Let’s be honest: 2021 saw a number of games get released in a pretty shameful state. None were nearly as busted as the catastrophe that was — still is? — CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, but this year’s crop of broken games was atrocious all the same. And though some eventually got patches that fixed various issues, there’s no undoing the fact that the games on this list weren’t ready for mass consumption at launch. So let’s look back, shall we, at some of the most busted games of 2021.
Neon Giant’s debut title, The Ascent, looked damn cool. An isometric twin-stick shooter not unlike Arrowhead Game Studios’ Helldivers, The Ascent unfortunately suffered some terrible issues around multiplayer at launch. Actually, the co-op feature, the game’s most heavily promoted aspect, straight-up didn’t work at all. An update dropped in September to address the multiplayer’s stability problems, but in fixing some issues, it ended up creating many others, with players reporting significant frame rate drops, persistent game crashes, and even whole characters getting wiped when starting up a co-op server. Though Neon Giant found much to reflect on in The Ascent’s messy launch, the game still turned out pretty successfully for the first-time developer, which consists of just 12 people.
You’ve probably seen the videos and/or our own reporting on everything wrong with Battlefield 2042, but DICE’s latest entry in the long-running military first-person shooter is the epitome of “not ready for primetime.” Vehicles were busted. Some buildings lacked collision. Players were blowing up tanks with goddamn sniper rifles, for crying out loud. This shit isn’t normal. It’s so abnormal, in fact, that Battlefield 2042 became Steam’s worst-reviewed game in November. And even during its early access period, in which some paid more to check out the game before its official release, players reported excessive crashing issues on Xbox consoles. EA plans to significantly patch the game while building out a Battlefield universe, but it’s beyond evident that this “realistic” shooter came out severely underbaked.
Oh, Konami. What a meteoric fall from grace this company has suffered in the years since Metal Gear Survive, and eFootball 2022 continues that unfortunate downward trajectory. More hated than Battlefield 2042, eFootball 2022 was an absolute disaster at launch. Models looked blocky and hit detection was totally absent, though some players still received fouls. Properly connected controllers didn’t work, game modes were missing, online play experienced frequent interruptions — it was a complete shitshow. Konami has since apologised for the game’s atrocious state, promising fixes are coming while also delaying a major update and pushing back the mobile versions. This is another prime example of a title that just wasn’t ready yet.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
“Not ready yet” is the main takeaway from this list, and perhaps no release here better exemplifies that than Grove Street Games’ Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. While it does look good in some areas, this remastered package of the first three 3D Grand Theft Auto games quite honestly shouldn’t have launched — at least not as soon as it did. The game was so busted, with its 20-year-old giant car glitch and visually excruciating rainstorms that rendered the game nearly unplayable, that Rockstar Games pulled it off digital PC shelves for a minute and offered free games to owners of the collection. It’s since returned, alongside a substantial patch that fixed hundreds of bugs, but physical editions of the bundle were delayed. It was a dumpster fire, one fans charged headfirst into to find potential GTA 6 clues.
New World? More like Broken World, amirite? Amazon Games Orange County’s first MMO was terrible when it dropped, and by many accounts, it remains so. From seven-day respawn timers to bricking expensive graphics cards to overpopulated servers preventing the creation of new characters, New World has just been having a rough go at things. But the most repeated problem is the game’s economy, which has been impacted again and again to the point where players started bartering for items instead of spending their in-game coins. Adding insult to injury, the endgame quietly got harder and the promised cross-realm server transfers aren’t happening, much to the chagrin of players. In short, New World is a new mess that will take lots of fixing.
Yes, Housemarque’s Returnal did just win Best Action Game at The Game Awards this year, but let’s not forget the sorry state it was in at launch. A PS5-exclusive roguelike about a space marine getting bullied by tentacle monsters, Returnal suffered some issues that saw save files become corrupted and trophies not unlocking despite hitting the requirements (though this got fixed). The biggest problem of all was the inability to suspend the game mid-run, which resulted in copious data getting lost to the roguelike abyss or whatever, particularly because the game sometimes auto-updated even while players had a run underway. Housemarque did patch in a “suspend game” feature five months after it came out, and Returnal’s launch woes are now considered mostly a distant memory, with many considering the game to be among the year’s best releases.
Do you remember Outriders? From the same studio that brought us Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgment, this third-person looter-shooter had the backing of Square Enix but still fell short of expectations. There were bugs that wiped all your gear, day-one issues that made it difficult to connect to the always-online servers, glitches that instantly killed players, copious patches that pissed the community off — the list goes on. This is one of those live-service games that never really caught a break. Despite being a success for the developer and publisher, People Can Fly reported in August that it hadn’t received any royalties from Square Enix. It’s a bummer all the way around because, if I’m being honest, I enjoyed my time with Outriders, even if my Kotaku cohort Ari Notis felt pretty “meh” about it six months after launch.
There you have it, Kotaku’s picks for the most busted games of 2021. I thought a lot about adding Cyberpunk 2077 to this list, but it didn’t seem fair for two reasons: 1) it came out a whole year ago, and 2) we know how terrible it was. Look, developing video games isn’t easy. It requires proficiency and skill, attributes that are frequently put through the wringer by this exploitative industry. Publishers and, more specifically, shareholders should hold Shigeru Miyamoto’s words in mind when imposing impossible-to-hit release dates on their teams: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Here’s hoping 2022’s titles come out in a much more playable state, with workplaces that respect the will and dignity of those employed there.