Winner: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Eidos | 360, PS3, PC
Kane & Lynch wasn't 2007's worst game by a long shot, but quality isn't really what this particular "award" is about. No, Kane & Lynch was the year's most infamous game, at the heart of a scandal that - whether justified or not - drew the ire of gamers, put it at the top of seemingly everyone's hate list and threw into doubt the integrity of every game reviewer working for a major publication.
It's not the developers' fault, or even the game's fault, necessarily. Seemingly a "B" title that was fast-tracked for triple-A status by a publisher in need of a big holiday hit, Kane & Lynch was built up by a huge marketing blitz that included a massive ad campaign, a fake interview in Playboy and plans to turn the game into a major motion picture. Unfortunately, it was still just a B-list shooter at heart, and when the reviews reflected that, publisher Eidos was unhappy. Specifically, it was unhappy with the reviewers.
Long story short, Eidos reportedly called game-news outlet GameSpot (which had "skinned" its entire site with a Kane & Lynch theme as part of that ad blitz we mentioned earlier) to complain about its 6/10 review score, and soon afterward, veteran reviewer Jeff Gerstmann was fired. Only Gerstmann and his former bosses know for sure if these events were actually linked, but in the minds of an audience quick to jump to conclusions, the connection was clear: Gerstmann had been fired for not kissing the ass of a powerful advertiser. The idea was chilling to journalists, but in the minds of many gamers, it seemed to confirm something they'd suspected all along - that review scores, as a rule, are bought and paid for by publishers. And when it was revealed that Eidos had published fake review scores for Kane & Lynch, that only bolstered the idea that they were up to no good.
In the end, though, this award isn't about Gerstmann or GameSpot. It's about Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and how a massive marketing campaign backfired to the point where it damaged a site's reputation, tainted the integrity of all game reviews by extension and earned the game itself a whole world of hate. And it's also about how, as a game, Kane & Lynch just isn't very good.
Scratched disc: Lair
Sony | PS3
This isn't the worst game of the year, either, but it's another excellent example of a game that was groomed to be triple-A material and then turned out to be hot garbage on toast. Nobody got fired over it as far as we know, but the "reviewer guides" - sent out, oddly enough, a week after everyone had reviewed the game - made for some decent joke fodder.