2019’s biggest gaming disappointments
As the year winds down and we enter the final Thanksgiving/Christmas stretch, it feels safe to say at this point that 2019 was a pretty good year for us gamers. This year saw the release of highly anticipated titles like the Resident Evil 2 remake and Death Stranding, critical darlings like Control and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and even indie powerhouses like Disco Elysium and A Plague Tale: Innocence, to name a few.
However, 2019 also wasn’t without its share of gaming disappointments. The developers behind these games may have had noble ambitions, but for whatever reason they just couldn’t find the ideal conditions to ensure a successful launch. Below, we’ve rounded up the biggest gaming disappointments of 2019 so that gamers can reminisce on the year’s low points and hopefully take to heart the risks of investing in an upcoming game too early.
Room for Improvement
While some 2019 games were total disasters (and we’ll definitely get to those), others were able to more or less recover from a shaky launch and/or establish a dedicated following despite their tepid critical reception. Such games include SIE Bend’s Days Gone, Gearbox’s Borderlands 3, Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and Ghost Games’ Need for Speed Heat.
While we enjoyed it for the most part, Spiders’ BioWare-esque RPG GreedFall, had plenty of its own problems both in terms of its colonists vs. natives setting and its functional yet formulaic gameplay. Meanwhile, The Coalition’s Gears 5 was riddled with game-breaking performance issues at launch to the point where some players couldn’t even finish the campaign or consistently earn online multiplayer progression. Many of those issues have since been ironed out, but the damage they inflicted on Gears 5’s launch period hype was still done nonetheless.
Other near-fully-successful 2019 games that, in one way or another, wound up flying too close to the sun include NetherRealm’s microtransaction-heavy Mortal Kombat 11, Bithell Games’ unique yet mechanically inconsistent John Wick Hex, id Software’s ambitious yet dry Rage 2, and, as hard as it is to believe, Square Enix’s long-in-the-making trilogy capper Kingdom Hearts 3.
No Redemption Here
There were a few 2019 games which may have seemed promising during their pre-launch run-up, but once they were out in the wild it quickly became clear that they were, for lack of a better, term, total disasters.
Sumo Digital’s Crackdown 3 had already used up any goodwill it might have had well before its launch this past February, and when it did finally arrive it wound up feeling more like an archaic relic of Crackdown’s early aughts heyday. Then there was Avalanche Studio’s Generation Zero, a co-op shooter which felt so soulless and underbaked that many former fans expressed genuine concern that Avalanche had purposefully swindled them with all its glitzy pre-release marketing for the game.
Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: Youngblood, while promising in its concept, proved that it is indeed possible to make a boring Wolfenstein game. Then there was the just-recently-launched Shenmue III which, despite being one of the most highly anticipated games of this year if not this decade, tried way too hard to be a game that only existing Shenmue fans could appreciate, much to its detriment.
And of course we couldn’t close out this section without mentioning Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. The follow-up to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands had such a catastrophically bad launch that Ubisoft itself even acknowledged as much in an earnings call and delayed three upcoming games to ensure they don’t fall into the same pitfalls that Breakpoint did.
To its credit, Ubisoft is working to fix Breakpoint’s biggest sore points, but that process will likely take several months at the earliest, and that’s just not good enough for players who already have a bad taste in their mouths from the game’s rough launch. The silver lining is that Ubisoft has apparently learned from its mistakes in Breakpoint’s case, or at least says it has.
Crashing and Burning
You probably knew this was coming, but if there was one 2019 game that was more disappointing than any other, it was BioWare’s sci-fi online shooter Anthem. Not even the full force of publisher Electronic Arts’ massive marketing blitz could keep fan skepticism from creeping in, especially given the rough launch of BioWare’s previous game, Mass Effect Andromeda, and the fact that many critics felt Anthem was just EA’s rushed response to Bungie’s and (at the time) Activision’s Destiny franchise.
Even before its full release on February 22, Anthem’s launch hype quickly stalled out due to a confusingly complex early access promotion which prompted EA to make a now infamous chart (seen below) detailing when certain players could play based on whether they met certain criteria like pre-ordering the game and/or subscribing to services like Origin Access. The game itself was also promptly scorched by critics mainly thanks to its tedious gameplay, boring story, forced social components, long load times, and lack of compelling endgame content.
Similar to Ubisoft with Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Electronic Arts and BioWare naturally pledged to keep improving Anthem beyond launch, but as of this writing they have little to show for those pledges. A mid-year Cataclysm event also wound up being a dud, and numerous high-profile departures from BioWare throughout the year have caused fan readings to veer back and forth between mild worry to outright claims that Anthem has been abandoned and put on life support.
Earlier this month, EA and BioWare made yet another pledge, this time saying that they’re prepping some massive overhauls for Anthem’s core systems. The scope of these overhauls is apparently so wide that BioWare is internally debating whether it should update the existing Anthem client or just re-launch what it’s calling ‘Anthem Next’ as an entirely separate game. Of course, while 2020 could potentially be remembered as the year Anthem redeemed itself, 2019 will for sure be remembered as the year it shot for the moon and wound up crashing in spectacular fashion soon after takeoff.