Retro gaming, four of a kind: top video games ruined by their promotion

Posted on 8 October 2015
By James Brookfield
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Last Friday saw the release of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5, Activision’s attempt to revive the classic series which began Tony Hawk’s video game endorsements. Unfortunately, to minimum surprise, in the game has received underwhelming reviews resulting in a critical and commercial failure.

This week’s Four of a Kind will discuss the top retro video game disappointments, detailing titles that either listened to their own hype or failed to live up to it.

1. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (Atari 2600)

Four of a Kind readers will know that the main aim of each list is to not submit games that have featured in previous lists. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is often cited as one of the worst video game film tie-in ever produced as well as one of the biggest commercial and software failures. Furthermore the game is considered the primary reason for the video game industry crash 1983.

As a result this game E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is the only exception to the self-imposed rule. Published by Atari the game was developed within six weeks in order to be rushed out for Christmas 1982. As a result graphics are primitive; the gameplay is convoluted and despite the film’s engaging plot the game’s story was boring.

Eventually 1.2 million copies were sold however that figure is small in comparison to the unsold copies, which were later buried in a desert in New Mexico. The name of Atari was also buried shortly after.

2. John Romero’s Daikatana (Nintendo 64, PC, Gameboy Colour)

John Romero’s first-person shooter, produced by Ion Studios, is often heralded as one of the biggest commercial flops in the video game industry. There are many reasons for this, the first being development expectations. Initial design for the game aimed for a mass amount of content however Romero believed development could be completed within seven months, in time for Christmas 1997.

Production began April 1997 but was not released until 2000, three years after the proposed deadline. The second reason for failure is due to the appalling, infamous advertising campaign. Daikatana’s poster taglines was designed to increase hype, instead fuelled anger and outrage as it read “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch.”

It was an unfortunate campaign, one Romero has subsequently apologised copiously. Other issues arose such as; negative press, continuous unfounded promises, high expectations and internal disputes

3. Enter the Matrix (Gamecube, Playstation 2, Xbox, PC)

Following the success of the Matrix films and animated series Enter the Matrix promised to be the beginning of good film-tie in games. Rather than reconstruct the film’s plot, the game’s story acted as side-companion opting to focus on Ghost and Niobe, members of the same group of rebels as Morhpeus, Neo and Trinity.

Enter the Matrix even includes one hour of live action 35 mm film footage written and directed specifically for the game by The Wachowski Brothers. The martial arts sequences and in-game cut scenes feature actions motion captured directly from the films’ actors and stunt doubles in order to recreate the same tone of the films. Hype truly and continually increased. However the final product is a rushed, clunky, awful video game.

The graphics are ugly, controls are awkward, in-game mechanics are frustrating and character models did not fully represent the respective characters. The plot did deepen the Matrix mythology but ultimately formed an uninspiring series of event.

4. Metal Gear Solid 2 (Playstation 2)

Hideo Kojima’s sequel to the critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid is not a bad game; it is one of the more contemporary entries to the series. The gameplay is as solid as its predecessor; maintaining positive aspects as well as adding fine new additions such as first-person mode. Visually the game is stunning, improving on the original and highlighting the new capabilities of the Playstation 2. Lastly the plot is another strong, albeit confusing, combination; of espionage, science fiction and mechs.

However Metal Gear Solid 2 did not fail to live up to hype due to the critical reception of the first game but instead the odd decision to replace Solid Snake, the iconic character, with Raiden. It’s a choice that left fans feeling immediately disappointed and angry. This is owing to the game’s opening featuring Snake in a promising, immersive setting to then shift to an unknown rookie in a cold, empty environment.

For many having to play as Raiden detracted from the overall experience. Kojima further represented fans dismay by making several references and jokes to the character in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

That concludes this week’s look at video game hype fails. As always feel free to leave comment discussing the games included or possibly omitted.

As always, feel free to comment below if you feel that other games should have been included, along of course with your thoughts on this article.

Honourable mentions: APB (Amiga, Atari ST, Atari Lynx, C64, ZX Spectrum) Pac-Man (Atari 2600), Rise of the Robots (Sega CD, SNES), Night Trap (Sega CD), Shenmue (Dreamcast), Grim Fandango (PC), Fable (Xbox) and Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2, PC, Xbox, GameCube)