For every game that exceeded our expectations this year, more than a few fell short. Some felt they should have offered more, even without all the hype, while others crashed and burned embarrassingly. There were some laughs and tears, but it’s still amazing how several anticipated titles failed to deliver.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the 15 most disappointing titles of this year.
You could argue that Forspoken didn’t have much hope due to lackluster marketing and delays. Nevertheless, this was the newest title from Luminous Productions, with many of the team having worked on Final Fantasy 16 and a PS5 console exclusive for two years.
Unfortunately, after the demo and with the game, Forspoken revealed itself to have shallow dialogue and irritating banter, a bland open world and an unlikable protagonist in Fray (which is a shame given how interesting the story becomes later). Such was the response to Forspoken that Luminous shut down and merged into Square Enix after its DLC, In Tanta We Trust.
Hi-Fi Rush and Starfield often come to mind when talking about the major Xbox exclusives this year. It’s not that everyone forgot about Redfall, but that they did so without much effort. At launch, Arkane Austin’s first-person co-op shooter had a suitably macabre setting and aesthetic to work off of but squandered it with tedious gameplay, completely barren environments with little to nothing going on, copious bugs, performance issues and a terrible plot with poor characterization.
Its quest design and so-called immersive sim elements are also an embarrassment. Subsequent updates have improved the experience, but Redfall is still a huge step down for Arkane Austin, especially after Prey.
For all the strong survival horror titles that hit the mark this year, several missed the mark, and Quantum Error unfortunately qualifies. Despite some great lighting, the stealth gameplay feels tacked on and awkward, while the shooting is as generic as they come. The story could have been better if it wasn’t presented so poorly with its amateur cinematic angles and shoddy voice acting. Quantum Error ultimately feels like it warranted much more than the developer could deliver, bringing the whole product down.
Microids’ sequel to the classic 2D platformer from Paul Cuisset shouldn’t have turned out this bad, but alas. Almost everything about the title is riddled with issues when it’s not just bad. Though the animations and aesthetics can be decent, the multitudes of bugs, horrendous aiming in combat, terrible dialogue, baffling armor mechanics, and half-hearted cover-based gameplay make you question everything. Perhaps the only mercy is that it isn’t too long…unless your save gets corrupted and you have to start over.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
It’s a meme of sorts to expect anything from Call of Duty, much less Activision, but this was a new Modern Warfare title. The previous two entries in the reboot trilogy offered some intriguing mechanics and memorable campaigns, even if the cracks were starting to show in the second entry. By comparison, Modern Warfare 3’s campaign falls apart almost immediately.
It’s mind-numbing Open Combat missions with boring objectives, a story that’s so by the numbers you can practically paint them in, a distinct lack of polish and embarrassing short playtime. This is from a franchise known to deliver quality cinematic campaigns more often than not. Zombies is slightly better, while multiplayer buckles under the weight of skill-based matchmaking, packet bursts and horrendous spawns.
At first, many were disappointed at being unable to play Payday 3 due to servers going – and staying – down for days at a time. However, after finally getting into matches, even as crashes and disconnects occurred, many were let down by the challenge-based progression, the lack of a pre-game chat, no offline play while solo, no lobby browser, a clunky UI, etc. Though it’s received updates to alleviate several issues, like finally awarding Infamy Points on heist completion, Payday 3 is still far from reaching the same heights as Payday 2.
The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria
Return to Moria, at least the start, is brimming with potential. This is a new adventure in The Fourth Age, with the Dwarves retaking their home and facing a shadowy curse as they explore its depths. Some mechanics were also pretty unique, but it all fell apart due to jank, poor combat, terrible AI, lack of freedom when mining and some shoddy building mechanics. What could have been a Valheim-esque adventure in Middle-earth is instead an awkward meandering.
Crime Boss: Rockay City
Proof positive that loading a game with Hollywood actors doesn’t equal success (and many of the performances aren’t even all that great). While the shooting isn’t terrible, it comes at the price of stealth and missions that encourage going guns-blazing more often than not. Throw in all the bugs, terrible writing, repetitive objectives and general lack of polish, and you have a disastrous title that’s more like Takers than Heat.
After playing the open beta, Exoprimal looked like it had potential as a dumb hack and slash heavy co-op game. However, the lack of content forced PvP, and somewhat repetitive objectives remained concerning up to the full release. Due to how the story works, events can feel disjointed, while the dialogue ranges from awkward to unfunny. There are some positives for those who want to smack dinosaurs and various improvements courtesy of patches, but Exoprimal feels like it could have done better with a stronger focus on pure co-op PvE.
Immortals of Aveum
A single-player-focused magical first-person shooter with an epic scale, talent like Gina Torres and an extensive campaign, that too with striking visuals? Immortals of Aveum seemingly promised it all and delivered on some fronts (Torres was quite good) but suffered with many others. Lackluster story-telling and graphical issues, particularly with HDR, made playing a headache in several ways. The shiny presentation couldn’t save the below-average gameplay with its damage-sponge enemies and an annoying gear grind. It’s a better experience technically after several patches, but far from delivering on the hype.
You have to feel bad for titles like Atlas Fallen. Developed by Deck 13 of The Surge fame, it’s an action-adventure title with a double-A budget, a unique world and unique movement options (like sand surfing). The premise is wasted with underwhelming writing, and the combat, the most important aspect of the experience, is sluggish and shoddy. It also doesn’t help that the world doesn’t have much going on, even with some strong aesthetics on display.
EA Sports FC 24
It’s probably not that surprising in retrospect, given how the FIFA franchise fared over the years, but EA Sports FC 24 was an opportunity for a fresh start. However, while the gameplay remains enjoyable, it doesn’t improve enough, much less advance the status quo. Career Mode is still a rote affair, the new interviews are incredibly lackluster, and the presentation feels like it’s slumming in certain places. Some positives, like PlayStyles and the new UI, are worth mentioning, but if you’re a hardcore FIFA player hoping for some evolution, EA Sports FC 24 disappoints.
Layers of Fear (2023)
Layers of Fears, renamed Layers of Fear, is a remake of Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2. Sounds confusing? It’s also a sequel with a new character, The Writer, who must link the stories together while dealing with the oddities of the Lighthouse. While the visuals look good, as Bloober Team’s other Unreal Engine 5 titles have, the bland gameplay and story-telling don’t form a cohesive whole. It’s not the worst horror game out there (Stray Souls would like a word), but many issues undermine the entire experience.
The Last of Us Part 1 (PC)
You’re probably wondering, understandably so, why The Last of Us Part 1, a remake of one of the greatest games ever made, is on this list. The answer lies in the PC version, which launched in a catastrophic state. Shader compiling took hours upon hours, broken textures rendered characters into monstrosities, performance issues abound, glitches, bugs, crashes – the list went on and on. It made for good comedic material, but those wanting to experience the classic on PC for the first time were far from amused (especially for the $70 price point). Months and months of continuous patching finally put it in a good place, but not without some questioning Sony’s PC porting efforts.
After Sonic Mania and Sonic Frontiers, I looked forward to Sonic Superstars, with bright 3D visuals and gameplay in line with classic titles. While it felt good to play, some inconsistent Zone design, irritating boss battles and gimmicks overpowered the experience to an annoying degree. Other issues like the underwhelming music, boring Battle Mode and the new Special Stage also made it hard to warm up to. While not the worst game in the franchise (that honor still goes to Sonic ’06), Sonic Superstars is underwhelming – a definite plateau in quality over more recent titles.