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The top five games that weren’t worth the wait
by Andrew Testerman

When games don't live up to the expectation surrounding them prior to release, it can often feel like you've wasted a huge amount of time. Andrew Testerman looks at five of the worst offenders.

After nearly fourteen years of development, cancellation, and other myriad mishaps, Duke Nukem Forever has finally been released. Unfortunately, the gaming community has not been terribly kind to it, and the reviews have ranged from mildly positive to scathingly negative, citing poor AI, dated game design, and a whole host of other problems.

In short, the game that took nearly a decade and a half to release needed still more development time.

Gamers have experienced this sort of thing before, and though Duke Nukem Forever is perhaps the most extreme case of an overly long development cycle releasing a (by general concencus) mediocre game, it’s hardly the first time it’s happened. For every StarCraft II, there’s a Kameo: Elements of Power, and today, Gamer’s Guide to is looking at the top five instances where time spent waiting for a game’s release simply didn’t pay off.

5: Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is not necessarily a bad game. Its combat system makes every battle fun and exciting, and it’s easily one of the prettiest games of this generation. That said, FFXIII defied nearly every expectation set upon it by the Fantasy hopeful, and not always for the better. For those looking for a true, traditional RPG sequel to Final Fantasy X (we’ve had words about FFXII already), Final Fantasy XIII not only failed to be a return to form, but it also failed to get even the most standard of JRPG conventions correct.

From the too-linear dungeon design, to the January-molasses pacing, to the under-explained story; Final Fantasy XIII ended up being a game that looked far better on paper than it did in the disc tray. It’s still worth a play by genre stalwarts, but Final Fantasy XIII is a far cry from the essential gaming experiences previous Final Fantasy titles were, making FFXIII something between four to eight years of wasted hope.

4: Advent Rising

Advent Rising was first announced in April 2003, and sounded - for fans of sci-fi - almost too good to be true. The game was a third-person shooter, adorned with large-scale environments and vehicle segments, as well as a new telekinesis-based set of powers. In addition, the story was penned by acclaimed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, who promised that players could affect the outcome of the plot based on the decisions made throughout the game. In essence, developer GliphX Games and publisher Majesco were attempting to make Mass Effect four years before BioWare eventually would.

Even though gamers only had to wait two years between when it was announced and when it launched, they were pretty long years. Each new story and announcement built up the game as an experience, the likes of which players had never seen, and expectations were sky-high entering 2005. It was only so long before the title was crushed under the weight of its own grandeur, and Advent Rising was released to very mixed and very disappointed reviews. Many praised Rising’s epic scope, but couldn’t overlook the host of technical issues and glitches adorning the game. Crashes and framerate stutters were frequent, and the 'flick targeting' mechanic only worked correctly as often as it didn’t. To add insult to injury, the million dollar contest touting the release of the game was cancelled; Majesco were claiming foul play with the Xbox Live global synching clock, though some joked that Majesco didn’t have a million dollars to spare for a contest. The game ultimately turned out respectable, but the pain of seeing such squandered potential makes Advent Rising nearly too tragic to bother with.

3: Perfect Dark Zero

The original Perfect Dark was one of the final 'big' games released for the Nintendo 64, and was beloved by those who stuck around for long enough to play it. It was the follow-up to Goldeneye that many players hoped for, retaining Rare’s tight gunplay and satisfying multiplayer, while plussing and improving nearly every aspect. Nintendophiles waited with bated breath for the inevitable GameCube sequel. It never came - Microsoft soon purchased Rare for a staggering $350 million, taking Perfect Dark and the rest of its IP stable with it.

When Perfect Dark Zero finally turned up as an Xbox 360 launch title, gamers expecting to relive the glory days of late-2000 yore were pretty damn disappointed. Rare ditched nearly everything that made a compelling character out of Joanna (she sure got lost her British accent in the short time between Perfect Dark and Zero), but still clung fast to the now-aged Goldeneye mission structure. Worse, the previous game’s killer app, multiplayer, was now hampered by clunky controls and questionable mechanics: every match had more rolling than a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Perfect Dark Zero was met with mixed reviews and reasonable sales, but anyone who cut their teeth taking down dataDyne five years earlier would profess to the foul taste the game left in the mouth.

2: Daikatana

More than the actual game itself, Daikatana’s hype stemmed from its Lead Developer. You see, a long time ago, a young developer named John Romero helped to found a company called ID Software. ID would later develop games that would mould and evolve the entire industry, including Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. In 1997, Romero had an idea for a new shooter, one that spanned thousands of years and featured a whole mess of monsters to turn into goo. Work started shortly afterwards by Romero’s development studio, Ion Strom, and the game was put on track to release in time for the 1997 holiday season.

Three years, several engine changes and the departure of many key staff members later, Daikatana was released to a very acidic press and public. Similarly to Duke Nukem Forever, Daikatana was far from the experience originally promised, suffering from poor AI, dated mechanics and a whole host of other problems. The abrasive marketing certainly didn’t help the game’s image either. Romero later said the title sold enough to recover development costs, but at the end of the day, Daikatana is still a great example of why big name talent isn’t everything in the gaming industry.

1: Too Human

Perhaps the most ambitious (non-Duke Nukem Forever) game on this list, Too Human started its life as a four-disc PlayStation title way back in the 1999. The game eventually crept its way to the GameCube in 2000, and finally settled down on the Xbox 360 in 2008. After nearly ten years of development, announcements of a planned trilogy and a level of hype mightier than Thor himself, Too Human was released to a resounding "meh" from the gaming community. In terms of both sales and review scores, Too Human was wildly mediocre.

That the game was met with such indifference is a terrible shame. Too Human features a concept that’s awfully cool (cyberpunk Norse deities - what isn't to like?), and great drop-in-drop-out co-op, but the middling sales all but guarantee that the two planned sequels will never see the light of day.

What made the game fall so flat? Ironically, many reviewers cited a lack of polish, calling the combat frustrating and clumsy, with a difficult-to-manage projectile system. Coupled with a few questionable design decisions - is it really necessary to watch a thirty-second cutscene of a Valkyrie taking dead Baldr to Valhalla? - its short length, and a repetitive game structure, Too Human treated players to a nice, bland underwhelming sandwich with mediocrity in lieu of bread. The game certainly has its fans (most notably, G4TV's Adam Sessler), but to the majority of gamers, Too Human was simply not worth the wait.

Are there any games that you waited patiently for, only to be disappointed and underwhelmed by the final product? Sound off in the comments below, or send us your thoughts via Twitter at @ggtl!

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- Andrew Testerman

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