2009 In Review: The Disappointments

There were plenty of things to be happy about in 2009! Uncharted 2, Batman, the return of E3 and a PS3 resurgence to name but a few. But you know what? 2009 also had its fair share of crushing disappointments.

Things that should have been great, but were average. Things that should have been good, but were awful. Whether through accident, misstep or a good old-fashioned cock-up, here are what I think are the biggest disappointments in video gaming of 2009:

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


The PSPgo
It could have been a revolution in video gaming. The dawn of the digital-only era, a rebirth for Sony's flagging portable. Instead, it's done little but underwhelm.

First, there were strong suspicions it re-purposed the casing from an existing Sony device, the Mylo. Then some retailers refused to carry it. Then a promised UMD exhange program washed up on the beach, while digital versions of existing games were slow to materialise.

Oh, and it didn't help it was priced at a ridiculous $249.

In short, Sony have provided existing PSP owners with almost zero reason to purchase something the company badly needed to convince them to purchase. And consumers have responded, sales of the PSP having gone nowhere since the machine's launch.

Maybe they'll get it right with the PSP2!

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer is, when it's not being exploited, wonderful. There's little to disappoint with that part of the package. But the game's singleplayer...oh boy.

The original Modern Warfare was a colossal entry in the field. It contained thrilling set pieces, an engaging storyline and memorable characters. All the game's sequel needed to do was provide more of the same, and millions would be happy.

But no. Infinity Ward tried to get clever. Tried to turn what had been a reasonably realistic tale of Modern Warfare into a Michael Bay movie. A rugged, lovable SAS Captain became a monologue-happy madman. The "your player is dead" trick was over-used to the point of becoming laughable. The "No Russian" level was an exercise in poorly-envisaged shock tactics, and the game's storyline would have confused Hideo Kojima.

It's not a terrible game by any means, as it still has its moments - particularly when repelling the Russians from the US - but when you look at the gulf in what could/should have been and what we ended up with, it ranks as one of the year's biggest disappointments.

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


Ghostbusters
It's not enough that this was a Ghostbusters game. It was, in theory at least, supposed to be a third Ghostbusters film, written by the men who wrote the movies and starring the vocal talents of those same, gifted actors. What could possibly go wrong?

Try almost everything. Developers Terminal Reality seemingly had little idea how to build an enjoyable game around the experience of being a Ghostbuster, so instead settled on a series of limited, repetitive and frustrating mechanics to get us through. Boring PKE section, tiring ghost wrangling, boring PKE section, tiring ghost wrangling, etc etc.

The only thing to look forward to was the vocal talents of the film's stars, and even that was found wanitng, only Dan Aykroyd putting any real effort into a bland and forgettable tale.

Maybe it was our fault for getting so excited about a Ghostbusters game, maybe it was Atari's fault for digging up the license in the first place, who knows. But when you make a game based on such a treasured franchise, and get serious Hollywood talent involved, it needs to be better than this.

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


DJ Hero
Few people seem to comprehend how significant a failure this game has been for Activision. And how big a disappointment it's been to everyone else. This isn't some Guitar Hero spin-off; it was an expensively-backed assault on a market the mega-publisher believed was being excluded from its Guitar Hero franchise.

This was to be the phenomenon for hip-hop and dance fans that Guitar Hero had been for everyone else. Activision guessed right that, yes, that's a big market, and one worth capitalising on. What they got wrong was...everything else.

DJ Hero had to be "cool" to sell, and thanks to it's faux-rave setting, it wasn't. It needed to be hip-hop, and it wasn't. It needed to be dance, and it wasn't. What it was, courtesy of the decision to focus solely on "mashups", was a confusing, bland, fence-straddling mix of music styles that ultimately appealed to neither fanbase.

The publishers decision to focus much of the game's marketing efforts on DJ Shadow was perhaps most telling. This game needed to be "Endtroducing". All it was in the end was "The Outsider".

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


Killzone 2
Again, not a bad game. Just disappointing.

Consider the amount of money and work that went into the game. The amount of expectations placed up on its shoulders. The scope of its marketing, all the attempts to turn Killzone into Sony's own Halo, an evergreen sci-fi franchise for the core market.

In some areas, it succeeded. It certainly looks, and sounds, expensive. It should be praised a lot more than it is for successfully implementing a working cover system in a first-person game. And Brian Cox can make anything bearable. But only to a point; the rest of the game is equal parts forgettable and offensive, poor characters propelling you through a dreary wasteland of a game, populated solely by clichés and a world so depressing you wish Rainbow Brite would pop in and make a cameo.

Halo succeeds in much the same way Uncharted and Modern Warfare do: they serve as the gateway to a franchise, to a lifetime of fandom. They are summer blockbusters, games that not only excite, thrill the senses then leave you madly in love with a world and its characters. How else could so many people adore Captain Price, for example? Or the mute, faceless Master Chief? But in Killzone, who do you love? What makes you remember the game aside from an endless parade of grey buildings and a guy who swears too much?

2009 In Review: The Disappointments


Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games of all time. So this game had a lot to live up to.

And it didn't come close.

While Res 4 maintained the series' antiquated movement and control scheme, its levels and pacing were designed so perfectly that they managed to cover them up. Resident Evil 5, on the other hand, with its expansive shoot-outs and slant on action, exposed them for the relics they are.

It's a game of two minds. It so wanted to be a 21st-century run-and-gun title, with co-op play throughout and exciting action sequences, yet was so hamstrung by "tradition" (ie slow, plodding controls) that it was unable to take the plunge and finish the job Res 4 began: leaving the Resident Evil series behind.

When you follow a game as great as Resident Evil 4 with something as compromised as this, it's a disappointment.

Honorable Mentions
Tony Hawk Ride - The way the series finally dragged its rotting corpse over the shark would have been disappointing to die-hard Tony Hawk fans...if there were any left.

WiiWare - If the Wii is the most successful console of the current generation, why is WiiWare - its digital shopfront - so awful? There needs to be more games on this service. Well, more games people actually want to play.

Madden - EA Sports' FIFA series continues to innovate, and show the world an annual sports franchise can also be a great game. So why does Madden get away with continually releasing what is essentially the ninth version of the same game?

Duke Nukem Forever - Had gone beyond a joke, so it wasn't crushing to see it finally give up the ghost, but still...news of its ultimate demise was still a little disappointing. There'd always been hope, no matter how small, that one day it would have made it to a shelf. (thanks TheHeeyyy!]

That about does it for me, but what about you? What were you most disappointed with in 2009?