The GamesRadar Anti-Awards 2011

A few weeks ago, we set aside our cynicism, put on our nicest smiles and threw a huge, three-part celebration in honor of all the cool stuff gaming brought us over the course of 2011. But now 2011 is over, and so are the Platinum Chalice Awards. It’s time now for another, darker tradition: the ceremonial dragging-out and clubbing of the worst games, moments and people that we had to endure over the past year.

Our “award” this year comes in the form of Duke Nukem’s Balls of Steel, a crass, useless special-edition bonus that we chose for reasons that will become apparent very quickly.


Duke Nukem Forever

Back in 1996, when Duke Nukem 3D stomped onto the market, a bunch of us instantly became huge fans. So when the following year brought the announcement that Duke would return in the now-legendary-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Duke Nukem Forever, we were more than a little excited. And so we waited, eagerly, for more details. And we waited. And waited. And then waited some more. Eventually, we stopped waiting, and DNF became a cruel internet joke, synonymous with vaporware and dashed hopes.  

After developer 3D Realms’ long-overdue demise in 2009, however, a handful of screenshots trickle out that made us wonder what could have been. And the following year, when we found out Gearbox was swooping in to rescue the project, we were overjoyed. We knew to temper our expectations, of course, but how could we not look forward to the release of a game we’d been denied for 15 years?

Turns out we should have tempered our expectations a lot more. Duke Nukem Forever took our revived hopes and smashed them face-first into a curb made of hideous graphics, dated gameplay and outrageously misguided attempts at edginess. As much as we’re looking forward to seeing what Gearbox does with Duke now that this is out of the way, DNF would have been disappointing even if we hadn’t been excited for it.

Runner-up: Homefront

Long before a well-publicized PR fiasco and middling reviews took the wind from its sails, Homefront looked awesome. It cleverly eschewed the Russians/Not-Taliban enemy paradigm, pitting players against the North Koreans. Playing as a hardscrabble rebel fighting for your survival instead of another bland military drone also had its appeal. Unfortunately, the game itself was a letdown on almost every front, especially the campaign. At about four hours, it was inexcusably short, and while the multiplayer fared better, it was still held back by the average weapons and gameplay. Homefront proved that a great premise can go a long way, but it can’t mask a mediocre game.


Battlefield 3’s campaign

Battlefield 3’s friendly NPCs almost don’t count as squad AI at all, such is their almost stubborn refusal to attempt the simulation of any kind of intelligence or human behavior at all. Where even half-decent AI will at least be aware of your in-game actions and react accordingly, even if it does so while running blindly to its own death for the 17th time in a row, Battlefield 3’s doesn’t even know you’re there. At all. Attempting to interact with it is like trying to start a conversation with one of the animatronic displays in a museum. 

You’re sitting happily in cover? Well, screw you if you’re in the cover that the devs have decided – months before you got the game – that a certain AI character is going to use. He’ll get into position regardless, and push you straight out into the open. Waiting for the agonizingly scripted AI to open the next door so that you can progress? Sometimes they won’t bother. Or will clip straight through the door without opening it, leaving you behind. Battlefield 3’s campaign is less a game and more a 3D animated movie that you experience from the inside. But also that you keep getting booted out of because the actors don’t know you’re there.

Runner-up: Gears of War 3 (for being too good)

If two-player co-op is amazing, four-player co-op should be extra amazing. Right? Well, yeah, as long as you’re willing to live with the consequences. Marcus’s friends are great to have around when they’re controlled by real people, but when left to the computer AI, they’re kind of a bunch of assholes. Showboating jerks who will steal your executions and finish off bosses while you’re still trying to gather ammo a hundred yards away. They’re the reason Gears of War 3 can only be enjoyed on Hardcore difficulty – Normal practically plays itself.


Battlefield 3’s campaign

OK, we’ve covered how unremitting Battlefield 3’s “friendly” AI is in its destruction of any sort of interactive fun you may attempt to have with the game, but it’s really just the final wrecking ball which ultimately flattens the shambolically shaky brickwork underpinning the whole sorry experience. 

Battlefield 3’s campaign plays like a modern military FPS designed by someone who has had a modern military FPS described to them, but has never actually seen one and has no direct understanding of the actual human experience of playing one. All of the core elements are there on paper – scripted set-pieces, QTEs, vicious first-person close-quarters combat, “shocking” plot twists – but it’s all slapped together in such a scrappy, lumpen way as to come off more like a parody of the genre’s failings than an entry in its own right. Every trope is over-used to the point that the entire game is simply a semi-interactive lecture on game-design cliché. And to make matters worse, it can’t even be enjoyed as such, because the nuance-free, brute-force enemy AI is so moronically aggressive as to render the game nightmarishly difficult in all the wrong ways. 

But multiplayer is brilliant. 

Runner-up: Rage’s endgame

(WARNING: DISAPPOINTING SPOILERS AHEAD) Rage is compelling, immersive, gorgeous, and just plain fun for most of its single-player campaign. Exploring the wasteland in your souped-up buggy is a joy, and there’s nothing as satisfying as nailing an oncoming mutant with your trusty wingstick. Suddenly, though, the game just ends. You’ll swear you’re approaching an epic confrontation with some classic id mega-boss, but instead you enter a generic sci-fi facility and fight fifty cyborg versions of enemies you’ve already fought throughout the game. The game even gives you a BFG right near the end, and then gives you nothing worthwhile to shoot it at. What a letdown.


PlayStation Network gets hacked

The April-May PlayStation Network outage was certainly a low point for Sony this year, with 77 million compromised accounts and losses of upwards of $171 million. But the worst thing about the entire affair wasn't just the hacking itself, or that PSN was down for weeks – it was how Sony handled the entire debacle.

Nearly a week of downtime passed before users were notified that their information had been compromised due to an "external intrusion." A week! And we later learned that our personal information, including usernames and passwords, hadn’t been properly encrypted. Awesome.

Thankfully, there were no reported cases of credit card fraud that were tied to the PSN security breach, and Sony tried to make nice by offering free enrollment to an identity theft protection program as well as free games. While Xbox fanboys enjoyed a nice moment of schadenfreude, PlayStation owners were fuming for weeks, waiting nearly a month for PSN to go back up. Unfortunately, the developers that had released games in that period suffered the most, as players had no way of playing them online. And by the time they could, they’d stopped caring.

Runner-up: The miserable 3DS launch

Our expectations have lowered since the days when a system would launch with something on the level of Soul Calibur or Super Mario 64, but the 3DS launch this year was a joke. Sloppy ports, $40 games that lasted four hours, games that used 3D so poorly that they made us almost hate the feature. Even Nintendo pushed out half-baked yawns like Nintendogs + Cats and Steel Diver. The 3DS eventually recovered, but back in March, things were looking grim.

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  • Kuro - January 12, 2012 7:11 a.m.

    Is it bad that I liked the Battlefield 3 campaign? I never really noticed the AI ignoring my existence. I was enjoying myself, honestly. xD As for Duke Nukem.. Man.. I only got to the third or fourth level. I glitched through objects so many times that the low-brow humor which I usually enjoy couldn't even keep me playing. Thank god for Gamefly though. Saved me about $60 at the time of playing it. I'm a 360 fan, and I think it's really cool how the Sony guys bowed. You mentioned it already, but it should be stressed that in their position, that's a really honorable way for them to apologize. The deeper and longer the bow, the more it's supposed to mean. And I agree.. DA2 should have had something about how you replay the same areas over and over.. It's a little depressing to play for a second time.. Last but not least.. someone mentioned MW3 getting a mention? I agree as well that it should. It's the same gameplay from Modern Warfare 2. Which was TWO games ago. I really love apple pie, but after eating apple pie so much I will eventually get sick of it. And when there's suddenly a ton of hype about this NEW type of pie that turns out to be apple pie in a new box.. well.. that's just time to switch to a different type of desert. In otherwords, I've jumped from one side of the field to the other. Loved CoD until the latest entry. Until they start mixing things up, you won't see me playing it. It should get an entry somewhere.
  • slimjim441 - January 9, 2012 11:56 p.m.

    Quit your bitchin about DNF. Dated graphics aside, it was an awesome game and exactly what I wanted, just a little later than expected. If you ask me [shifts into maximum overtroll], Modern Warfare 3 should've won anti GOTY. The CoD series is a load of garbage after CoD2. I'm sick of people hyping up the series as the best gaming franchise when it's just a bunch of half-assed games that every Johnny No-Balls jacks himself off to his superior abilities to camp over his equally dickless opponents. So f*ck you CoD. Duke Nukem kicks ass.
  • AlphaDogZero - January 11, 2012 1 a.m.

    DNF wasn't just a mess because of the last gem graphics, it was also a mess because of the terrible gameplay, horrible dialog and absurd design choices -- GR are spot on in calling it the anti game of the year. Atleast CoD gets the (recycled) gameplay right.
  • slimjim441 - January 11, 2012 3:06 p.m.

    The gameplay wasn't horrible. There wasn't much to mess up in the first place. Running, jumping, shooting; it was all fine. And of course the dialogue is horrible, it's Duke Nukem. Full of cheesy kill lines, dumbass NPCs, and a half-assed plot made solely for the purpose of being able to have Duke kill aliens. My only major grief with the game is the lack of arsenal. Only being able to carry four weapons at a time was a little disappointing. But it was still one helluva game.
  • winner2 - January 9, 2012 2:37 p.m.

    DA2, definitely the biggest let down in gaming for me.
  • ET83phonehome - January 11, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    I can see where you're coming from, and I'm surprised that title never got a mention even in any of the GR editors' personal lists. I went into DA:Origins with no expectations and was still blown away. It was an original and compelling IP, which is traditionally hard to come by in RPGS. I eagerly awaited DA:II, and reserved my skepticism until actual playing it upon release, but found it just so lacking. Technically it did a number of things right and certainly did nothing that rendered it unplayable, but it was such an unfulfilled promise of what had been expected of a the sequel of DA:Origins.
  • Darkhawk - January 9, 2012 9:44 a.m.

    RE: The 9-10 scale. There was a time when 10/10 meant, quite literally, perfect, and it was reserved for titles like Super Mario 64 or Metal Gear Solid. Once you gave Bulletstorm a "perfect" score, you brought this upon yourself.
  • dekmaine - January 9, 2012 11:05 a.m.

    Exactly And whether or not a 10 means a "perfect" game is beside the point.It's still the highest possible score any game can get (inb4 11) and recently it's been given away too easily. e.g. Bulletstorm, seriously? At the time of the review everyone was so caught up in a joyful bliss of 10/10 that no one made a fuss about it. By the time we realise it the score system and fanboy expectations have been inflated.
  • TwinHallow - January 9, 2012 7:14 a.m.

    Best one is the Zelda one lol im a fan of the series and a 9 is pretty Awsome
  • quincytheodore - January 9, 2012 1:08 a.m.

    I was enjoying this article, then I... read the boner part. Geezuz, those two are the most turn off things in game. How could anyone...? While we're on subject, I got candidate, highly possibly winner of 2012 Anti-award, or Best of, your call. You're gonna make an article for that, aren't you? Be honest...
  • Tikicobra - January 8, 2012 6:28 p.m.

    Did that opening paragraph make any sense to anyone?
  • matt-litzinger - January 8, 2012 6:21 p.m.

    Yes, the Xbox fanboy slamming of PSN going down was lame as all hell. I wasen't aware XBl went offline this year though but I did notice problems with its service I was having. One of the worst fanboy moments you forgot to point out was the Battlefield PC community constantly harassing the console players about anything and everything. Dues Ex comes in second for PC to console harassment.
  • talleyXIV - January 8, 2012 12:12 p.m.

    I have to be honest, I love Skyward Sword and with everything in me I believe that it straight up, no doubt deserves a 10. However I didn't post a comment about it. I realized that some people might not be up to the challenge of moving their arms for hours at a time. I also realized that a person not so physically up to the challenge might not enjoy the game as much as others. They may prefer to sit down to a game of Bulletstorm that got a 10, and just twiddle their thumbs and only use their index fingers, laughing along with the hilarious dick jokes and endless slaughtering of enemies. Instead of playing a game with a unique story, a control scheme that immerses you into the game, and some of the most brilliant puzzles and combat ever created, that got a 9. I understand. No really, I completely understand.
  • talleyXIV - January 8, 2012 11:39 a.m.

    I have to be honest. I think about 8 people were looking forward to Duke Nukem Forever, and they didn't even have good expectations.
  • doominatorx6 - January 8, 2012 6:17 p.m.

    You forgot me. So 9 people.
  • Stabby_Joe - January 8, 2012 10:57 a.m.

    Duke Nukem Forever didn't offend me as much as some other games (Blackwater as runner up is a good call). Although I am curious to the supposed better quality of the single-player DLC. Granted it's still probably going to not be very good but a step in the right direction maybe?
  • Ultimadrago - January 8, 2012 10:30 a.m.

    Gamesradar, for not expecting rampant misogyny in DUKE NUKEM...slap everyone in your offices...and then yourself.
  • CitizenWolfie - January 8, 2012 10:06 a.m.

    Just had a totally crazy thought. Utterly insane of course. Batshit insane. But here goes: What if, the reason GamesRadar have been giving so many high scores lately is because... wait for it... brace yourself... ... there have been a lot of brilliant games released this year? Oh the horror! How silly of me. Obviously GR are doing it on purpose to annoy us all and/or subliminally alter the standard scoring system. Yeah, that must be it.
  • doominatorx6 - January 8, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    'sigh' And yet another 'worst of 2011' list that has Duke Nukem as the shittest game of the year. Come on. You just knew that it was NEVER going to reach expectations, and even with that in consideration, people still expected way too much from it. Always bet on Duke? Maybe not. Plus, i'm pretty sure there were FAR shittier games that came out. Call of Juarez: The Cartel comes to mind.