Bottom five: the most disappointing video games of 2013

Before we get to the best, we have to trudge through the other list. While few games on this list are poorly designed, they are notable examples of what not to do when designing a video game. These are not the worst, just ones that dropped the ball in crucial areas.

1. “Aliens: Colonial Marines” (Gearbox Software)

I can’t write off “Aliens: Colonial Marines” as just another bad game, because I felt swindled. I felt like all of the passion and promise had been replaced by greed and moral reprehensibility. I felt like all of the promises and fan praise from Randy Pitchford (Gearbox Software President) were all in service to steal $60 out of my wallet. After I spoke with him at E3 2012, I told everyone how much faith I had in “Aliens: Colonial Marines.” The video game was being developed from what I thought to be a reputable and passionate studio. The studio, which birthed “Brothers in Arms” and “Borderlands,” was taking one of the most iconic science fiction franchises in film and elaborating on the story between “Aliens” and “Alien 3.” It was a dream come true. Never have I felt like the biggest idiot for simply buying a game. “Aliens: Colonial Marines” physically hurt my brain and any faith I had left in Gearbox Software while also subsequently damaging faith I had in other video game developers.

2. “Gears of War: Judgment” (People Can Fly/Epic Games Poland)

A prequel to the Gears franchise sounded good, but this game was a lazy attempt at a “Rashomon” style story, as the characters were already in court explaining their side of an event that had no bearing on anything. Karn, the new villain, was a cardboard cutout that barely differentiated from the other monsters other than the fact that he rode one of them. Multiplayer removes the monsters so it’s human vs. human and thus the fights feel much faster than in the predecessors. Problem is — and this applies to the entire franchise — it can never figure out if it wants to be an up-close combat game or a hide behind cover and think strategically game.

3. “Dead Space 3″ (Visceral Games)

It’s hard to see a franchise that you’ve been with since the first game becoming a mediocre shadow of its original. “Dead Space” started off with horror in mind and the sequel followed suit. Then comes the third iteration, where the horror is replaced by lackadaisical melodrama with “Dead Space 3,” only giving us three minutes to understand who these people are and their motivations. “Dead Space 3″ also puts emphasis on the “epic moments” that seem so out of place for a game that once held its feet on the horror pedestal. Good ideas and concepts couldn’t prevent this game from being a horrible amalgamation of the Dead Space franchise and other games.

4. “Batman: Arkham Origins” (Warner Bros. Montreal)

“Batman: Arkham Origins” feels like filler until Rocksteady returns to do another Batman game. Taking place years before Batman meets his supervillains, he is a target of eight (it’s technically seven) highly trained assassins. Too bad the assassin fights only end up being as interesting as a saltine cracker. Rather than enlightening the player to facets of the game mechanics or functioning as tests to challenge, the assassins take a back seat. There is no learning, only going through the motions. There is no sense of dread before each fight, only a feeling of capriciousness. And once again, the relationship between The Joker and Batman becomes the focus that undermines any possible or potentially interesting stories between Batman and his other villains. The multiplayer, while fun on its own, is nothing to write home about and can be downright broken on certain maps. “Batman: Arkham Origins” feels like Warner Bros. is filling its Batman quota for the year.

5. “Bioshock: Infinite” (Irrational Games)

Sadly, this wasn’t the Bioshock game many hoped it was going to be. One of the major problems is with the seemingly progressive female companion, Elizabeth. In story moments, playable or non-playable, Elizabeth functions as a subversion of a the typical gaming archetype of the “princess in the castle.” However, the combat downgrades her character to a player upgrade. What I mean by this is that Elizabeth’s ability to tear open the fabric of reality, which is severely limiting in combat, is performed by using the same button the player would use to reload their gun. She also chucked money and health to the player only serving to remind the player that she still existed. This, in relation to the world of Columbia that felt like a playable museum than a fully realized world, makes “Bioshock: Infinite” crumble under the weight of its own ambition.

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