Games that looked good on paper

In all honesty, some games would be better off left on the whiteboard at the design meeting. Whether they're too ambitious, too expensive or simply too good to be true, we're frequently led to imagine great things only to have our expectations dashed when the game finally arrives. How could these games be so good on paper yet underwhelm so spectacularly? Let's take a look...

One Line Pitch
“An open-world, rich with detail across it’s 1,225 sq. miles of jungle, mountains and beaches. A GTA South America, if you will”

The Reality
It’s all very well having one of the biggest open-worlds in gaming but you’ve got to fill it with worthwhile things to do. Just Cause does not. Instead what should be an exciting sandbox game falls foul of repetitive side-missions (go here and kill that) and almost game-breaking glitches. The barren landscapes means that you have to trudge miles away using vehicles that are so rubbish to drive that most car firms wouldn’t take them in as part-exchange.   

Above: "I keep having this dream that my gameplay quality is falling"

One Line Pitch
“Next-gen sequel to EA’s superb fighter Def Jam: Fight for New York with a clever Build a Label story mode”

The Reality
EA inexplicably delivered the knockout blow to their astute series with this next-gen effort. Contrary to popular belief they decided style over substance is a winner and replaced the visceral fighting foundations with a game built around a soulless mode called Build a Label. It seems signing an artist in the hip-hop world involves repeatedly hitting them about the face and chest while Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz track, Get Low, plays on loop. The biggest problem? Mo-capping actors instead of using the animations of old hamstrung any originality in the move-sets.

Above: "3, 6, 9, standin' real fine..." *SMACK*

One Line Pitch
“Command a mech warrior the size of a skyscraper and create havoc for all that oppose”

The Reality
Apart from, say, Metal Gear Rex in MGS4 and the exoskeleton in Killzone 2, most heavy duty robots suck a rusty one. This series should be amazing, what with its myriad of customisation options and energy swords and guns but it isn’t. We want to wrestle other mechs in the street like the climax of Transformers: The Movie or at least feel as though we’re doing some damage when we swing a mighty metallic fist. But no, epic marches through desolate landscapes and the odd lacklustre tussle is all we get.

Above: Note - actual gameplay experience may be 100% less exciting

One Line Pitch
“Hitman creators serve up Michael Mann’s Heat with two grizzly anti-heroes”

The Reality
“Hitman creators serve up a glimpse of what Michael Mann’s Heat would look like in game form with two hateful leads”. This is a patchy adventure at best, and it’s no wonder the only in-game footage allowed to surface was of the level based on Tom Cruise movie, Collateral. Hitman’s shooting mechanics are ropey at best, so building a whole game around them seemed to be madness but that’s what we have here. The dialogue between the two no-marks is hard to digest and the plot misses vital juxtaposition to tie it all together. Definitely not the Hollywood blockbuster that was expected. 

Above: Lynch. With a face not even his mother could love

One Line Pitch
“Your chance to play as Superman and Batman in the gory world of Mortal Kombat” 

The Reality
It seems as though Lex Luthor has been wasting his time trying to spike Superman’s coffee with Kryptonite. If he really wanted to end the Man of Steel™ he should’ve enlisted the help of Merlin or Harry Potter. Apparently, magic is a weakness of Supes and that’s why Liu Kang can kick his ass. True, the only way this game was ever going to work was to balance them all – you couldn’t just have Superman lasering everyone from the off, right? – but the move-set between characters is almost identical and the weak fan-pleasing special moves are no more dangerous than Scorpion’s harpoon. 

Above: What's wrong with this picture? Y'know, besides everything

One Line Pitch
“Guns and swords, together at last in an FPS. Wii’s most innovative launch title.”

The Reality
A serious missed opportunity here. It’s bad enough that you can’t wield the sword and fire the gun in tandem (instead it’s broke into sections) but when you unsheathe the blade it only has a limited eight direction slash ability. So there are no wild slashes, just concentrated carves like a surgeon. Or a serial killer.

Above: Aren't pre-scripted movements supposed to look good?

One Line Pitch
“Jet fighters are cool. Y’all have seen Top Gun, right?

The Reality
Yes, they’re fast and when you cover your buddy’s six during a dogfight, it’s nice to hear them compliment your skills. But let’s be honest, all you’re really doing is lining up the shapes in the distance and pressing fire. It’s only at the end of the mission, during the replay, that you actually see some excitement as the camera angles showcase your flying skills.

Above: Scientology DLC probably coming soon.

One Line Pitch
“Forget Spyro, how about riding a huge dragon into battle and flambéing an entire army? Awesome.” 

The Reality
Play with fire and you’ll get burnt and that’s what happened with developer Factor 5. Kudos for trying something different with the SixAxis motion controls but it was too damn fiddly to play with, so much so that Sony infamously sent an extensive instruction guide to work it out.  The one on one battles with other scaly beasts are less an aerial ballet and more like throwing two lizards in the air and watching them bounce off of each other.

Above: Name one good dragon game without using the word 'Panzer'

One Line Pitch
“You, a sword and a bag of kick-ass spells versus thousands of ancient Chinese soldiers. FIGHT!”

The Reality
Feudal China; the foggiest place ever known to man. Or is this just so the developers can hide a degree of character pop-up? We suspect the latter. There are bag loads of intricacies like micro-managing your troops, unlocking new Musuo special attacks and even choosing which horse to ride into battle. But when it all boils down you hammer the buttons until fodder steps into your radius of death and repeat until finish. The enemies that are in suspended animation until you step to them are either glitches or very well rendered cowards.

Above: Pang De Sergeant? That's an order, soldier!

27 Feb, 2009

Games that shot themselves in the foot
Bad decisions, bad timing and PR-mageddon


Cool concept art vs crushing reality
Artistic ambition lost in polygon translation


  • Skykid - March 9, 2009 9:03 p.m.

    I see I speak for a good amount of people for you being too harsh on some games.
  • m3ntalist86 - March 8, 2009 10:45 a.m.

    agreed most these games were letdowns especially red steel....all hype no substance
  • revrock - March 3, 2009 9:58 p.m.

    Dragon Force for the Sega Saturn.... There it is!
  • sakboy97 - March 2, 2009 7:04 p.m.

    what about lord of the rings conquest?imo
  • revrock - March 2, 2009 5:51 a.m.

    Holey Moley! You guys are too harsh on MK vs. DCU.. props to the game for bringing back the glory of Capt. Marvel !
  • legodude666 - March 2, 2009 3:30 a.m.

    how do you F up mortal kombat vs. DC?
  • game-thugsta - March 1, 2009 2:21 p.m.

    mk v dcu is alright... but i better picture would've been supaman bein gunned down by jax in jax's machine gun fatality.... thats just awkward
  • Thelovemachine09 - March 1, 2009 4:06 a.m.

    I love the Dynasty Warriors series. Although it is a definite button-masher, it appeals to those who are interested into the Chinese culture and history, like me.
  • Valntyne - February 28, 2009 8:43 p.m.

    One good dragon game? Easy, Legend of Dragoon
  • VoodooPanda - February 28, 2009 2:26 p.m.

    DOnt care what anyone says. I love Icon and Kane & Lynch.
  • Gameguy151 - February 28, 2009 11:21 a.m.

    I agree with all of these except the flight sims. Ace Combat and HAWX are awesome!
  • AyJay - February 28, 2009 5:07 a.m.

    most of those one line pitches were two lines.
  • NelosAngelos - February 28, 2009 3:02 a.m.

    Like I couldn't see MK vs DC being a load of crap from a million miles away.
  • Hobojedi - February 27, 2009 11:45 p.m.

    It seems to me that you might have been able to find just a few more games, but the ones listed are funny too.
  • gbiZZle08 - February 27, 2009 10:36 p.m.

    Too Human shoulda been on here. at least that's my opinion
  • haford - February 27, 2009 10:06 p.m.

    I hope you will be proved wrong on the air combat, when Hawx comes out soon, played the demo and that looks like the replays from Ace Combat, so we can only hope
  • TrIp13G - February 27, 2009 5:39 p.m.

    Ooooh, Brett's gonna be mad at one of these...
  • KHfan - February 27, 2009 5:11 p.m.

    lair is an awesome game shame on you
  • Ell223 - February 27, 2009 3:27 p.m.

    first good article i remember getting very excited about red steel but it was a let down
  • Warewullf - April 21, 2009 12:56 p.m.

    Um, one of Superman's weaknesses is, and always has been, magic. Just sayin'...

Showing 1-20 of 41 comments

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