Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KGB Top 5: Great Premise, Bad Game

Occasionally a game comes along that seems like it'll be a sure-fire hit. Maybe it's a fresh idea, a new gameplay mechanic, or just an idea so inspired you can't believe no one's done it before. Inspired by HumorTumor's recent coverage of Operation Raccoon City, we were inspired to take a look at games that didn't quite live up their potential. We present this week's Top 5: Great Premise, Bad Game. Enjoy!

5. Cold Fear (PS2, Xbox, PC 2005)   by Rock

Hey, you know what was a great game? Resident Evil 4.  So you would think that a game that straight up copies that game's main mechanics and feel would be pretty good too, right?  What if it was sold to you as being kind of like Resident Evil meets The Thing?  sounds even better, doesn't it? Well, dear reader, you'd be wrong.  So tragically wrong....

Lots of blood, too bad about it not being any fun though...

You see, Cold Fear tried really hard to nail the over the shoulder shooting mechanics of RE4, mixed with the atmosphere of John Carpenter's classic movie, all set aboard a derelict whaling vessel. They forgot one crucial element- they forgot to make it fun.  In any way. At first, it seems really cool that a ship on the stormy seas is going to be pitching and rolling, making navigating the deck a real challenge.  And also zombies. The reality is that the many hazards that can instantly kill you lead to repetitive die-and-retry gameplay. Matters aren't really helped much by the fact that the main character, Tom Hansen, controls like complete ass; whether you're tying to shoot some bad guys or just move around, you can be assured that Tom is going to make it as difficult as possible.  Wait a second, this all sounds kind of familiar.  Let's see, who developed this?  Oh, it's Darkworks, you might remember them from such hits as 1906: An Antarctic Odyssey or Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, or even...oh god dammit they're the people that started I Am Alive. Everything is clear now. Fuck this game.

4. The Bouncer (PS2 2001)  by Rock

Square Enix has built up a long career as the kings of the JRPG genre, but some of you might be surprised to learn that they were once the publishers of some truly amazing fighting games.  The Bouncer is not one of them.  The Bouncer was developed by Dream Factory, the same folks who brought us such great fighters as Tobal No. 1 and it's critically acclaimed sequel Tobal 2. Oh and then they did...Ehrgeiz...oh shit. But those first two were pretty great, right? As one of the first games to come out for the PS2, The Bouncer had a lot of hype before it released. And it's really did seem like an awesome game! Who wouldn't want to play a Square published brawler, with three playable character in a futuristic setting? I know I was pumped!

Did I mention that the game is insanely Japanese? Not that that's a bad thing....

And then I played it.  I played it a lot. While the game is, at times, brilliant, there's a lot to hate here. Since the game has three characters, that means you can play through three times, right? You can, but I doubt you'd want to. This is because each character has their own style, but really only the main guy, Sion, is any good. Of the other two, Kou is fast and agile, but his attacks are way too weak and rely on huge combos that always get interrupted or miss, and Volt is a giant bruiser, but his moves are so slow that they almost never connect. And then you have the boss fights to look forward to! How would you like to fight a dude with unblockable, massive combos that never miss, even while you're downed?  Sounds pretty annoying, right?  What about if after you lose s boss fight (and you will), you have to watch the same long, unskippable cutscenes again? Well that's pretty much the experience with every boss fight, where victory isn't a matter of skill, but of getting lucky.  I really wanted to like this game, because there really are some interesting elements here, but it just gets so ballsed up as to be unforgivable.

3. Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (PS2, GC, Xbox 2005) by Chris

We've covered this abomination before, but its terribleness cannot be understated. This game had everything going for it at the time. EA had just gotten rights to the Marvel characters, and was the largest third party developer in the industry. Marvel was just starting to pick up major steam in popular culture, as the Spider-Man films were setting box office records, and even B-level characters like Daredevil were getting major Hollywood films. Nemesis featured a varied cast of superheroes, alongside newly created, EA-owned villains known as the Imperfects, who are bad characters. Basically, this served to promote a quickly-forgotten 6 issue miniseries that ran in the summer of 2005. 

The game itself is a piss-poor 3D arena combat brawler. The single player campaign consists of each Marvel hero taking turns running down poorly-lit corridors, fighting wave after wave of generic enemies.  Controls are terribly loose, and you'll constantly find yourself diving off rooftops to your death. A separate mode exists for 1 on 1 fighting, but by the time you get to unlock the characters you want to use in the first place, you'll be beyond done with it. Marvel Nemesis was such a colossal clusterfuck that it completely shit up the Marvel/EA agreement, and was the only game released in the 4 years the partnership lasted. That's probably a good thing.

2. State of Emergency (PS2, 2002) by Chris

Following hot on the heels of the Earth-shattering success of Grand Theft Auto III, State of Emergency was the first Rockstar release following GTAIII. Developed by VIS, SoE promised previously unseen amounts of carnage and mayhem. It didn't really deliver. Perhaps the first clue that this game would dissapoint was the track record of VIS. Before releasing SoE, VIS had developed hot bangers like Powerpuff Girls, Tom and Jerry, and the abysmal Earthworm Jim 3D. What do all these games have in common? They suck balls. 

State of Emergency was a simple riot-based shooter, in which players would select a shitty character and then try to shoot as many civilians as possible. There was a story to it, if I remember correctly, but I never paid much attention to it. Whatever it was, I can guarantee it was a bit crap. SoE so miserably failed to live up to its' pre-release hype that Rockstar dumped the series, and the sequel was released by the bargain bin SouthPeak Interactive. It also sucked. 

1. Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (PS1, 1997) by D. Bethel

Star Wars fans are always an optimistic and eager bunch, especially when it comes to video game iterations of their cherished universe.  Take, for example, the release of the Kinect and PlaystationMove (is that even still around?); most people’s first thoughts upon seeing those were: 1. Really?  2.  Light-muthafuckin-sabers! (and force pushing).  Similarly, back in the throes of when fighting games ruled the consoles and arcades (remember those?), many a fan chittered about how awesome a Star Wars fighting game could be.  When Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (pardon the missing umlauts) released, the biggest reaction was that, yes, in the future Star Wars still could be a great fighting game...just not right now. 

Masters of Teras Kasi followed in the wake created by hit franchises such as Tekken, Viruta Fighter, and especially Soul Calibur.  Like many licensed knock-offs, however, it failed not only at capturing the epic atmosphere of the Star Wars universe but also in being anything resembling a good fighting game.  Clunky controls, horrible characters (despite the inclusion of fan-favorite Expanded Universe character, Mara Jade; and, yes, there is a Tusken Raider you can play as named Hoar, pronounced “Kardashian”), and poor graphics (even at the time of its release) are just the start of what makes this game an abomination.  So, after learning to ignore Teras Kasi’s existence, we still wait for a good Star Wars fighting game, using our time until then to make eerily similar analogs in Soul Calibur 5, because that may be as close as we can get.


  1. Masters of Teras Kasi was so terrible, yet I constantly played it because I am such a shameless Star Wars nerd.

    1. Me too I've read almost every star wars novel not counting the side stories and played that game for days on end and freaked out when I discovered the hidden characters. That game is a skeleton in my nerd closet I try to keep hidden.

  2. Teras Kasi came out while I was at GamePro. The internal battle we had over people who felt it was awesome and felt it was trash was legendary. Basically, those of us who enjoyed it enjoyed it for the same reason John Newby did -- "Star Wars!!!11!!" But once I got over that, I realized I'd backed the wrong horse, and it really was an unfortunate failure.

    1. We all spent far too much time with Tera Kasi, it seems. Now, imagine if it was actually a GOOD game. It could've been the next Tekken! Still, I'm sure it sold well, based on the Star Wars license alone.