The hype train is all too real, and its sweet promises see even the most skeptical and guarded climbing aboard for a pre-release ride. Here, our critics share a moment from 2016 when they rode such hopeful rails, only for the whole procession to plunge into the gorge of unmet expectations and burn with the hot fires of disappointment, the salve of public shaming their only respite.
The first Mirror's Edge game hinted at so much unrealised potential that it was genuinely exciting to learn that we were getting a belated sequel. How disappointing, then, when Mirror's Edge Catalyst turned up and again turned out to be another middling effort. True, the game managed to double down on the spectacularly sleek future-minimalism style of art direction that was such a feature of the first outing, and fixed many of the irritants that plagued the basic free running of the original (just CATCH THE DAMNED PIPE, FAITH!). But it seemed to learn nothing when it came to pointless combat sequences, insisting players take their taekwondo moves to a machine gun fight, and phoning in a bleh story that somehow seemed to move everything backwards. I'm sure there's a truly great game waiting to come out of this IP, but I dunno if we're going to get it. (Ben Allan)
This was a tough one. There were so many games this year that just didn’t reach their expected potential, but Catalyst was the one that felt like the biggest missed opportunity. Rather than refining and improving the movement and mechanics of the first game, it devolved them into an unsatisfying series of stumbles, falls, and roadblocks. This lack of momentum also hamstrung the story leaving it to limp along until you just give up. (Chris Brown)
Although I gave this game an 8/10 when I reviewed it in October, Battlefield 1 is also my biggest disappointment for 2016. The multiplayer was as good as ever, even though my preference for modern military equipment did cut short my time spent in the trenches. But it was the campaign that I had been drooling with anticipation to play, and while it looked prettier than a postcard, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth by the time it wrapped up. Instead of a gripping epic, what we got was at times little more than a glorified tutorial for the multiplayer, topped off with clumsy mission design and doofus enemies. It could be argued that the campaigns in the last few Battlefield titles weren’t all that much better, but I’d been hoping for so much more this time around – considering the setting and time period. (Tim Stanton)
I’m a big fan of the Mafia franchise. The original was one of the first games I ever finished as a kid, and the world created by developer Illusion Softworks was something I truly fell in love with. Mafia II was a great game too, and I still remember finishing it over the winter school holidays back in 2010. Almost everything I saw of Mafia III made me interested in what Hanger 13 were bringing to the franchise: a narrative that adapted to your choices and driven by revenge, diverse gameplay, an underboss system that changed through your decisions, and – most importantly – a take on one of the darkest periods in American history. What we got in the end, though, was a buggy, glitchy game that didn’t even have some basic features seen in its predecessor. Moreover, the story, while quite good, was hampered by repetitive and frustrating gameplay that never really kept things interesting. All of this culminated in one of the most disappointing game releases I’ve ventured through this console generation. Hype bubble burst, indeed. (Toby Berger)
'Most disappointing' is an odd category in that it is heavily influenced by your hype level and as such, decent games can feel disappointing simply because they don't match your sky-high expectations. This year, that was not my problem – rather, I had trouble getting excited for anything. That's a possible side effect of four years of reporting from the eye of the hype tornado, or maybe someone in an oddly-lit lab overlooking a sprawling desert opened my personality profile on an iPad and lowered my emotional response to marketing to near-zero. That 2016 delivered some really great games was also undoubtedly a factor, as was my early disinterest in underperformers like Star Fox Zero, No Man's Sky, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, and ReCore. Perhaps I'm just depressed.
So it's with some tentativeness that I put forward my candidate for 'most disappointing': PlayStation VR on the PlayStation Pro. While I knew before Sony's remarkable headset hit shelves that the PS4 would deliver a compromised VR experience, I was more hopeful that the Pro would fulfil the potential of PlayStation VR. The way things stand right now, that's certainly not the case. So while PlayStation VR is initially entrancing and great fun to strap on those yet to sample the delights of virtual reality, it's demo level right now: there's too much of a visual downgrade, it's too expensive, and – as far as I can tell – it will only ever capably support a narrow band of game genres.
Worse, it has done for me what VR enthusiasts feared this initial wave of not-quite-there consumer headsets would do for many: it has convinced me that home VR is a waste of time unless you have a spare room, a Vive, and a supercomputer to run it. I hope the likes of Ace Combat 7, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Farpoint prove me wrong, but if I have a feeling Sony and Microsoft should just cut their losses and ditch their VR plans, pronto.