The Top 10 games that made me want to kill someone
The enthusiasm and optimistic glee that once filled your heart slowly begins to curdle. As reality stains your dreams, they begin to twist inward upon themselves and rot, leaving not but crushing sadness and disappointment. What once promised to be light and joyous is now only dark and hurtful. And as hope drains from your soul, with a heavy heart you’re forced to admit, “This game sucks.”
I’ve been a gamer for over 20 years and in that time I’ve seen both good and bad games come and go. The great titles pass and leave fond memories, while the bad just fade into obscurity. However, every now and then a game comes along that does little more than fill me with regret. These games go beyond being simply bad, and enter into that strange and terrible realm of disappointing failures.
What’s really special about these games is that occasionally their failure has little to no impact upon sales. As the pain and disappointment begins to set in, you find yourself surrounded by idiots and fools who rant on and on about how great and amazing the game was. You start to realize that not only will this piece of stockyard offal make millions for it developers and producers, but as a “financial” success it will influence the shape of games for years to come. And THAT is when pain begins to ferment into the finest of malignant hostilities; a fine wine of bubbling rage.
My anger issues have nothing to do with violent video games.
With that, let me present my list of the top 10 games that made me want to take a life. Some of these are bad enough that they have faded from the memory of men, while others you yourself my love and hold dear. Let me calm your fears though. If you do in fact love one of these games it does not make you an idiot. It just makes you an idiot in my eyes.
10. Star Wars: Force Unleashed
This Star Destroyer’s no problem, but stormtroopers with shields give me trouble? What the hell?
One thing that makes a good Star Wars game stand out so much is the impressively long list of utter crap that also bears that name. I must admit that in comparison to some of the garbage that preceded it, Force Unleashed isn’t too bad. However, it in no way deserves neither the hype nor the acclaim it’s received so far. What we were promised was an amazing spectacle of gameplay. The ultimate expression of a Jedi’s power rendered with the most state of the art technology.
What we got was a poorly written God of War knockoff, except not as fun. Normal fights were uninspired, every boss fight required a quick time event to beat, and aside from the ability to rip enemies asunder with quick time event fueled Jediness, unleashing the force did little more than smash every window in a room.
On its own Force Unleashed is an ok Star Wars game, but when compared to earlier titles like Jedi Outcast or Academy, it leaves a lot to be desired. While not exactly God’s gift to Star Wars fans, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is still one of the better Jedi simulators so far. Lightsabers ripped through enemies, slaughtering them with a single swing, and Jedi staples like Force Push would throw squads of stormtroopers thorough the air. Fights between force users were fast, violent things that could really go either way as death could come with a single sweep of a lightsaber.
In Force Unleashed, your powers are very picky in comparison. Sometimes the force works on an enemy, other times it just doesn’t want to. The few force user vs. force user fights become monotonous slug fests requiring you beat down a boss to a certain amount of health and initiate a quick time event to deal real damage. And god help you if you screw up and hit X when you should have hit A, as failing a quick time event will actually heal your enemy somewhat, requiring that you start the whole damned process over again.
What truly killed this game for me—and ensured that it would be one of the few titles I actually sold back to the store—was that despite my character’s ability to rip a Star Destroyer from the sky, I could still get my ass handed to me by a group of Stormtroopers because every damned monster in the game appeared to equipped with force-resistant shields. Jedi are whirling balls of lightsabery death, and other Star Wars game have achieved this effect by throwing hundreds of easily killable enemies at players. With Unleashed, by ensuring that every other enemy is immune to either lightsabers or force powers, you ruin the whole Jedi experience.
At #10, Unleashed didn’t really make me want to kill anyone, but it did give me the urge to bludgeon someone a bit with a frozen chicken.
9. Final Fantasy 8
You can tell he loves her by the way his face conceals any and all emotion.
Considering that it was following up the astounding popularity of Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8 had a lot to prove. It had to have an interesting story, memorable characters, and an expansive setting in which to explore both of those. Instead what we got were some great cutscenes, a bunch of emo main characters, a card game, and a battle system in which you had to fellate monster in order to gain magical energy.
Final Fantasy 8 was pretty, I have to give it that, but it pretty much failed to live up to my expectations. The main character Squall was a dull knockoff of Cloud, designed to copy all of the worst characteristics of that character. He was dull, uninteresting and overly melodramatic. The rest of the cast was no better. The most interesting of the lot was the cowboy assassin Irvine who tries to assassinate a target once, fails at it, and then never tries again.
What I can never forgive Final Fantasy 8 for though, is the introduction of stupid card based minigames to the series. I don’t know who thought the introduction of Triple Triad was a good idea, but I really hope they were pressured into committing Seppuku afterwards. Here’s an important lesson for every game designer out there: Card battle video games suck. They’re fun and ok on their own (i.e.: when you’re actually holding cards in your hands), but they have no place in video games unless they’re games about collectable card games.
I’ve been told that Final Fantasy 9 was a great game, and that it more than made up for Final Fantasy 8’s failings, but I hated 8 to such an extent that I didn’t buy another Final Fantasy game until 10 came out (which killed the series for me).
8. X-Com: Interceptor
This game’s so dull I can’t even think up a humorous line to put here.
X-Com: Interceptor was a complete and utter failure and a prime example of why you don’t screw around with a good game concept. X-Com is a squad-based tactical combat game based on a mix of X Files, Men in Black and The A-Team. You manage your little military organization and control everything from base design to budgets. After all that you send out your teams of very expendable soldiers to recover downed UFOs and generally kick some grey ass.
During the missions, gameplay changed from corporate sim to turn based tactical combat in which you controlled everything your soldiers did on the battlefield. That was a major theme of the game, control. You controlled every single aspect of your organization as well as what your troops did on the battlefield. And you would go through hundreds of soldiers in your war against the alien invaders, but it didn’t matter because even if you lost an entire team, you were still alive to send out 10 more guys to recover their remains.
At some point, after finishing X-Com: Apocalypse, someone with authority over at Microprose decided that what the world really needed was an X-Com combat flight simulator. I can only guess that this decision had something to do with the success of Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. What we got was a half-assed combat flight sim with shitty controls and a bland and uninteresting story. By abandoning the themes and gameplay that made X-Com actually work, Interceptor was little more than a piss poor game with the X-Com named tacked on in order to increase sales.
However, even without the X-Com name, Interceptor didn’t have a chance in hell of being able to stand on its own. Interceptor was, in all honesty, a bad Star Wars: TIE Fighter rip-off lacking any of the charm or joy of that title. Missions were generally repetitive and consisted mostly of going to the same generic area of empty space in order to fight squads of ugly, identical ships.
As a fan of the X-Com series, this game represented the death of the series to me. The only thing that comes close to making me feel better about this title is that for his sins, designer Dave Ellis has been exiled to Vicious Cycle games where he can’t hurt anyone ever again. However with all of this in mind, I can’t help but look at the new X-Com game being made by 2K Marin and notice that they’re making a lot of the same damned mistakes.
7. Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor
I saw this screen so often I started thinking it was part of the damned storyline.
With Baldur's Gate, Bioware showed us that Dungeons & Dragons based video games could actually be interesting with compelling storylines, interesting characters and gameplay that was actually fun. This was an improvement on earlier games which tended to be little more than dull, first person dungeon crawls where you could do little more than decide if your character was going to move one space forward, turn left or right, or attack whatever was right in front of you. Things were looking up for western RPGs in general. So when I heard that a remake of the old Pool of Radiance PC game—based on the AD&D module Ruins of Myth Drannor—was coming out, I optimistically pre-ordered the collector’s edition of the game.
What Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor taught me was that there is evil in this world and that the cruelties of reality are bent on crushing the dreams of our best and brightest. It taught me to never again trust what anyone told me and to always doubt those who promise me kindness. It taught me that we all die alone and in pain and that if we’re lucky, then there is no afterlife because Hell would be playing this game for all eternity.
There’s no real plot and your characters are dropped in the middle of a massively dull and repetitive dungeon filled with dozens of empty, pointless rooms. Character creation was limited and lacked classic D&D classes like the bard and wizard. The actual gameplay was both buggy as all hell and uninteresting. Character path finding was a joke, the AI was moronic and the whole damned game crashed frequently. To top it all off, I paid $70 for the collector’s edition of the game.
6. Lair (How the $#@% do I control this damn dragon)
How could this game suck so much? How is this possible?!?
There’s a reason why PS3 games don’t use the Sixaxis motion control any more. It was a great concept on paper though. People playing sports or racings games always turn the controller in the direction they want the character to go in an unconscious hope that it’ll help. So why not make the controller motion sensitive so tilting it to the left or right will actually help them turn? Because while the PS3 is many things, it’s not a Wii and the Sixaxis controller isn’t even the distant 2nd cousin of a Wiimote. We learned that the hard way with Lair.
Lair was a game where you flew around on the back of a giant frickin dragon, brought to us by the same people who made the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games. The previews showed massive dragons ripping the heads off of dire rhinos and using them to crush, bowling ball fashion, hordes of faceless soldiers.
However, as we now know, the Sixaxis motion controls are about as responsive as a concussed, dying donkey, and its reliance on them pretty much killed Lair. It might have been a great game and it might have been beautiful, but the damned controls made it unplayable. By jerking the controller up, you could do a 180, and by jerking it downward your dragon would boost forward. A great idea but as you flailed your controller around it would only register your command half the time and the other half it would get it wrong.
I really wanted to play this damned game. I loved the Rogue Squadron games and I like dragons on general principle, so this one looked great. And it was pretty fun, but I had to fight the damned controls every minute in order to actually play the god damned game. It taunted me with its greatness while beating me like a co-dependent spouse.
5. Red Steel
Here’s how bad the controls were, even at this range you only had a 50/50 chance of hitting this guy.
When the Wii launched, it was a time of great anticipation and wonder. In it we could see so many great possibilities. We would be able to play shooters without having to pay an additional $50 for special lightguns, engage in exciting sword fights, and…um…bowl.
However, the unfortunate thing about the Wii launch was that there were only 2 interesting games available at launch, but at least one of them was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
The other was Red Steel. It looked fantastic. Red Steel had you shooting enemies by pointing the Wiimote at the screen like a light gun. It had sword fighting that you controlled by swinging the Wiimote. It also had multiplayer. In short Red Steel promised to show us everything that the Wii could do.
Apparently, all the Wii could do was disappoint us (aside from Twilight Princess and Wii Sports of course). Red Steel was an essay in how not to make a Wii game. Now, I know the Wii isn’t exactly the greatest piece of hardware on the planet and I don’t expect a lot from it. It’s not a PS3 or a 360 game and I’m not going to hold it against the Wii. However even when compared to Twilight Princess, Red Steel’s graphics looked like shit. It looked like someone was trying to run a PS3 game on a PS2 and had decided to turn down the anti-aliasing in order to speed the game up. The gun controls were slow and responded poorly while the sword combat was clunky and rough. Other Wii games would eventually come along and actually do everything Red Steel promised, but nothing will ever clean away the stain it left behind.
4. Hellgate: London
If you kill 40 more of these guys you get to fight the slightly purple elite one.
There was a lot of hype behind the release of Hellgate: London, and for good reason. It was the first real title to come from Flagship Studios, a little group of folks from Blizzard North who were responsible for Diablo and who were involved in the development of Warcraft, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. So when they announced that they were working on a sci-fi game that took place in a demon infested London, the hype engine began building steam, and they hype looked good.
As more and more info and screenshots surfaced, the gaming community began salivating like hungry dogs. It looked like Hellgate: London would play like the best parts of Diablo 2’s online gameplay with the option to play offline single player as well. Armed with guns, the game would shift into a FPS, but when you were wielding a melee weapon it would shift to an over the shoulder POV. The world was a dark, twisted realm filled with horrifying monsters, like a blending of Neverwhere, The Matrix and Hellraiser. All in all, it looked damned fine and I was happy to preorder a copy first chance I got. Hell, given Flagship Studio’s rep how could we lose?
The first sign something was going terribly wrong occurred at launch. There were tons of bugs and subscription screw-ups, but then if you thought of Hellgate: London as an MMO rather than a single player game, none of this was too odd. The interface was pretty unpleasant, but that could be ignored.
What couldn’t be ignored were all of the other problems. When you entered a new area for a mission, the game would create a new, randomized level for you. However the pool of rooms, hallways, and streets that it pulled from was rather small so level design ended up becoming very repetitive while completely new each time.
Similarly, the monsters lacked any real variety. Hellgate: London was one of those games where they would reuse the same monster bodies over and over again by simply changing the color of their skins. Combine this with a painful inventory system and tons of random/useless loot, and you’ve just made playing this game actually painful.
Game design was also disappointing in very subtle ways. The character classes were somewhat reminiscent of those from Diablo but that paled in comparison to how dumbed down the game felt. It was a half assed FPS as you couldn’t target body parts, and it failed as an RPG thanks to an overly simplified skill system. On the whole, Hellgate: London was a crushing disappointment. I never really gave a damn about John Romero, so when Daikatana crashed and burned, it didn’t really bother much. Though after playing Hellgate: London for a few weeks I think I finally understand what all of those fans went though.
Disappointing yes, but not really murder worth huh? Well Hellgate: London didn’t really make me want to harm anyone involved in it’s production or anyone in my immediate proximity. No, what made me want to kill were the reviewers. If you look around online, you may notice that the majority of the reviews for Hellgate: London are shining. At their worst, the various gaming magazines gave it a 7 out of 10. But the dark truth of the matter is that they were all lying bastards.
The only people who really gave it a decent review were the folks over at X-Play with a 2 out of 5 (and for making me admit to that last sentence I will never forgive anyone involved with Hellgate: London). PC Gamer tried to atone for their sins later on by changing their score from an 89% to something much lower (in the 10% to 20% range but hell if I can find the exact # online), but it was too little too late.
Hellgate: London was a lesson in mistrust. It taught me that the majority of game reviewers are soulless tools bent on pushing the newest and the most expensive games no matter how bad they were. On the bright side though, this taught me to be brutally honest about games no matter how popular they are. Just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s any good. Just look at the Transformers movies.
3. Any Disney Game for the SNES or Sega Genesis
Even Walt (after miraculously returning to life) would have killed himself after playing this damned thing for more than a few hours.
I have a little brother and he’s quite a bit younger than I am. The Super Nintendo was hooked up to the TV in the den and while it was my console, I had to share it with my young sibling. So in order to appease my parents and stop him from crying about me hogging my SNES, I was forced to allow him to use it whenever he wanted. Thus came my introduction to the pain that was the Disney, movie based game.
Every time a new generation of console comes out there’s one great game that changes everything, and then every other game developer starts pumping out a bad knock offs of the title. For the Nintendo 64 this was Super Mario 64. It was amazing, ingenious and simply fun to play. So, then we were bombarded with tons of crap, Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 for example. While they each had their own unique and interesting additions to the genre, they were both pretty much Mario 64 clones.
For the XBox the game in question was Gauntlet. The clones were Mythos, Titan Quest, and a score of painfully repetitive crap. The more advanced technology gets, the more obvious it is that a game is a cheap clone. Consequently, the cruder the technology is, the harder it was to tell the clones apart. Though with the SNES it was fairly obvious, the lame clones were the Disney games. I’m not sure what the original game was, but every Disney game followed the same format and thanks to my little bro, I had to sit through them all.
The games were usually rather simplistic platformers where you played as the movie’s main character and you ran and jumped from the left side of the level over to the right side of the map. That was about it. These games rarely had any real complexity to them. There was none of the secret location/paths tricks like in Super Mario World, nor any of the twisting, complex levels of Super Metroid. Nope, the Disney movie games were all pretty straightforward, linear platformers; full of bright colors, random moving objects, and movie references. And while my resulting hostility towards my brother occasionally emerges in the form of random noogies, what these games really made me wish for was the slow and torturous death of Michael Eisner.
2. Miracle Piano Teaching System
Hell isn’t other people. It’s other people trying to teach talentless children how to play any type of musical instrument.
This was an example of what can happen when you have loving, doting parents who want to provide you with the best opportunities in life while you’re too young and egocentric to realize that you’re being an ungrateful little prick. At some point between the organic food and the Beethoven, my parents bought me this insanely expensive NES accessory. The Miracle Piano Teaching System was a massive MIDI keyboard that could plug into your Nintendo and teach you (via a rather unpleasant game) how to play the piano.
The piano was massive and a pain in the ass to set up, but what really drove me to madness was the teaching game that came with it. The cartridge had a bunch of tests and other junk on it but all that I was really interested in were the 2 games that were included.
One game was a little duck hunt clone where you shot down ducks by hitting the right keys. The other was the bane of my existence, a little romp into hell called Robo Man. Robo Man was a robot that would roll across the screen and his little walkway was full of gaps. As you rolled under switches, you would hit the keys and Robo Man would hit the switch above him causing a trapdoor to pop up and fill the holes in the path. This was meant to teach you both rhythm and timing as well as how to play the damned songs. However, if you missed a single note, Robo Man would screech loudly and delay half a second. As a result of the delay and the painfully annoying noise, your timing would be thrown off and you’d probably miss the next note as well.
Honestly, I’m not the most musically inclined individual so as you can imagine, my memories of this game are little more than a series of painful screeching noises as I failed over and over again at this damned game. Robo Man would roll along screaming at me for my failures and my rage would slowly begin to build up. I still don’t believe that violent games can cause people to become violent, but I’m damned sure that stuff like this can.
1. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
Every time I play this game I hear voices telling me to ‘cleanse the unbelievers’. Weird huh?
This game is an abomination spawned from the very depths of hell. When it comes to Fallout games, I am a bit of a fanboy. I’ve played every single Fallout game as well as 2 table top RPG versions (one based on the SPECIAL system and another based on D20). Hell, I liked Fallout: Tactics, and if I ever met Emil Pagliarulo in person, I’d have to be restrained in order to stop me from attacking him (I wouldn’t kill him, I’d just want to make him bleed a little). I hated what they did to the franchise with Fallout 3, but even then I still played the hell out of that game. So, please keep this bias in mind when I say that Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was the worst thing ever in the history of electronic media. This is a game that is so bad that it has been known to cause spontaneous abortions in expecting mothers.
Fallout: BoS, was the complete bastardization of the Fallout franchise. It was a lame Gauntlet clone for the X-Box and PS2 that had little to nothing to do with any of the previous games. The humor, subtlety, strategy and creativity was all stripped out and replaced with mind-numbingly repetitive combat. Level design is linear were it shouldn’t be and nonlinear where it should have been. You were forced to wander around labyrinthine levels with only a minimap to aide you, and once completed, there was no returning to the different areas that served as mission hubs throughout the game. Not that you’d ever want to return to these damned areas as NPCs were painfully written and badly voice acted. It was the decision to give raiders stereotypical “New York Mafia Thug” voices that really started to make me twitch though.
You’re introduced to the game with the oh so classic “War never changes” intro, except instead of Ron Perlman’s wonderful voice you get to listen to Tony Jay reading through what has to be the worst thing he’s ever read. Not a great start, but then again Tony Jay isn’t too shabby either. While players are allowed to initially pick from 3 pre-made characters, you can unlock a few more as you play through the game, but none of it matters as you can’t customize any of them. You get to pick from a line up of rather bland and uninteresting generic action game characters. There’s big tattooed bald guy, the store brand version of Lara Croft with fake breasts and a belly shirt, and finally the misc “crazy” guy who in this game is played by an eye-lidless ghoul. After picking your character, you’re treated to a painful cutscene where you get to meet the game’s first main villain, a bad Betty Page knock off dressed in a black vinyl sling bikini (fyi: don’t google that term while at work) complete with garters and armored stalkings/boots.
The actual gameplay was designed to drive you to murder and had probably been used at least once in order to pull an insanity plea in court. You’re given a top-down view of your character and the camera can be rotated around freely. A bit too freely actually. By tapping the right stick on your controller you would in advertedly sent the camera into a chaotic and dizzying spin. But that didn’t matter for the most part as combat was nothing more than pointing the character in the right direction and then mashing your thumb into the attack button until everything died. If you wanted to give ranged combat a shot, one of the trigger buttons on the back on the controller could be used to lock onto enemies. The lock-on system worked fine if you were facing your target, but if you were dumb enough to either look the other way or try to dodge an enemy’s attack, the lock-on would be lost and you’d spend a few frantic seconds cursing your mother for bringing you into this world as the game fought against your control and mocked you.
The gameplay was shit, and the story had nothing to do with the Fallout universe whatsoever. Fallout: BoS contains a ton of Fallout references, but even then they miss the mark. Walls are covered in giant posters showing loading screens from earlier games. Characters from earlier games are drug into the plot for no good reason and are used in ways that would make a pimp cringe. It really felt like the entire game was based on the pot inspired ramblings of a Halo crazed fratboy whose contact with Fallout consisted entirely of watching his roommate play Fallout: Tactics one time. While Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout: Tactics, and Fallout 3 were RPGs, Fallout: BoS is a nothing more than a bad button mashing action game with a skill system crammed in as an after thought in order to make the game look a bit Fallout-like. It was shitty beyond compare and was badly designed even for a Gauntlet clone. I can’t even start thinking about this title without causing my eye to start twitching and the voices coming back. This game does to my soul what large fishermen do to harp seal pups annually.