HOW DID ANYONE THINK THIS WAS OK? AWARD:
Duke Nukem Forever’s rampant misogyny
Depictions of women in videogames – particularly games starring Duke Nukem – haven’t always been the most enlightened, to say the least. It comes with the territory. So when we went into Duke Nukem Forever, we did so expecting that any female characters we encountered would be jiggling, possibly imperiled airheads. What we didn’t expect was that they’d start out shrill and annoying and, from there, inspire in games journalists a level of outrage usually reserved for moral watchdog groups.
Never mind that the women in the campaign amount to little more than vapid objects for players to stare at, or that the “flags” in its Capture the Babe multiplayer mode have to be spanked in order to get them to stop waving their hands in front of your face. What tips the scales past run-of-the-mill sexism into outright misogyny is the now-infamous Hive level. Filled with sobbing, mostly naked women who explode with glowing alien spawn if they’re not mercy-killed first, it’s not funny or sexy. It’s just callous and repulsive, and Duke’s weirdly flat, smirky and mildly annoyed reaction to the whole thing only makes it more so:
Above: NSFW, so be warned
Runner-up: King of Fighters XIII’s racism
THE JAPANESE SHAME AWARD:
Final Fantasy XIV
The launch of Final Fantasy XIV last year was such a disaster that it ended up being free to play until recently. Remember there was supposed to be a PS3 version? Check back in another year. Since the embarrassing launch, the development team has been reshuffled, and Square Enix has publicly apologized (multiple times) for releasing an MMO that was riddled with so many problems.
Everything you tried to do in-game was a chore, and for an MMO that was supposed to be “easier” for players to get into, it was the opposite. FFXIV was clearly designed for a controller (but released on the PC); basic functions like accessing your inventory were a multiple-step process, and the game did a terrible job at communicating anything that would be of use to you.
You know it’s bad when CEO Yoichi Wada admitted that the Final Fantasy brand has been “greatly damaged” because of FFXIV. FFXI wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, either, but Final Fantasy XIV brought awful interfaces, poor design and apologies from publishers to a whole new level.
Runner-up: Sony execs bow in apology for PSN outage
BAD TIMING AWARD:
When we found out in 2010 that the fourth MotorStorm would take its death-defying off-road action into a crumbling, earthquake-demolished city seemed like a ballsy, exciting shift in tone for the series. Of course, its developers couldn’t have foreseen that the planned release of their fictional earthquake would coincide with the very real Tohoku quake, which caused a massive tsunami, claimed thousands of lives and triggered multiple nuclear accidents in Japan.
After the quake struck on March 11, it took Sony a few days to realize that maybe releasing a game about a quake demolishing a city wasn’t in the best taste when similar scenes were unfolding across its home country. After releasing the game in mainland Europe and Australia on March 16 and 17, respectively, Sony canceled the Japanese release. The UK and US ship dates were then delayed until April and May (also respectively). Even then, reminders of the quake and its (literal) fallout were still prominent, if not constant, fixtures in the news, and it was impossible to play Apocalypse without feeling just a little weird about it.
Runner-up: SOCOM 4
BIGGEST INDUSTRY DICK MOVE:
The Ocean Marketing debacle
Above: Former Avenger representative Paul Christoforo and the peripheral he formerly represented
Imagine: On a playground, a kid that’s a little older than the rest, husky, with a mean sneer and horrid grammar, is pushing around a smaller kid for asking an innocent question. A third kid tells the bigger kid to stop or he’ll bust out his black-belt kung fu. The bigger kid says he isn’t scared because he can do whatever he wants and knows the mayor of karate. Next thing you know, the big kid has a bloody nose and the whole playground is laughing and throwing rocks at him. That happened on the internet a couple weeks ago with Ocean Marketing’s Paul Christoforo, who was acting as a representative for the Avenger controller accessory, and Penny Arcade.
We won’t explain the whole thing here, just read the original post on Penny Arcade. Who can say if PA went too far or if the marketing douche deserved everything that happened to him? Still, there are at least two lessons you should take from this PR nightmare: 1. Treat your customers with respect. 2. If someone says they run one of the biggest and most influential gaming events and websites in the world, maybe you should Google him first before calling him a liar (among other, worse things).
Runner-up: Mojang v. Bethesda
FANBOYS TOTALLY LOSING IT:
Apparently 9s are terrible now
A lot of complaints have been made about the “7-10 scale” reviewers are accused of working under, but the fact is that a lot of gamers (and a lot of reviewers) consider a score of 7 to be bad. At GR, we believe the opposite: 7 is good (we even say so under the number in our reviews)! Lately, though, we’ve seen some worrying inflation of score expectation from fanboys. It started in 2009, when people went apeshit after we gave InFamous a 7. Then, people threw a fit when Halo: Reach got an 8. It finally got ridiculous this year, however, when fanboys had aneurysms over our scores for Uncharted 3 and Zelda: Skyward Sword. We gave those games 9s. Nine out of ten. 90%. Cream of the crop.
But that wasn’t good enough. Now, not only is anything less than a perfect score viewed with suspicion, it’s deemed terrible – or at least, it’s deemed that the reviewer thinks it’s terrible. It seems we’ve gone from an already troubling 7-10 scale to a 9-10 scale. Now 10 is the minimum a game has to receive to be considered worth playing/well-reviewed, and a 9 might as well be a 1. People, we need to take a step back, take a breath and realize that the world is not black and white. Nothing is either amazing or terrible. There are wonderful shades in between. It’s OK to play a game that’s a 6. It’s OK to admit the latest entry in your favorite series might be slightly (SLIGHTLY) worse than its predecessor. Relax.
Runner-up: Giddy glee over console meltdowns
WE ARE NOT YOUR BETA TESTERS:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
To release a buggy game is bad. To release a buggy version of one of the biggest games of the year is terrible. But the PS3 version of Skyrim clinches this award not just because of the inverse game profile/game quality ratio. No, on top of all that, it wins because of how downright lazy and cynical the release was, and how belligerently ineffective Bethesda has been at handling the disaster.
The cynical part? Putting out a game intended to be played for tens if not hundreds of hours, which became unplayably broken only after around 30 hours were already invested. But hey, faulty products are fine as long as no-one finds out until after they’ve bought them, right? Either Bethesda knew about the problem and put the game out anyway, hoping that the issues would kick in too late for reviewers to find, or else its own internal play-testing is just barely existent. Though given that Skrim’s problems have exactly the same symptoms as the issues that wrecked the PS3 version of Bethesda’s Fallout 3 (which used the same engine), we’d understand if you swung heavily towards the former conclusion.
The Sony version of Fallout 3 was never completely fixed. And the PS3 Skyrim is still a bit of a mess two months after release. Just saying.
Runner-up: Dead Island
While Skyrim's technical issues on PS3 were hidden behind hours of gameplay, Dead Island was at least up-front about being a broken, buggy mess. Right from the get-go, it was apparent that developer Techland's zombie holiday could have done with a few more months being assembled into a 'finished product'. Quests couldn't be completed. Inventories vanished. Textures and frame-rate couldn't be bothered half the time. And lots of annoying game crashes. Techland has done its best to patch the problems, and there is definitely fun to be had with Dead Island. BUT. Releasing something so half-baked is inexcusable.