The Biggest Disappointments Of 2012

2012 was a hell of a year for video games. We got heaps of fantastic games to play, surprises of all shapes, sizes and colours. It was also a year of upheaval, when things often didn't go according to plan, and when many a game failed to live up to expectations.

It's not that we're difficult to please. Well, it's not just that we're difficult to please. But when a publisher or a developer tells us something is going to be awesome, it had better be awesome.

And so it was with an odd combination of sadness and relish that we assembled this, our list of the biggest disappointments of 2012.

Keep in mind that this list was discussed by everyone on staff, so some of the opinions may stand in contrast to other articles, reviews, and criticism we've run throughout the year. And we didn't hate everything: We'll have an equally lengthy list of the best surprises of 2012 next week.

The Vita is on life-support

Oh, PlayStation Vita. How we wanted to like you. You are a lovely piece of hardware, and we gave you a good review. But since then, you've been a pretty huge disappointment. Jason recently summed up the Vita's biggest problems — the system has had some good bundles and sales, but memory cards are still heinously overpriced. But the problem isn't so much with the Vita as it is with its future. The system hasn't caught on in North America, and as far as we know, there are almost no good games coming out next year. I'll be using my Vita for a long time, mostly to play PSP games and Persona 4 Golden, but it's difficult to look at the 2013 release calendar and not feel let down.

The Game of Thrones RPG

Game of Thrones. The pop-culture phenomenon that made fantasy cool again. (Okay, I guess that was Lord of the Rings. It made fantasy sexy again.) For a long time, we'd been hoping for an awesome, BioWare-style GoT RPG. And then, we found out we were getting one. But what we got was a dull, ugly, boring role-playing game that lacked an ounce of the charm and drama of its source material. As it turned out, this mod for Crusader Kings II was the closest thing we'd get to a proper Game of Thrones RPG. It's good and all, but it would've been cool if the actual licensed game had measured up.

No Real Word on The Last Guardian

There was a time, not so long ago, when we still had hope that we'd hear news of The Last Guardian, Team ICO's long-awaited follow-up to Shadow of the Colossus. And so we waited, and we waited, and we waited. You can check out all the news related to the game at our Kotaku Timeline, and if you do, you'll notice a conspicuous lack of news in 2012. The game still seems to exist, somewhere, in some form, but after a notable absence at E3, everyone's worried. And disappointed.

NBA Live 13

Owen Good writes: NBA Elite was a ruined brand following its embarrassing, last-minute cancellation in 2010. So when EA Sports revealed plans to return to simulation basketball earlier this year, it dusted off the venerable NBA Live brand. Now that one's ruined too.

The game's 2012 played out eerily like the disaster of 2010: EA Sports announced its intentions, declared a focus on giving fans controls that were easier to manage than NBA 2K's, and made promises regarding broadcast-quality presentation. Early builds showed some flaws, but they were mostly the flaws of an incomplete pre-alpha stage.

The game they brought to E3 could at least show on-court gameplay, unlike Elite, but a disastrous closed-doors presentation resulted in scathing previews. A hands-on, private event with Live's advisory council of gamers went terribly; by July, many were recommending EA Sports not even release NBA Live 13. Incredibly, that's what happened.

If the NBA Live brand isn't permanently stained in the eyes of hardcore sports gamers, it seems unfathomable that it will return next year, expected to be the last one of this console generation. The cancellation of NBA Live 13 isn't so much the disappointment. It's the total breach of trust it represents between sports fans and the largest maker of sports video games.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

It was hard not to be a bit won over by Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor at Microsoft's press event in March. It was the hardest-core Kinect game imaginable, a hilarious mess of weird controls, insanely difficult combat, and ridiculous writing. I was horrible at it when playing, but was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I just sucked. But no, no… the game is what sucked. It was perhaps the most truly unplayable game of 2012. Its over-reliance on the Kinect motion sensor meant that the game was nigh unusable, frustrating, and entirely unfun. Worse, it made us all even more gunshy about using motion controls in the future. Microsoft is planning a new Kinect for their next console, one that's likely more powerful than the current one. It makes sense that some of what they were trying with Steel Battalion could finally come off. But we'll be all the more sceptical next time.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Easily one of the most spectacular failures of 2012, Star Wars: The Old Republic was nothing short of a Herculean feat of game development, a game so ambitious that it was difficult not to get excited about it. And then it came out, and we played it. Response was… mixed, I guess. And the months passed, and the users dwindled, and then EA announced that the game would be going free-to-play, just like that. As Gamasutra put it in their oh-so-perfect headline: "The most expensive game in history is now free."

Worse, the free-to-play version of the game is crippled, a wholly inferior version of the paid version of the game. Not only did it fail as a subscription-based game, poor decisions will likely sink it as a free-to-play MMO, too. EA and BioWare put hundreds of millions of dollars and countless man-hours into The Old Republic, but instead of bringing the beloved Star Wars universe to life in a new way, they hurt the already fatigued brand. They should have saved us all some heartache and just made another Knights of the Old Republic.

E3

It was hard to come out of this year's E3 feeling too excited, too bowled over. The majority of the games there had already been shown, and there were just so few surprises. Granted, there were exceptions: Watch Dogs managed to generate a ton of buzz simply by being a surprise. With a new name and a slick new Wii U getup, ZombiU was immediately impressive. We saw new engine demos from Square Enix and Epic, both of which hinted at the kind of visuals we're gonna get in the next generation.

But the rest of the convention was off its game. Nintendo's coming-out party for the Wii U felt oddly stilted, like there had been a last-minute change. The NintendoLand reveal was confusing. Microsoft spent most of their time playing up non-game hardware and software, and Sony ignored the Vita almost entirely, despite having a good collection of games on the show floor. But more than any of that specific stuff, there was an overarching feeling of anticlimax in the wake of E3. Granted, we're on the cusp of a shift in console cycles, meaning that a lot companies' best stuff has to remain under wraps. All the same, E3 felt scattered this year, lots of noise but too little substance.

Twisted Metal

As Mike noted in his review, the game is plenty fun, at its core a largely unchanged iteration on past Twisted Metal games. And yet… it's largely unchanged, a decade after the most recent full Twisted Metal game came out. Considering how far vehicular combat has come in those 10 years, it wasn't too much to have hoped for something truly awe-inspiring, rather than an enjoyable but decidedly retro game. Checkpoint races, a reduced cast, and visuals that didn't measure up… the whole thing felt less like a massive explosion of insane fun and more like a middle-of-the-road PS3 launch-title.

Diablo III

On the one hand, Diablo III was a perfectly serviceable action-RPG that's a lot of fun to play with friends. But taking a broader look, it's hard not to feel like the game missed a few crucial things. For starters, its launch was buggy, plagued by the now-infamous Error 37 message that kept people from playing the game, neatly identifying the biggest problem with Blizzard's always-online DRM.

But that was just the start of the problems — the end of the story was a letdown and hardcore players found that Diablo III's end-game offered little incentive to keep them playing, a problem compounded by the dispiriting effect of the real-money auction house. At one point, a designer at Blizzard even offered a strange apology for the game.

As time's gone on, the bloom's come further off the rose — this game is OK, but doesn't feel quite like a suitable successor for Diablo II, particularly given that Runic's Torchlight II is a lot of fun on its own and actually is better than Diablo III in a lot of ways. Taking all of that into consideration, it's hard not to be a disappointed in Diablo III.

007 Legends

It just sounded like such a cool idea. Take classic moments from all of the best Bond films, and let us play through them. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, as it turns out. As Patricia said in her review, "007 Legends is not only terrible a homage to James Bond, but it's a mediocre shooter too." Bond deserves better.

Continuing lack of universal games on the App Store

We started playing more and more iOS games in 2012, but developers and publishers continued a maddening trend of releasing two different versions of their games, one for iPad and one for iPhones. Square Enix were the biggest offenders in this regard, but the practice went much farther than that. It's one thing to have to buy games twice on competing consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3, but Apple is selling these games under the same roof. Many iOS game-makers do sell their games as universal apps, and we love them for it; those who don't seem all the more greedy. One app store purchase per game, please, developers.

Limp Year-End Lineups From Sony and EA

The latter quarter of the year is supposed to be the time to bring out the big guns, to really wow us with at least one monster game. It is the time of Skyrims, of Halos and Calls of Duty. And yet both Sony and DA basically punted on the end of the year, leaving us wondering if we missed something. EA gave us the fun racing game Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but it seemed like the bulk of the season hinged on Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which wound up being one of the worst, most cynical and pointless games of the year. Sony, on the other hand, brought almost nothing new to the PS Vita or the PS3, touting Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale as if it was something we should care about. As least Sony has some stuff saved up for next year with a new God of War and The Last of Us, but the season was a desolate disappointment.

Assassin's Creed III

Another one we're a bit split on: Stephen liked the game, but in the end, I felt it was a thorough disappointment. For all the interesting things crammed into the game, it all felt so overstuffed and scattered, a game with no core mechanic and far too many bugs. Tack on the single most infuriating mission of the entire year, and you've got a recipe for disappointment. Considering how hugely this game had been hyped, the final product should have been better.

Square Enix

Jason Schreier writes: Oh, Square Enix. How you've changed over the years.

It wasn't even a decade ago that you were the world's premiere RPG maker, a company that cranked out console role-playing games with fearlessness and tenacity. You weren't afraid to take risks. You weren't afraid to fail.

Something's changed, and 2012 has been emblematic of that evolution more than any year before it. You've focused much more of your energy on mobile and browser games, the type of products that are cheap to make and profitable. You've stopped caring about American JRPG fans. Maybe because you don't think there are enough of us. Maybe because you just have other priorities. I don't know. But it's depressing.

I don't mind the social/mobile stuff. I really don't. I love playing games like The World Ends With You on my iPad, and I don't blame you for trying to make a profit on browser games, which Japan eats up. But where are the console RPGs? What used to be your bread and butter? In 2012, the one RPG you released in America was a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. You've completely ignored us when it comes to your big, console-style portable RPGs like Bravely Default and Final Fantasy Type-0. And you refuse to say a word about them.

So next year — and in the years to come — I hope you look back and remember what made you so great in the first place. Remember your great old franchises — SaGa, Chrono, Mana. Remember the console RPG. Your fans are waiting.

Resident Evil 6

What on earth has become of the Resident Evil franchise? On the one hand, Capcom released the fantastic 3DS game Resident Evil: Revelations. On the other, there's the flat-out bad Operation Racoon City and Resident Evil 6, a bloated mess that Evan described as "a misshapen hunchback filled with bad DNA." Somewhere, there's a team capable of making a good, modern Resident Evil game for consoles. Hopefully they'll get it right next time.

Skyrim: Dawnguard and Hearthfire DLC

I love Skyrim. I love playing it, modding it, talking about it, and reading about it. And I've been really excited for Bethesda to release more downloadable content for it, particularly given that Bethesda's Todd Howard had been describing the coming DLC as expansion packs, rather than bite-sized additions. But the first two pieces of DLC, the story-based Dawnguard and home-improvement Hearthfire, were a letdown. Oddly, Hearthfire wound up being the more appealing of the two, giving players an opportunity to build a home and raise a family. If it had come on the heels of a terrific expansion pack, it would've been welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, it came after Dawnguard, a sizable but ultimately disappointing addition. Fortunately, the most recent DLC, Dragonborn, is much cooler.

So there you have them; our biggest disappointments of 2012. There were plenty of pleasant surprises this year as well, and we'll round those all up for another post.

But for now: Bitterness! Dismay! Crushed dreams!

Let us know your biggest disappointments in the comments. Let it all out. It's the only way to move on.


Comments

    Game of Thrones, The Old Republic and Diablo 3 all deserve to be there without a shadow of a doubt.

      Game of Thrones to me isn't a disappointment. I don't know what people were expecting from a small development studio with little funding. If Bioware had indeed had the license and produced what was the final product, sure be disappointed by all means.

    You left out Halo 4 >:

      Don't see how - Halo 4 was one of my favourite games of the year.

        I found it underwhelming, Sprtan Ops to be mostly pointless, and Multiplayer lacking a local only search filter only hurts the game even more.

      Neo Kaiser, do you ever do anything but complain? We get it, you don't like Halo 4, you say as much in any article that mentions it and even ones that don't, like this one. We all get the message, you can stop repeating yourself now.

        Is that selective hearing there? As well as exaggeration?

        Also rather hypocritical. I had to put up with 3 years of people saying Reach was garbadge, for lame reasons, and attacking me for liking it. As well as put up with a TU for the game that was aimed at people who didn't like the game and who wouldn't be playing it. Now I can't do the same for Halo 4?

        Well actually no, the difference is that I'm not attacking people for liking Halo 4, or demanding a TU to make the game NOT Halo 4.

          Reach certainly had the best multiplayer of a Halo game, I played that for months and months. SWAT on Sword Base is still one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences I've played in recent years online. I played Halo 4 for 2 weeks online before giving up on it.

          The levels are terrible, not in a "this is different so I hate it" way, in a technical way. There isn't enough visual occlusion in most of the levels so you can shoot players from across the map even on the smaller ones, for example. It completely breaks game modes like SWAT, definitely.

          When I first started playing Reach, I disliked most of the levels, but could tell almost immediately it wasn't because the level design was bad, just different, in fact it was almost TOO perfect, but then I warmed up to them, and now looking back from Halo 4, they were really, really good.

          And its campaign started strong, and the themes of it were really compelling, I mean, how rare is it to play a game (a medium where most of your audience HATES losing) and have each character die off until your own finally has a last stand that ends in their death? But yeah most of the campaign was too set-piecey and not sandbox gameplay enough.

      Have to agree with Dire Wolf. We get that you were let down by a game and can't understand exactly why others don't feel the same way.... You just need to let it go and move on mate.

        I understand why people like Halo 4. If you think MLG should be in charge of the franchise then the game plays the way they want, and for people who haven't played a Halo game then the campaign won't be as stale.

        and you say I have to let it go, yet I had to put up with years of abuse from people who didn't like Reach and couldn't, "Let it go".

      Shh, we're not supposed to admit that one. That's HALO you're talking about.

      I mean, I f**king love Halo, but my god, is everybody in some sort of desperate denial or something?

        Oh yeah! Totally forgot!

        Let me try this again.

        *ahem* Why isn't Black Ops 2 on there!? It's always a yearly disappointment!

      Halo 4 is like a luxury yacht.

      The lack of a local search feature is like a hole in the yacht.

      It makes the boat useless. And every day it's not fixed the boat sinks a little more.

      For a game of its scale it's an utter embarrassment. Halo 3 and Halo Reach had it. Even Resident Evil has a local search option.

        Yeah, the second I realised there wasn't a local only search filter and the host will always be in US, I stopped playing multiplayer. I actually have no comment on the multiplayer since I can't play it.

        Sad when a single/co-op campaign game like RE6 has this filter, Which reminds me, I need to put some more hours into that game. Maybe even buy the DLC.

    diablo 3 was a great game just the errors and drm no need to say it was a disapointment

      People always complain about the boring end game in Diablo III, which is one of the reasons I and II are still so loved. It doesn't matter how many times you complete it; it's still entertaining.

      I found the DRM and errors rather disappointing after waiting for it for so long. When you consider the DRM still isn't fixed. What kind of jackasses think its acceptable for a game you are playing single player to have rubber banding lag.

      They are all part of a package.

    Worse, the free-to-play version of the game is crippled, a wholly inferior version of the paid version of the game. Um...that's how F2P works?
    They should have saved us all some heartache and just made another Knights of the Old Republic. They made 8 and put them into the one game. And it's free. It's called The Old Republic. You may have heard of it? (I've no idea how good the stories are compared to KOTOR because I haven't finished any of them yet, but they've been pretty good so far, for the Bounty Hunter and the Jedi Consular)

      Firstly, that is not how F2P works. Thats how pay-to-win works, which is a horrible model for F2P system. If you want to see how a F2P system works look at GW2 or LoL, games where you aren't basically slapped in the face for trying to play without paying.

      Secondly, they did not "put 8 into one game" even if they did 8x the writing. I love The Old Republic but if you haven't finished KotOR then you shouldn't even think about comparing them. They are so far from the same thing it's like comparing WC3's story with World of Warcraft.

      I loved SWTOR and I think they wrote some great stuff but KotOR it aint and the endgame was massively redundant (and sloppily copied from WoW). And their F2P system is literally the worst I have ever seen put into action.

    Need For Speed Most Wanted was a huge disappointment for me. Expected better from Criterion.

    Sony had a pretty disappointing year, too, although they seem to have some huge exclusives lined up for next year (God Of War Ascension, The Last Of Us, Ni No Kuni, Beyond: Two Souls, and probably some others I've forgotten... maybe even The Last Guardian!), so I'll forgive them for now until I see how those games measure up.

      You forgot sly 4... and everyone seems to be forgetting Journey... I know its a PSN game, but its one of the best games I've ever experienced :P

        Bloody hell... how could I forget my own Game Of The Year?!?! :P

        Well, I didn't forget it as such, but one great game doesn't make for a great year when you're talking about a publisher as large as Sony, unfortunately. Although they did have some other interesting games on PSN over the course of the year.

        And if anybody out there hasn't picked up Journey yet, it's on sale on PSN in a package deal with The Unfinished Swan. Going cheap as part of their "12 Deals Of Christmas" sale. Although I imagine that offer will expire very soon (if it hasn't already) since those deals are only valid for a day or two each.

    No good games coming for the Vita? Wow, some really bias reporting here. Without much effort heres a list of great games on the horizon:

    Soul Sacrifice
    Tearaway
    PSO2
    Kickbeat
    EDF2017
    God Eater 2
    Killzone

    Granted these may not suit every taste together but there should be atleast 3 games there that should interest most gamers.

      EDF2017 is a port of a 5 year Xbox 360 game.

      Quite simply, the Vita is not managing to get people's attention. You're not going to convince anyone that doesn't own one that they should based on that list.

        I was directly addressing the comment of "there are almost no good games coming out next year." I don't call that list almost no good games.

        Last edited 21/12/12 12:33 pm

          You said there are at least 3 games in your list that should interest most gamers. As someone who's tastes align with most gamers, I sincerely doubt that.

          The Vita is not a success at the moment and the support it is getting right now is lacklustre. Saying that it has no good games on the horizon is not a sign of biased reporting, it's a reflection of the typical view people have. Your list really doesn't do much to change that opinion, I don't see a single title there that excites me.

            I'm looking forward to Soul Sacrifice (woo, new IP with interesting mechanics!) and Tearaway, personally.

            A bunch of other stuff on that list? Yeah, not so much.

            EDF looks interesting, and I still haven't picked up P4G, so maybe that would stretch me to four?

            That said, I have a PSV and I love it. I'm also playing through a LOT of PSP games. That's great, but not an awesome sign, I guess.

            Would be interesting to see a comparison between the PSV lineup for 2013 and the 3DS. My feeling is that there are few stellar must-haves for either, at least announced at the moment.

              I guess the point I completely failed to state there is that those two games: Soul Sacrifice and Tearaway - have been greeted with a fair bit of good press since they were revealed, even on the US site. The juxtaposition of that with the statement that there's "nothing good" coming up next year is a bit striking.

              Perhaps "there are only a few potential gems" would have been a more agreeable sentence?

      Im uber excited for Killzone and actually, to play Sly 4 on my vita with cross play like... when im not at home...

    I hate to be one of "those commenters", but I have to say on first read this article feels very much like a lecture to everyone named - as if they are naughty school boys who are "disappointing in class and not living up to their full potential".

    While there are certainly the starting points of a decent analysis above, it leaves me thinking: if the collective group above are so knowledgeable and so in-tune with what *should* be happening, perhaps they should go and work for these companies on a ridiculous salary and make everything right? Perhaps hindsight is allowing a level of forecast and "of course"-ness that isn't exactly an entitlement.

    Also, I am fully aware of the irony of this entire comment, given what I am saying above.

    Squeenix might have changed but they brought us Sleeping Dogs, which is easily in my top five of this year. So thanks, guys.

    It's a very good list - I agree with pretty much everything.

    Diablo 3 was an incredible let down. The more you played, the more it hit home how the soul had been ripped from the series and that Blizzard North was where the talent was. There's that old saying - you can't polish a turd. Well Blizzard proved that wrong. They polished and polished and polished until that turd sparkled like diamond. But when you bit in deep, it still tasted like turd, and I don't think the bad taste left in my mouth is ever going to wash away.

    Last edited 21/12/12 1:08 pm

    I gotta say I agree with that list pretty much completely.

    Assassin's Creed still had so much potential, even though it seemed like they were trying to drive it into the ground on purpose. They succeeded anyway.

    Bugger it.

    "They should have saved us all some heartache and just made another Knights of the Old Republic."

    ^This times a million.

    Majority of the list seems pretty accurate as far as my knowledge goes. My 2 biggest ones out of it would 007 Legends (especially on PC where it feels like the motherload of recent PC Port insults); and AC3 with that "WTF" ending.

    Next year we think the next generation of consoles will come out, so let's hope 2013 is not as equally disappointing. :)

    Bioware used to be so talented.

    Now they're AMAZINGLY talented. It takes a hell of a lot of talent to make a Star Wars MMO so dull.

    Seriously? The last guardian? Does anyone care aboutthat any more?

      Yes. Very much so. I'm patient enough to wait for Sony to get it right.

      Last edited 21/12/12 5:26 pm

    Biggest dissapointment for me was Mass Effect 3 Crappy ending.

    Everyone seems to be forgetting WarZ... my god that has got to be the worst gaming disaster to ever happen!

    I defiantly agree with Resident Evil,

    I would have added Black Ops: Declassified on there given that it was supposed to be touted as "The Vita System Seller" and what we got was a broken watered down mess with just the name "Call of Duty" on the box.

    Also Mass Effect 3, mainly for the massive controversy that surrounded the ending.

    wow! Kotaku! you are just being little babies! crying about everything! the only bad thing about 1202 i mean 2012 you should have is that another CoD was released ^.^ ac3 was amazing! and everything else was unique! you really have to start seeing things as they are. I can't even believe im drunk :P and the first thing i do when writing the year is write it backwards perfest straight awayhahah shit!

    I was disappointed that Luigis Mansion was pushed to 2013 :(
    I also agree on Old Republic, I think their free to play model was badly planned and won't help them over the long term unless they change it to bring it inline with the other major f2p MMOs

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