2. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
2005 | PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP
Copies sold in US: Close to 1.2 million
Average score: 56%
Affectionately known as "Marvel Emesis," Marvel Nemesis was the best idea ever on paper: get a bunch of hyper-detailed Marvel superheroes into big, destructible 3D arenas and make 'em fight each other one-on-one. It looked great, and the addition of new villains created just for the game seemed like a good plan at the time. But then some genius decided that Marvel Nemesis needed to be a long, frustrating single-player beat 'em-up as well as a one-on-one fighter, and everything just went straight to hell.
The company line: "Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects delivers the most authentic and cinematic Super Hero fighting experience ever seen in a video game, while remaining faithful to the legacy of these classic characters."
What the critics said: The game's brawler mode - and the fact that you had to play it to unlock characters for the one-on-one portion - was a big target of derision, with GameSpot's Steve Palley writing, "Marvel Nemesis has been engineered in such a way that you must slog through the game's weakest parts to gain access to its best features." Other complaints included the game's unresponsive camera, its even-more-unresponsive controls and the overall dullness of battling faceless robots in mission after crappy mission. And the game's original villains - the aptly named Imperfects - turned out to be a cabal of wildly unappealing creeps with mostly unmemorable backstories and powers.
Even the game's "best" parts - its one-on-one battles - were bashed for limiting each hero's arsenal of moves to a few simple attacks. As IGN's Jeremy Dunham lamented, "once you've learned one guy, you've pretty much learned them all - everyone is essentially the same person, only animated differently with a couple of exceptions."
Why you bought it anyway: We're going to go out on a limb and guess it had something to do with the fact that the game enables you to make Spider-Man fight Wolverine to the death. Call it a hunch.
What went wrong? This was yet another case of a tight schedule and deeply flawed design conspiring to create crap. The one-on-one fights were promising, but left as they were, they would never have carried Marvel Nemesis to critical success on their own. They were button-mashy, required zero strategy and - once you'd seen cool stuff like Wolverine stabbing Spider-Man to death with his claws, or Elektra burying her sai in Daredevil's forehead - they got boring fast. But they were masterpieces compared to the brawling action, which was a buggy, dull, confusing mess. Even so, you had to slog through it if you wanted to unlock any characters for the game's more tolerable versus mode, thus stripping Nemesis of any remaining appeal.
Most infuriatingly positive quote: "Rise of the Imperfects shows that the relationship between EA and Marvel could be start [sic] of a beautiful friendship," wrote GameSpy's David Chapman. He may be right; Marvel Nemesis 2 has been reported as currently in production. Tremble in fear.