There were plenty of games to be excited about in 2021, with next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X finally hitting their stride. Between PS5 exclusives like Returnal and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart to the massive success of Forza Horizon 5 for Microsoft, there was something for everyone this year. Even Nintendo and its massively popular Switch console saw the return of Samus Aran in Metroid Dread hit the highest launch month sales any of the previous games had seen before it.
While there were plenty of high points in 2021, the year also had more than its fair share of low ones as well. More than a few of the following games were some which held a ton of promise but ultimately fell short of expectations at launch. In no particular order, here are the 10 most disappointing games of 2021.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Another Aliens game, another entry that leaves many fans wanting. Focusing more on action than the survival horror, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a third person co-op shooter that takes place on the UAS Endeavor 23 years after the original films. In a similar style to Left 4 Dead, Aliens: Fireteam Elite can be played online with others or with AI bots with 6 character classes to pick from across four campaigns.
Unfortunately, Aliens: Fireteam Elite launched with a number of issues, both from bugs and technical issues, to flaws resulting from core concepts. Character customization was limited and lacked variety, while both combat and levels felt repetitive due to reused environments and enemies, undermining the game's push for replayability. Bugs ranged from odd audio and visual issues to more of the game breaking variety preventing ammo from being restocked or interacting with anything in the environment. While the game seemed strong on paper, it ultimately left a lot to be desired.
Back 4 Blood
With the original developer that worked on Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios, returning to the genre that it helped make popular, Back 4 Blood instantly became a highly anticipated title. Retaining a similar formula where a team of four navigate through levels overrun with undead, Back 4 Blood utilizes a card system to modify gameplay elements from enhancements, bonuses, to corruption cards which increase the difficulty. While Back 4 Blood experienced huge success at launch, many fans found the overall experience to be less than optimal.
Turtle Rock has admitted that it was tuned to be too difficult and spawn spawned special Ridden enemies far more often than intended. The game's Swarm mode, which introduces PvP into the game, feels like a missed opportunity, while the community was hoping for more of a Left 4 Dead Versus mode. Worse yet, those who wanted to play solo found that the game essentially punished them by preventing many of the in-game accomplishments from being completed. This means that achievements as well as unlocking additional survivor characters were restricted. While Turtle Rock is working on fixes to these issues, longtime fans were no doubt disappointed at the launch state of the game.
Coming from Sonic the Hedgehog creator Yuji Naka, Balan Wonderworld seemingly had a lot of potential. A platform game set across 12 chapters, Balan Wonderworld seeming took influences from past games Naka worked on such as Nights Into Dreams. The game featured a mysterious being known as Balan that guided the player characters through a sandbox environment to find collectables, solving puzzles, and using costumes to gain new abilities.
However, the end result didn't live up to Naka's previous works, with reception generally being negative from critics and fans. Criticisms were placed at the platforming mechanics, which felt uncomfortable to use at best largely due to the insistence on a one button control scheme. The game also featured a ton of ability changing costumes, though many were forgettable and tossed to the side just as quickly as they were introduced. The story introduced a number of concepts, though never fully explored in-game, leaving the important details locked inside a completely seperate novelization.
The long-running Battlefield franchise is a fan favorite, mixing infantry combat with vehicles, large maps, and elements of destruction. These ingredients typically lead to player creativity during matches, which has generated some incredible "Battlefield Moments" which have been canonized in the community. The past few games in the franchise have also given rise to expectations of major launch concerns from server issues, bugs, and other gameplay-related inconsistencies. Unfortunately for Battlefield 2042, that trend has continued.
Following the early access period, the game's community has raised concerns over a large number of missing features, many of which have been standard in past games like the scoreboard and server browser. However, core gameplay changes are also causing friction with fans from the removal of the class system in favor of dedicated specialists, a lower than expected weapon total, and minimal game modes for "All-Out Warfare." Coupled with bugs, glitches, and an overactive weapon bloom (bullet spread), many are calling the game unfinished. While DICE has already released several updates and has more planned, there are plenty of fans in the community who feel there are deep-rooted issues with core mechanics that won't be able to be solved through updates.
Former members of Avalanche Studios, previously working on the explosive Just Cause series, departed to create their own action RPG. The members formed Experiment 101, and in 2017, the studio announced Biomutant, a branching narrative action game that mixes RPG style mechanics in a post-apocalyptic world. Instead of humans occupying the world, players would control a warrior animal and primarily interact with all sorts of mutated animals.
Although Biomutant was a financial success for Experiment 101, the game was met with lukewarm reception from critics who took issue with the amount of mechanics and features the game attempted to utilize. In a jack of all trades, master of none sort of situation, Biomutant seemed to try and do too much, lacking polish with certain game features like objectives, a story that never really hits, and its limited in scope puzzles, and making the game feel repetitive the further the player went on. Ultimately, Biomutant had an interesting design and a ton of potential, though none of it fully connects as fans had hoped.
Coming from Lucid Games, a development studio formerly made up of veterans of Bizarre Creations as well as former project leads on the Wipeout series, there was a lot of anticipation for the vehicular combat game, Destruction AllStars. Not only that, the game was serving as a launch window title for the PlayStation 5, hoping to catch on with players to support the title through free and seasonal updates. Unfortunately, the game was less of the next Rocket League as many had hoped it would become.
The first bit of controversy the game ran into was its price point, which was set at $69.99, a $10 increase from the typical price point of games in the US. Following a delay out of the PS5 release window, Destruction AllStars was instead moved to February where it would be added as the main PlayStation Plus title until a price increase would then be applied once the promotion ended.
While the game works as intended, fans and critics ultimately thought the experience was average at best due to a lack of content with only four game modes, and a limited narrative based campaigns which come with a seperate cost from the base game. While the game has recieved new content in the months since, it seems first impressions matter as the player population has seemingly dried up, leaving interested players only able to play against AI bots.
Diablo 2: Resurrected
Taking one of the most beloved games Blizzard owns and adding some modern touches should have been an easy win for a company that has seen plenty of issues and controversy over the past year. Unfortunately, Diablo 2: Resurrected missed the mark. Upon launch, Diablo 2: Resurrected players suffered numerous server issues, essentially making the game unplayable, even for offline players as the service was unable to periodically validate a legally owned copy. For those who were able to get past the server problems, such as console players, they utlimately ended up running into absurdly long queue times, some even waiting hours just to enter the game.
Frustrations continued to boil over online as the server issues began impacting those actually playing the game. One user, who had a level 85 Sorceress while playing under the game's Hardcore rules, died while loading into a waypoint due to the servers negatively impacting the game's load times. Due to the increased connectivity and server issues that continued to impact Diablo 2: Resurrected, fans were both upset and confused. For how excited fans were for a return to such a beloved title, the newest version has certainly left a black mark on its legacy.
Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance
Originally revealed at the 2019 Game Awards, Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance showed plenty of promise coming from Wizards of the Coast owned-Tuque Games. However, the game launched in June to a decidedly mixed reception due what many felt was dull and repetitive combat, a lackluster story, and difficulty spikes that made the game not very solo friendly. On top of all that, the game was riddled with bugs and issues which further impacted the experience.
While the launch experience was no doubt disappointing, especially for those who enjoy spending time in that world, the feedback did not go unheard. Thankfully, developer Tuque Games issued a statement outlining plans to fix the game, and already began the process a few months ago, releasing a patch to improve the AI while also fixing the multiplayer connection stability and rubber-banding issues.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - Definitive Edition
Taking some of the most beloved games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise and improving them for a modern audience all in one package was quite the hype-inducing feat. Combining Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, developer Grove Street Games attempted to update the game's lighting, driving, HUD, character models and more. However, things didn't go quite according to plan as the release was marred by all sorts of issues including glitches, bugs, wonky visuals, and more.
There's been no shortage of weird visual glitches and issues posted to social media by players, including the rain effects from GTA: San Andreas that can not only go through solid objects but hurt the eyes as well. Fans have been outright frustrated and disappointed by the many issues present with some of these beloved games, modders have even taken it upon themselves to fix the game before official updates can be rolled out. Some are out as of this writing, but it's not really enough to redeem the games. Things have gotten so bad that Rockstar has not only apologized, but promised to restore the previously removed original Grand Theft Auto games from digital storefronts like Steam. While patches and updates have started to roll out, many fans have already started calling the release this year's Cyberpunk 2077.
It's not that Outriders is a bad game, but games only have one chance at a first impression, and Outriders may not have landed the way it intended. Recently, however, the New Horizon update has even caused a player count spike as fans return to the game to see all of the changes and reworks. What can't be ignored though is the fact that Outriders had a number of major issues at launch, some small bugs and glitches mixed with larger issues that really hurt the game and player excitement over it.
One of the more notorious issues with Outriders were the rampant server issues which plagued the experience throughout its launch weekend, devastating for a game that was online only. Fans were essentially locked out of the experience until the problems could be identified and corrected on its backend. Another issue completely wiped player inventory a few times, which made players wary to even play the game for fear of getting their hard earned loot completely erased.
Many fans were disappointed and frustrated to see a number of class nerfs for the Trickster and Technomancer introduced to the game so soon after launch, as well as some general class balances that made characters feel weaker or resulting and one class, the Devastator, from being shunned online. A lot of changes have come, but there's only that one chance at a first impression. It's climbing its way up still, Worldslayer and future updates could change a lot, so here's hoping it hits the high marks it's aiming for.
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