Simply the not best
Game of the Year? Awards? Acclaim? "Best" things? Pfft, that's so December. Once January rolls around, GamesRadar is all about saying goodbye to the previous year with crippling, horrifying honesty. What great games had not-so-great moments? Who said the dumbest things? What were the worst surprises? That's what the Anti-Awards are all about.
So we've had a good cry and remembered the moments we'd rather have forgotten. Sure, 2013 was an amazing year that resulted in some fantastic releases and the launch of two surprisingly solid consoles, but there were other things that well we might as well just get onto it.
Bait and switch award: Aliens: Colonial Marines
We know it's possible to make a good game in the Alien universe--the movie, and its sequels, inspired some of gaming's best franchises. The weapons, the air vents, the gun turrets, the "countdown to destruction" that ends every Metroid game, the entire Metroid franchise, it's all ripped straight from Alien/s. And yet, here comes Colonial Marines, failing in every possible way to live up to expectations.
How bad? Well, in our review, we said "you'll find that there's really nothing fun about Colonial Marines." Which is weird, because the early demos for the game made it look good. The visuals were tight, the gameplay looked strong, and yet, the final version was downright crap--it's not even worth filling this entry with Aliens quotes, it doesn't deserve them.
Most painful delay: South Park: The Stick of Truth
You know a delay situation has gotten out of hand when multiple trailers actually acknowledge how confusing things have become. Such is the lot in life for the upcoming (?) South Park RPG, The Stick of Truth. The Obsidian-developed game has impressed us every time we've seen it, but due to THQ's downfall and other behind-the-scenes issues, it's missed release window after release window.
The most painful nail in the coffin came when the game was finally given a December 2013 release date by Ubisoft, only to have it whisked away mere weeks later. What happened between those two times? Alien abduction? Manbearpig attack? The world will never know, but it weeps--Lord, it weeps.
Most confusing, jargon-filled whatchamacallit: Remember Me
OK, so maybe were being too hard on Remember Me. It was a cinch to use the Procedural Mastering Powers combo lab in order to unlock the four Pressen movesets, which included the S-Pressens that let me use the Spammer to take down Leapers and collect Remembranes, which help the Errorists finally take down Memorize dear god.
This game was so close to being awesome, so close. It had a female protagonist!... who had the personality of Plank from Ed, Edd, n Eddy. It had cool memory mini games!... which just reminded you of how much you hated rewinding VHS tapes. It had France!... or, just a bunch of French people and a lot of sewers. Sorry, Remember Me, you just werent fun enough to make us want to learn an entire language to truly understand you.
Worst part of an otherwise great game: Tailing missions (Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag)
There were plenty of flaws in this year's big games--Battlefield 4's servers were a hot mess with a side of downtime; Grand Theft Auto Online had a few issues with that, you know, online part; and BioShock Infinite had a lull in the middle the size of a weird, green ghost--but no problems were as universally reviled as Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's tailing missions.
In the otherwise stellar return to form for the franchise, AC4 would frequently pump the breaks on the stellar plot to have you kinda just walk around listening to stuff. It didn't matter if you were following a random Templar in the forest, following a random Templar in a city, or following a random Templar on a boat (somehow). It was always dull, and never amounted to anything more than a nuisance.
Best/worst rapping-fighting game hybrid: Way of the Dogg
Did you know that Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion, or whatever he's going by now) released a game in 2013? Because he did. And it was a rapping/fighting hybrid that was absolutely, catastrophically terrible. Like, the worst. So bad. So sad.
But thanks to the gods that rule genres, we actually need to give out a "best" genre award for everything we give a "worst" genre award to. That means congratulations, Way of the Dogg! You're the best rapping-fighting game of the year.
Worst game someone probably bought expecting a Telltale game: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Listen, we're going to be real for a second: Telltale Games screwed up. It really, really should've called its Walking Dead game something other than The Walking Dead. Maybe, like, "The Walking Dead: Stories" or "Tales from The Walking Dead" or anything other than "The Walking Dead." Why? Because mere months after gaming outlets around the world gave its episodic franchise all sorts of acclaim, developer Terminal Reality had us welcoming the zombie apocalypse with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. And by welcome, we mean "Please, let zombies cruelly and relentlessly devour the human race so as to prevent the even-worse fate of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct from ever happening again."
We figure at least a few people in the world bought it, thinking they were about to find out why everybody was raving about this Walking Dead video game. Instead of forming a bond between Lee and Clementine, they were shooting ugly zombies in uninteresting areas featuring people that sort of look like actors from the TV show. So, you know, a little different.
Worst surprise: Knack's got a voice
We'll never forget the first time Knack spoke. It was heartbreaking. The moment he flopped open his mouth and started sassing people, we knew that he was never, ever going to be the mascot Sony needed or the hero we wanted. Instead, he was a stereotypical '90s cliche in a next-gen game. He was a robot out of time.
And it only got worse as the game went on. At one point, he gets covered with ice (Spoilers? Maybe?) and says "OOH! I'm getting chills." In another scene, he tries to psyche out a robot by pretending he's going to hit him. He's a mess. He's basically Arnold Schwarzenegger in an action movie, except he's a cute robot. Oh vey.
Most insane series of failures: Shadow of the Eternals
Denis Dyack and his studio Silicon Knights lost a once-sterling reputation after a string of poorly received games, scandals, and costly lawsuits. And though that studio shut its doors in 2012, Dyack gave it another go in 2013, starting a new studio called Precursor Games. The plan? Return to SK's Eternal Darkness glory days with a spiritual sequel, titled Shadow of the Eternals. Thing is, you can change the name of the studio, but shaking a bad reputation isn't so easy, and the subsequent Shadow of the Eternals funding campaign proved to be a story too tragic to be comical.
Precursor asked for $1.5 million directly through its website in a is-this-a-scam?, faux-Kickstarter campaign, but then gave up after failing to reach even 25 percent of its goal. The company rebooted the project as an honest-to-god Kickstarter, but again couldn't reach its new $750,000 ask. And then, the sideshow. The notoriously defensive Dyack continued to fly the SK banner, quixotically defending his former studio's reputation. And then one of his employees was arrested--for trafficking in kiddie porn. So, you know, Precursor isn't really a studio anymore, and Shadow of the Eternals is on indefinite hold.
Worst character in a game that didn't need characters: Mr. Mendel from Flower Town
Some people on the GR staff put as much time into the four new 3DS StreetPass games as they did any other title in 2013, unlocking everything they could in the simple but engaging mini-games. Even Flower Town / StreetPass Garden was far more engaging than a virtual flower shop deserved to be. But it had one fatal flaw: the unrelenting advice from florist Mr. Mendel.
The bespectacled plant expert seemed helpful at first, explaining the intricacies of breeding flowers--only, he wouldnt stop giving advice. Even in our 30th time starting up the game, we had to listen to a series of unneeded tips from Mendel, making every playthrough feel like a redundant lecture. We slogged through his continual explanations hundreds of times to unlock everything in the game, which shows well suffer through anything when virtual hats are on the line.
Worst trend of 2013: Next-gen microtransactions gone wild
Know what was weird? The first batch of Xbox One launch titles. There were a slew of interesting ones (as you might have read about in our list of the best Xbox One games), but something was just off. See, while there were plenty of games to keep us occupied, too many of them featured weird microtransaction systems that made us feel like we were playing freemium games.
As we played Crimson Dragon we were constantly reminded that we could be buying new dragons, and while driving around Forza Motorsport 5 we were shown how much sweeter life would be if we just bought that damn experience booster. It's a trend that we're hoping Microsoft eases up on, because we're going to be pretty upset if Halo 5 ends up guilting us into microtransacting bullets.
Game you forgot existed: Lost Planet 3
Honestly, we were surprised when someone suggested that Lost Planet 3 deserves an Anti-award this year. Didnt that game come out in, like, 2011 or something? A quick Google search revealed that no way, it was released some time in the summer? This year? Wow. How did we forget?
Did anyone play Last Planet 4? Its all about some bloke who looks a bit like Nicholas Cage, right? And hes got a robot dog or something, to fight we want to say Nazis, but it could just as easily be aliens. Or other robots. Oh, it was all so long ago now. Problem is, it was another sequel that no-one really asked for, keeping a series with very little personality alive long beyond its natural lifespan. Thats why everyone forgot about it.
Least necessary prequel: The Bureau: XCOM declassified
We totally get why 2K Games thought it was a good idea to reboot XCOM in 2010--the BioShock franchise was doing extremely well, Mad Men was really popular, and no one seemed to care about the ancient XCOM franchise. Merging those three things just made sense. But in the years between its announcement and release, The Bureau's necessity fell apart.
Why? Well, there were a few reasons, not the least of which came in the form of the amazing XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Suddenly, XCOM wasn't so unknown, and the new take on the classic franchise went from aging property to hot commodity. The failure of EA's first-person Syndicate reboot was also writing on the wall that this sort of thing wasn't going to work, but here we are with a forgettable, unnecessary XCOM game that doesn't actually fit into the lore of the just rebooted franchise.
Most anticipated game that let us down: SimCity
Making SimCity an always-online game did actually make sense to us, naysayers be damned. It's a franchise that, realistically, could adapt well to casual multiplayer, and adding social, persistent features had some incredibly cool implications. Sadly, when EA's SimCity released, it became obvious that 2013 wouldn't be the year that opponents of always-online would finally be proven wrong.
At launch, SimCity was a clusterfuck, pure and simple, and not even in a "oh the servers don't work great" kind of way. Because of server problems, barely anything functioned as intended. To make things worse, the actual game itself had huge problems that became obvious even after the online problems were sorted, making for an incredibly ambitious face plant that we, sadly, won't soon forget.
Worst moment of the year: Microsoft's Xbox One reveal
Nary a day went by in the year leading up to the Xbox One's announcement that didn't involve some new rumor about Microsoft's upcoming machine. Usually, they were pessimistic: the Xbox Infinity / Xbox 8 / Xbox 720 would be always-online, block used games, and require you to use a Kinect. When Microsoft finally revealed the Xbox One, it ignored most of these concerns. Instead, it focused on sports, TV, and of course sports.
In the hours following, Microsoft revealed that--yup--the thing would require a near-constant internet connection, force you to let Kinect watch you at all times, and refuse you the right to buy and sell used games. These policies were all muddled in PR speak and confusing documents, but eventually came to light. Thankfully, they were extinguished by the Internet tears of outraged gamers.
Most wasted potential: WayForward Cartoon Network Games
Adventure Time and Regular Show are awesome examples of modern cartoon greatness. With their outlandish-yet-relatable characters, offbeat humor, and flair for the bizarre, they're the kind of light-hearted entertainment that kids and adults can enjoy in equal measure. The same can be said for standout WayForward games like Mighty Switch Force and the Shantae series. Combine the two and you've got a perfect match, right?
Not right. We expected big things from WayForward's efforts for such beloved shows, seeing as the developer was coming hot off DuckTales Remastered. But Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-Bit Land and Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! were total letdowns, with gameplay ranging between subpar and downright tedious. We don't know what went wrong, but our hopes for more quality licensed games were soundly crushed by this one-two punch of disappointment.
Most dust collected between games: Wii U
Nintendo arguably had its strongest year of releases ever in 2013, including great Wii U games like Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, and Wind Waker HD. The only problem being, those were basically the only titles we played on the system all year. The system went untouched for much of 2013, collecting dust despite our wish to use its innovative second screen. It felt like the GameCube all over again.
Major third parties like EA and 2K snubbed the system all year, but the blame for our underuse of the Wii U is mainly Nintendos. The Wii U barely saw any compelling first party releases for the initial seven months of the year, killing any post-holiday momentum. And it wasnt just at retail, as digital offerings and Virtual Console updates were similarly slow. Heres hoping Nintendo doesnt repeat this in 2014, because we arent sure the console can survive another doldrum like that one.
Most out-of-touch reveal: Cranky Kong
Nintendo needed to fight for the attention of gamers once the PS4 and Xbox One were revealed, and Spikes VGX awards (formerly VGAs) seemed like a great place to win back that audience. Nintendo executive Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage after teasing a huge reveal. We were all ready to see something exciting. Then, with a sly grin on his face, he dropped a dud of a bomb by showcasing the return of an ancient monkey to a game we'd known about for months.
Look, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze looks promising and all, but VGX had multiple new game reveals, and all Nintendo had to show was Cranky Kongs addition. For people expecting a new Metroid or Zelda, this was pretty deflating, and host Geoff Keighly basically said as much to Reggie. The Nintendo exec merely laughed it off, but we werent laughing at home, and we doubt we were alone in our disappointment.
Foot-in-mouth award for biggest foot in biggest mouth: Don Mattrick
Ever screw up? Like, badly? It usually leads to an awful sinking feeling. You feel queasy. You start experiencing angry, sad, and scared emotions all at once. That's how we imagine Microsoft's Don Mattrick felt when he defended the Xbox One's Internet connection requirement, saying "Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity. It's called Xbox 360."
At some point, when you're digging yourself into a hole, you must just go, "Man, I bet the best way out of this hole is to just keep digging." Microsoft was already under attack by the masses, and then Don drops a "Let them eat cake" line unlike any the gaming industry had ever seen. No wonder Mattrick left mere months later to join Zynga. Actually, that company is also known for being despised by the masses. He basically jumped from being the drummer for Creed to the bassist at Nickelback.
Least successful comeback: NBA Live 14
Don't call it a comeback! Seriously, don't. You shouldn't call it that. EA's attempt at creating an NBA game has gone quite poorly, resulting in the announcement and cancellation of not one, but two basketball reboots in the past three years. Both NBA Elite and NBA Live 13 were benched in the weeks leading up to release. In fact, Elite was cancelled so late that some copies even shipped, making them some of the rarest (and most valuable) games in existence.
And it was all to make sure that when the franchise did come back, it would be great. "[They are] going to sit out the full year and stay focused on making next years game great," claimed EA's vice president Andrew Wilson. How did that turn out? See for yourself in our NBA Live 14 review. In short, the answer isn't "tremendously well."
Most strangely absent 3D: Pokemon X / Y
They're finally making a 3D Pokemon! They're finally making a 3D Pokemon! A real one! Where you walk around in 3D, fight Pokemon in 3D, and do actual 3D stuff! And it's coming to the 3DS--Nintendo's system that enables glasses-free 3D! Except there's a problem. Apparently developer GameFreak couldn't keep its pixel counts in line, meaning that the first 3D Pokemon had to have most of its 3D disabled.
Sometimes it would work, and it was glorious for those of us who haven't grumpily superglued their 3D sliders in an "off" position. Other times? Randomly absent. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to when it would or wouldn't work, either--it was as flaky as a what's a Pokemon that's flaky? The one that's made of ice cream? That like Aztec bird? We've got nothing. There's no good joke here; we're bailing on this one.
Anti-Game of the Year: Ride to Hell: Retribution
In a perfect world, Ride to Hell: Retribution would not exist. This miserable excuse for an action-packed biker game is what happens when a dead project from 2008 gets unceremoniously shat out into the 2013 market. From the moment this wretched anathema landed in the hands of gamers who make poor purchasing decisions, it was clear: no other work could come close to Ride to Hell as 2013's worst video game.
Where do we even start? The hand-to-hand combat, with its fixation on terribly animated QTEs and hilariously lame combos? The god-awful driving segments, which are less entertaining than taking a Zamboni for a joyride? The rampant sexism, where every female in existence is looking to "get greasy" with our fugly Neanderthal of a main character? The resulting clothes-on sex scenes that are less erotic than watching footage of praying mantises devouring their young? The buggy everything? It's so bad, it's almost funny--then you remember that unlike a campy movie, you actively have to play through a game, and doing so in Ride to Hell is excruciating beyond measure.
Ride to heck
Hopefully this didn't bring you down--sure, there were plenty of sad moments in 2013, but think of the good times! The good games! The release of several new consoles, all of which had several awesome games. And guess what? 2014? It looks even better. Now that the Anti-Awards are behind us we can look forward to a new, better future.