaks you into the restricted section of a record store to show you an insane metal album (the vinyl he pulls out ends up being the main menu). After this, you’re shoved into an animated world of laser panthers, eternally headbanging Vikings, and a magic guitar that doubles as a battle-axe. You don’t need to be a metal-head to appreciate that!
After a few hours of cruising around an open world in a heavy metal version of the Batmobile, however, you suddenly get tossed into a pseudo-RTS mode, controlling an army of roadies and defending your stage (yeah, it’s a weird game). What makes this unforgivable isn’t that it’s a horrible RTS, but that Brutal Legend isn’t an RTS. In fact, as far as game-type goes, it isn’t… anything. And that’s the problem. The developers couldn’t decide what kind of game they wanted to make, and all the time they spent on mediocre aspects of the game, such as the mostly annoying RTS mechanics, was time not spent on the good stuff.
I wanted to love Brutal Legend – really, I did. But the best I could ever manage was the kind of affection you have for that friend who’s really fun, but will inevitably start picking their nose as your crush walks by.
Mass Effect 3 – Mandatory Multiplayer
Yes, the Mass Effect series makes two appearances on this shortlist.
No, I’m not going to say it was the ending that ruined the game. I was just as angry as most people about the complete cop-out of the multi-dimensional ghost boy as anyone; that said, as a writer, I know how subjective story quality can be, and it’s important to note that there were a lot of people who legitimately enjoyed it. Regardless, as fun as it would be to open old wounds from the giant argument that is the ending of Mass Effect 3, I won’t go there.
Where I will go is the “galactic readiness” mechanic that was introduced in the series’ third installment. I can hear your groans already, and they are well-deserved. Despite being praised for producing an astonishingly polished single-player franchise when the market was focusing heavily on multiplayer experiences, BioWare felt the need to add a multiplayer mode to ME3 called Galaxy at War. Normally, single-player junkies like myself would simply ignore this content. Unfortunately, BioWare decided to directly tie your ability to get the “best” ending with Galactic Readiness points, which you could only earn enough of by playing a little bit of multiplayer. On top of that, your Galactic Readiness percentage goes down 1% every day you don’t play multi-player.
In short, this punished players for playing a single-player as… well, a single player. Later patches and additional content eased the pain a bit, but I’ll never forget the time I was slapped in the face for not wanting to play an MMO shooter.
This, BioWare. This is why I have trust issues.
Love a game? Hate its irredeemably bad qualities? Let us know in the comments!