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The GamesRadar Anti-Awards 2011

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

We liked KoFXIII. It’s a good fighting game and the best KoF game in years, but while we were playing it, it was hard to overlook some of the (otherwise gorgeous) stage art. While the stylized background characters purposefully look a little weird, the characters in the jungle and China levels took a firm step over the line of artistic license. We get that Japan has a different cultural standard of what’s considered acceptable, but when you publish a game in other markets you don’t get a free pass. Putting horrible jungle people and hideous portrayals of the Chinese in the background is unnecessary and dumb.

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

We really don’t blame Sony for PSN being hacked, but we can say the company’s response to it was certainly lacking, and its customers needed some sort of reply a lot sooner than they got it. When Sony’s top execs finally addressed the matter publically, Kaz Hirai and two other Sony bosses started the press conference with a very traditional act of Japanese apology: each gave a deep bow to the audience, as (for a very long moment) the press soaked in their shame. A symbolic gesture, no doubt, but a very rare one for a Japanese company and a good start to Sony moving past its huge setback.

BAD TIMING AWARD:

MotorStorm: Apocalypse

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

While the latest SOCOM included a so-so single-player campaign, its real draw for SOCOM fans was unquestionably its online play. SOCOM 4 released on April 19, 2011. The very next day, Sony took the PlayStation Network offline following the infamous hacking incident, and it stayed offline for nearly a month. This neatly removed the central reason to buy the game, and effectively cut SOCOM 4 off at the knees right as it emerged onto the market. By the time service was restored, any buzz surrounding the game had faded, and SOCOM 4 had become yet another casualty of the year’s worst online security breach.

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

It should come as no surprise that we live in a land of frivolous lawsuits, but seriously, Scrolls? The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Mojang’s Scrolls are two vastly different games that share one word. The former is a massive open-world role-playing fantasy game with endless dungeons to explore, breathtaking vistas, and epic battles with fire-breathing dragons. The latter is a similar to a trading card game like Magic: The Gathering… with dragons… maybe? Is it possible to ever confuse the two? What’s next, trademarking “The”?

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

Mama always told us: If you don’t have something nice to say, cram a sock in your piehole. Good advice for the awkward, fussy tweens we used to be – but even better advice for gamers. To wit: the unseemly giddiness from Xbox fanatics over the PSN outage. Granted, it was a horrible moment for Sony and for PlayStation fans, but really. Why do you need to derive your gaming self-esteem at the expense of others? (And Sony loyalists, you’re no prize either, considering the rapid-response return fire when XBL was briefly down a few months later.)

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.

79 comments

  • UberNoob - January 6, 2012 8:27 p.m.

    Duke Nukem Forever is just taking over this list...
  • Redeater - January 6, 2012 8:41 p.m.

    DNF load times were among one of the worst things this generation. Unacceptable.
  • spencertucksen - January 6, 2012 8:49 p.m.

    DNF was the worst game I played this year. of course, I try not to play horrid games, but I needed to play that just to see how much it sucked. And it did, gloriously and in abundance.
  • shawksta - January 6, 2012 8:55 p.m.

    Heh, VERY Interesting choices this time, Poor Duke Nuken Forever, but screw it, it deserves the bashing for being unacceptable, otherwise its worth a play to see how bad they screwed up. Hah, yeah apparently Nobody likes 7 anymore, but i guess its from past tragics, as for example one of my friends Mom would get angry at him if he got 70 or anything below a 80 on tests quizes at school. Skyward Sword and uncharted 3 are fanF*UCKINGtastic games, 9 pretty much means, " They're Awesome ,Period" but they dont have that Extra "BRILLIANCE" to make them 10's like Galaxy 2 Shoving new ideas every freakin level. Mario Kart 7 and Saints Row the 3rd, i have no idea, but im sure they had their reasons. Bottom line, 9 is pretty much the best a game can get without the sprinkles, otherwise its a solid game.
  • Net_Bastard - January 7, 2012 11:12 a.m.

    SR3 got a 10 because the missions are batshit insane and amazing. Mario Kart 7 got a 10 because Justin thought it was the best in the series.
  • Errrrbo - January 6, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    I think the "How Did Anyone Think This Was OK" award should target the Hive level specifically, not so much the misogyny as a whole. In DNF, every character is a blatant stereotype and not meant to be taken seriously. Duke, for instance, has an Ego meter, indicating he's meant to be cocky douche. So having the slutty sisters strut around didn't really offend me... BUT, the Hive level is just ridiculous. It's not funny in any way, it's just gross and out of place. I have no idea what the purpose was of a level involving women basically being raped and then exploding.
  • Moondoggie1157 - January 6, 2012 9:13 p.m.

    Anti-game of the year, eh? I guess I would have to say L.A. Noire. I was really looking forward to it, and was just recently able to get it. After a few hours, I just can't bring myself to touch it. Love the concept, love the facial animation, but holy boring Batman... Aside from that, MW3 is an easy call.
  • FauxFurry - January 6, 2012 9:37 p.m.

    I can't agree with the PSN hacking entry. Not only did we all get two free games for what ever Sony game system that we owned, we also got some great entertainment out of Penny Arcade who was in rare form during that whole debacle as well as the various online gaming fora and even a little from the different hacking non-groups, especially when they started running for their fallout shelters until the blow-back blows over and the whole tragicomic nature of that farce of an event itself. Best of all, it was a learning experience for the games industry as a whole, one of the best kinds of experience that one can have, isn't it? Unlike the other entries on the list, it wasn't to be missed for the world.
  • kingsmikefan - January 7, 2012 1:43 p.m.

    That is the worst defense of Sony I have ever seen.
  • FOZ - January 6, 2012 9:42 p.m.

    I still don't see how anyone could have fallen for that Dead Island trailer. Absolutely no way the game was ever going to be anything like it. I don't even watch cg trailers because I know how little they'll represent the actual game. The only exception was Human Revolution, because the trailer was incredibly well-done, and actually maintained some of that atmosphere in parts of the game.
  • jasoncarter - January 6, 2012 9:44 p.m.

    Don't care how much in the minority I am with this one, still love duke nukem forever. There I said it, let the rage come.
  • UberNoob - January 6, 2012 11:56 p.m.

    OMFGUNOOBWTFYULIKEDNFOMFGIMGONNAKILLU!1!!!11!!!!1 There's your rage :)
  • GhostNappa2k10 - January 7, 2012 5:31 a.m.

    Certainly not the best game I've played, but enjoyable......UNTIL the Hive level. Then it just became tasteless and wrong.
  • egregious - January 6, 2012 9:47 p.m.

    Sony gave people free games for not being able to provide an online service. Microsoft has kept their heads in the dirt about their little Xbox Live FIFA account phishing thing going on. Anti-game should be Homefront, where THQ with a straight faced asked people to play a four-hour generic FPS that does nothing different and pay $60 for it. Nice try. I paid $0. No I did not pirate it. That'd be a wasted effort. lol
  • UberNoob - January 6, 2012 11:55 p.m.

    Both are still corporations after your money, just like every other one. Though Microsoft is the bigger one out of the two (damn monopolies).
  • GhostNappa2k10 - January 7, 2012 5:31 a.m.

    Technically, the whole FIFA phishing situation is not Microsoft's fault, and more the fault of the fools who hand out their personal data in the first place, and end up being involved in the scam.
  • shawksta - January 6, 2012 10:48 p.m.

    Guys, Regardless if Sony did give free games, or if the 3DS got better and gave early Adopters 20 free games, the fact is, those 2 were the Worst Moments this year.
  • ShowMeYourKitties - January 6, 2012 10:55 p.m.

    It's kinda sad that this is going to get a lot of Sony fanboy rage. It doesn't matter how you slant it, a MONTH without online while your main competitor is running strong is not a good thing... Granted, Sony did a great job of making up for the issue and I think they deserve a lot of respect for it, but still, it was a pretty crappy point during the year
  • mattwang - January 6, 2012 11:54 p.m.

    You know, I have to agree about the score. Uncharted 3 really was not as good as Uncharted 2. God I hate the cruise ship level.
  • SouthTippBass - January 7, 2012 12:08 a.m.

    Seriously, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of this sites Battlefield 3 SP campaign bashing. Get over it already, I have 107 hours clocked with this amazing game and I HAVNT EVEN OPENED THE SP! And I have no interest in doing so either, because like everybody else who bought this game, we bought it for multiplayer! Any chance ye get ye seem to just bleat on about the crappy single player, who fecking cares! The multiplayer is a 10, thats all we asked for and we got it, x10!

Showing 1-20 of 79 comments

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