Games that shot themselves in the foot

Bad decisions, bad timing and PR-mageddon

Tekken 6

It's like MK vs. DC with a dash of Gran Turismo and a pinch of Disaster thrown in for seasoning. We could essentially just write "See above", but we do have jobs to justify so on with the details. Despite increasing accusations of staleness, the fanboy reaction to Tekken 6's announcement was a good one. But then the initial excitement died down, and the home release disappeared off the radar.

Above: After the long delay, the game's evolution into Tekken vs. Babe vs. Kung Fu Panda Universe proved controversial

Another early “Yay! Woo! PS3!” title, it’s now scheduled for release next autumn on both HD machines. Late, and probably prompting another mild Sony fanboy backlash for crossing over to “the other side”. By that time we’ll have had HD Remix, SFIV, Tatsunoku vs. Capcom in Japan, and don’t forget that Virtua Fighter 5 is still going strong. With currently known upgrades largelysounding likebasic or very silly additions (we know it’s Tekken, but seriously), is anyone going to care that much by then?


Spore

Strange how one wrong decision can so spectacularly foul things up, isn’t it? For a couple of years, Spore was the darling of the gaming community. A brand new Sim Everything with epic scope and UGC tools of hitherto unheard of power and versatility. But then EA decided that instead of letting us buy it, it was going to essentially give us a long term loan of the game by way of a SecuROM DRM install limit. For the full retail price.

Above: Spore's civilisation-building gameplay built an empire alright. AN EMPIRE OF CRIME!

It seemed EA didn't want people really owning Spore, and fortuitously for them, the people decided the very same thing. They downloaded the crap out of it instead. After a massive internet backlash EA generously extended the limitations, figuring that after paying to be in actual, legal posession of the game, players might, just maybe, like more than three installs ever for their money. But by that time the most promising game of the past couple of years had been turned into a bitter-tasting debacle. And the piracy which EA was so keen to avoid? Spore is now officially the most illegally downloaded game of 2008, clocking in 1.7 million rip-offs. Some games are happy to even sell that many. Oh, and there are two class-action lawsuits on the way to the publisher now too. Good work EA. Glad it all worked out for you in the end.


Manhunt 2

The BBFC and ESRB were responsible for Manhunt 2’s troubles, right? Well yes, but if you trace back the causes of the whole sorry farce, there’s definitely some blame to be claimed by Rockstar too.

Above: Manhunt 2's scuffle with the ratings boards was very nearly fatal

Have no doubt, we like Rockstar and we thoroughly respect their efforts in pushing the boundaries of adult gaming with Manhunt 2 and GTA IV. But unfortunately, it’s impossible to disregard the definite possibility that their work was hampered by certain caffeinated past mistakes. The Hot Coffee debacle of GTA: San Andreas, caused by Rockstar leaving the code for the now iconic adult material locked away in the game but available by hacking, must surely have left the ESRB and BBFC more than a little bitter, and taking that assumption it’s perhaps understandable that said ratings boards took a more wary, hardline approach to such an unashamedly ultraviolent game from the same publisher.

Above: Manhunt 2's eventual Euro release put smiles on a few faces, even a year after the US launch

Naturally, we don’t accept any ban on media as justifiable when we have an adult ratings system. Such an act defies common sense, and the BBFC’s explanations were shaky in logic to say the least. But nevertheless, the immense delay suffered by the game – particularly in Europe – did Manhunt 2 no favours, and by the time it eventually appeared the effect of the early hype and marketing had long-since dissipated. And it looked a bit rough, even for a Wii game. It’s a real shame, as although a little scrappy, Manhunt 2 is quite a lot of fun. In the long run, Rockstar’s ratings victory could set a more mature precedent for gaming’s treatment as a medium, but it's still sad to see a decent little game fall as part of the battle. Especially when a little extra carefulness might have seenn things run a bit more smoothly.


No More Heroes

No More Heroes was brilliant, subversive, adult and funny as hell. So what went wrong? Well firstly, and ironically, there was the simple fact that NMH was an artistic, leftfield action game on the Wii. Despite the hardcore hoo-ha surrounding the game pre-release, by the time it appeared, the system was firmly cementing itself as a home of lightweight dross. With the best will in the world, hardcore gamers were turning their backs on the machine in droves, and the casual players who were left wouldn’t have looked at NMH twice if they’d even heard of it. Which they hadn’t.

Above: Lightsabers, huge motorbikes and 8-bit graphics. NMH deserved to conquer the world

Then there were the European publishing decisions. After initially grabbing the attention with it’s ultra-cool stylised art and gleefully excessive gore, NMH suffered a censored visual tone-down in Japan, and amid unfathomable explanations (perhaps covering twitchy pants over the then-recent Manhunt 2 fiasco), developer Grasshopper decided to release that version in the EU as well. The game itself was just as brilliant as it had ever been, but amid a perception of the Wii becoming an ever more mainstream fluff machine, the sanitisation of such a unique title can’t have sat well with the game’s target audience.

Above: Hopefully NMH: Desperate Struggle won't live up to its title

Throw in an unenthusiastic PR presentation when it first turned up in the office (“Well, it speaks for itself, doesn’t it?”) and even we had doubts about NMH until we could spend some more time ploughing its depths. No other Wii game has suffered such disparity between treatment deserved and treatment recieved. Mercifully though, Euro publisher Rising Star seems to be putting things right with the sequel (subtitled Desperate Struggle) and is releasing both the gory and censored versions in Europe this time. Good work chaps. Let's give this one a massive push, eh?



How poor planning can wreck franchises both big and small




We chronicle the embarrassments that the industry would rather you forgot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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