We’ve rattled our way through Game of the Year award after award as we round up 2021, but as with any taster menu with over a dozen courses, you’re going to want a few little palette cleansers along the way. A nice sorbet or mint to give your taste buds a little break and help them welcome new flavours once again.
On Boxing Day it was our Alternative Awards, but for the day before we reveal our overall Game of the Year winner it’s time to look at the flops, the pits that were plumbed in thoroughly disappointing fashion.
For the last few years, we’ve also included things that happened within the industry – the Blitzchung affair in 2019, the #MeToo accusations that swirled around Ubisoft in 2020 – but in 2021 it would be truly bizarre to have the endless string of harassment accusations, executive inaction and deceit, and more at Activision Blizzard be placed alongside a somewhat shonky remaster. We’re reigning in this ignominious award to be about the disappointing games, but let it be clear that we’re still really bloody disappointed in Activision Blizzard (just as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are), that there’s far too many allegations that result in inaction across the industry as a whole, and that we think that NFTs in video games are currently only being used as another exploitative method to wring money out of ‘whales’ and easily influenced children.
That out of the way, here’s our Biggest Disappointment of 2021.
There’s basic ports, there’s minimal effort remasters and then, it seems, there’s Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition. Perhaps that “Definitive” should be in air quotes?
While there have been significant improvements to the lighting, reflections and more that are now possible on modern consoles compared to the PlayStation 2, significantly enhancing some parts of each game’s visual style, other areas have been less well received, such as the more cartoony look to the character models. That’s before we come to the awful rain effect that was slathered across the screen at the trilogy’s launch (which has now been amended), and countless areas where it was made clear that many assets were run through AI upscaling and enhancements without then being properly appraised by a human eye. Then there was the performance, with even the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X unable to hold a 60fps frame rate.
All of that would be disappointing enough if it wasn’t also wrapped up in the money-sucking machinations of a major corporation like Take Two. The rumours of GTA: The Trilogy were given credence by the way that Take Two attacked the modding community prior to the official announcement. Then, when it had been announced, their lips were sealed over performance targets and all we saw in the brief trailers were the visual changes, no gameplay that would have revealed the flawed production.
Rockstar has apologised, saying that “The updated versions of these classic games did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect.” Where was that discerning attitude before the trilogy was released? It’s all coming too late, but we’re sure Take Two’s CFO is still pretty happy with the return on investment.
Diablo II Resurrected – Runner Up
Here’s the thing about Diablo II Resurrected: it’s actually a rather good remake of the classic action RPG! The gameplay absolutely holds up in a modern context, and (in stark contrast to Warcraft III: Reforged) the visual enhancements are great with wonderfully refined lighting and reflections in particular. So what’s it doing in this list?
To a certain extent it’s a game that’s tarnished by association with Activision Blizzard’s year of scandal, but that’s not why it’s in this spot. Instead, it’s here for what happened the week after the game came out. The servers crumbled as the game’s reliance on legacy code combined with rising interest after favourable early reviews and gameplay to crush the capacity that Blizzard had allowed for.
This wouldn’t have been so bad, if not for the decision to lock your characters to either online or offline play and players losing progression as a consequence.
Battlefield 2042 – Runner Up
The expectations for Battlefield’s return to modern warfare grew and grew through 2020 and 2021. The post-launch support and changes to Battlefield V had disappointed, and when Battlefield 2042 was announced, the expansion to 128-player battles were an enticing prospect. What actually released in November was less universally welcomed.
One of the main sticking points with Battlefield 2042 was the step away from standard character classes toward hero characters with unique abilities and access to any and all weapons in the game. It’s a change that breaks down some of the fundamentals that the series has been built upon all the way back to the original Battlefield 1942, while the step up to 128-player battles have led to larger maps that lack character in Conquest, especially when there’s just a single weather event that can come through to disrupt the game. It’s all in stark contrast to the reminder of the series’ highlights found within the Battlefield Portal mode, which remakes Battlefield 3, Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1942 within the new engine.
Of course, the game also has its fair few issues and bugs around launch with overpowered Hovercraft that can ride up the sides of skyscrapers, server errors, and a UI that’s cluttered and fails to recreate some of the basic usability found in pervious games. Some of these have been addressed, others will have to wait as DICE transitions into supporting the game through seasons of live content.
The question is, will this be a Battlefield 4 redemption story, or end up as another Battlefield V misstep?
Dishonourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- eFootball 2022 – Released far before it was ready, with content and updates delayed.
- Halo Infinite – Missing co-op and onerous multiplayer monetisation.
- Pikmin Bloom – Numerous stability issues for a game that should be able to build on the framework of Pokémon Go.
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Remake/Remaster
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Visual Design
- Best Original Soundtrack
- Best Independent Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
- Best Single Player
- Best VR Game
- Best PC Game
- Best Nintendo Switch Game
- Best Xbox Game
- Best PlayStation Game
So… what have you been most disappointed by in video games this year? Let us know and get it out of your system before tomorrow’s final Game of the Year award.