7 ways to spot an impending crap sequel

Sometimes things turn out perfectly of course (Gears 2, please stay brilliant), but all too often a myriad of stunningly stupid ideas screw things right up during the development process. So to protect you from buying any more of these bad games, deceitfully masquerading as they do, under the good names of their predecessors, we've compiled a list of warning signs to look out for.

Like it or not, a good proportion of gamers are, and always have been, adolescent boys. And as the music industry has proven over countless years of turgid, corporate nu-metal and identikit emo, making money off teenagers with angsty material is like shooting fish in a barrel. Using that huge great satellite laser from Akira.

Thus it should come as no surprise that this cynical marketing to cynical consumers has become rife in the field of videogames. It's bad enough that the majority of today's new game "heroes" are sociopathic miseryshits with the smiling ability of headless crayfish, but even worse is when an existing franchise takes a turn for the mopey in the name of easy sales.

The core gameplay may remain the same, but a vital part of the overall experience is lost whenever personality and flair are replaced with generic misery and anger. Of course the combat engine in Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within is far more rewarding than that of its predecessor, and yes, the platforming was just as good, but the game on the whole just wasn't as much fun to play. The reason for that? Fresh and original style was papered over with borderline offensive cliche, making the whole game feel far more generic than it actually was.

Worst offenders
Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within, Bomberman: Act Zero, Shadow The Hedgehog

Notable exceptions

Potential future offenders
Bionic Commando

Would you hire Nora Ephron to direct a new Rambo film? Would the Sistine Chapel ceiling have been just as good if Michelangelo had knocked off early and let a local painter and decorator finish the job? Would it in fact, be a sterling idea for a pizza restaurant to draft in a Chinese chef if there was a lack of available Italians? The answer to all of these questions is of course "No", and coincidentally that's a word we've screamed countless times in anguish when a good videogame franchise has been passed on to a less suitable developer.

As much as they're big budget, mass market entertainment these days, the best videogames are still the product of a dedicated, personal design vision, whether that comes from a single director or an entire studio. To assume that designers are interchangable as long as the brand name remains the same is the kind of thinking that brought us Batman Forever. Take heed of that lesson, friends.

Worst offenders
Twisted Metal 3, Call Of Duty 3, Soldier Of Fortune: Payback, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, both FEAR expansions, Street Fighter EX

Notable exceptions
Sonic Rush, Tomb Raider: Legend, Guitar Hero III

Potential future offenders
Silent Hill: Homecoming, Bionic Commando

This phenomenon might seem a somewhat anachronistic entry in this day and age, but as anyone who lived through the transition between 16 and 32 bit gaming will tell you, the scars inflicted by its horrors never truly heal.

During that period, we witnessed things that should never be seen by human eyes. 2D game design and graphical artistry were at their peak, but almost overnight were replaced wholesale with the scrappy, glitchy polygons and cat-vomit textures of a then-immature third dimension. Of course, triumphs like Super Mario 64 and Virtua Fighter paved the way for the glorious present-day of gaming, but a lot of good friends were lost along the way; either hideously mutated by the clunky new technology or killed stone dead after being forced inappropriately into a messy 3D format which just didn't suit them.

And despite 3D's current dominance, that second problem still occurs to this very day. At the end of the day, 2D is a perfectly legitimate game design choice, and certain games are just not natural friends with the third dimension.

Worst offenders
Castlevania 64, Earthworm Jim 3D, Street Fighter EX, Sonic Adventure, Final Fight Streetwise

Notable exceptions
Super Mario 64, Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid

Potential future offenders
He is a Commando. He is Bionic.

David Houghton
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.