2016 was chock full of exceptional games, but not every release managed to quite live up to the hype.
Make no mistake about it, 2016 has been a banner year for video games. It seems fans of every platform have had plenty of reasons to be excited about their consoles of choice. Well, that is unless you’re one of the unfortunate ones with Wii U sitting solely beneath your TV set (our deepest condolences). But for those of us who’ve been playing games on platforms that still have a pulse, we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a flood of superb titles over the past 12 months. We were even surprised to find some games that seemed destined to disappoint, such as Watch Dogs 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Titanfall 2 end up far surpassing our expectations, forcing us to scarf down healthy portions of humble pie alongside our ample holiday feasts.
Still, despite these surprises out of left field, we were also blindsided by a number of titles that seemed destined to shine but ultimately failed to deliver. That said, here are six games released in 2016 that showed some real promise but never quite realized their full potential.
6. Mafia III
Mafia III had us all dazzled by its many trailers featuring classic cars screeching around a beautifully rendered fictional New Orleans in the sixties. This is the first let-down: you’ll be able to count the number of exciting car chases you’ll have on one hand (even if a Louisiana crocodile bit off three of your fingers first). Ninety-nine percent of game is just boilerplate, innovation-free shooting and stealthy stabbing.
There were rumors that the game would be a genuinely interactive exploration of the harsh reality of racism in a turbulent period; that you’d get pulled over for driving a nice car by bigoted cops, or be forced to sit at the back of the bus. Instead, the treatment of racism is gimmicky: it’s used as nothing more than a way of making its villains cartoonishly evil so you won’t feel remorseful in slicing them ear-to-ear with a combat knife. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game genuinely immersed you in its setting in some other way, or provided some variety in its mind-numbingly repetitive procession of killing. Mafia III’s New Bordeaux isn’t a living, breathing open world that truly does an interesting time and place justice. The setting is just an interchangeable backdrop for a series of tiresome “kill everyone in this area and placidly drive a truck back to a friendly depot for ten minutes” missions.
Mafia III (read our review here) isn’t a terrible game, but it’s a massive letdown. It was meant to be a sizzling Cajun-fried crocodile steak served up with finger-licking hot-sauce – it ended up being more like roadkill with some ketchup on it. If you’re hungry, it’s edible, but it sure ain’t the gourmet dish you’d ordered.
5. Quantum Break
Of all the games that were on my radar for 2016, Quantum Break was damn near at the top of my list. After all, I’m a huge fan of Remedy’s previous releases. Max Payne and Alan Wake are two games I hold in especially high regard thanks to their satisfying combat systems and unique and stylish approaches to storytelling. That said, I was eager to get my mitts on the Espoo, Finland-based studio’s time-shifting epic when it released last spring on the Xbox One and Windows PCs.
Sadly, Quantum Break (read our review here) wasn’t quite a quantum leap over Remedy’s previous works. In fact, the game felt like a considerable step in the wrong direction. The glossy TV series episodes that bookend each of Quantum Break’s chapters definitely reminded us that we’re playing a game with a hell of a development budget, but they ultimately served to make the overall experience feel like a disjointed example of style over substance. The gunplay, one of the aspects I really enjoyed in Remedy’s previous releases, also fell weightless and was hampered by a serious lack of enemy variety, making each encounter feel tired and formulaic. Add to that one of the most frustrating and joyless boss encounters in recent gaming history and you have a recipe for a game that was destined to fast-forward into your nearest bargain bin.
Here’s hoping Remedy recognizes Quantum Break’s shortcomings and stick to what they do right if they ever choose to resurrect Alan Wake.
4. Mighty No. 9
Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s long-awaited spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber was a long time coming. After raking in nearly four million dollars over the course of its Kickstarter campaign, the game was met with numerous delays before finally being picked up and released by publisher Deep Silver this past June.
However, upon release it was easy to see why the game encountered so many delays. .First and foremost, it was an embarrassingly unpolished title – a far cry from the charming romps that inspired Mighty No. 9 – featuring bland environments and a cast of laughable bosses that failed to live up to fans’ lofty expectations. Of course, visuals aren’t everything. But when you consider just how much money the side-scroller raked in during its crowdfunding campaign you’d expect something considerably more appealing. After all, we’re talking about a simple side-scroller here, not some world-spanning epic. That said, it wasn’t’ exactly asking a whole lot to expect the game to look like something that belonged on the current crop of hardware, and not a relic from the Dreamcast era (no offense, Dreamcast, you know I love you just the same).
While the lackluster visuals and uninspired character designs were certainly a letdown, Mighty No. 9’s biggest failure was that it committed video gaming’s cardinal sin – it was boring. Without any mechanics that really made it stand out from the pack, Mighty No. 9 (read our review here) felt more like a dusty relic from a bygone era than a true love letter to Mega Man, and that’s a shame.