Screen Critics takes a look back at the top 10 video game sequels that left us bitterly disappointed. From Tomb Raider to GTA, which games disappointed you?
Video game sequels are an interesting thing. They have to remain loyal to the original games idea – lest they suffer the fate of being scolded by eager fans. Good sequels tend to build on ideas, bad ones tend to do their own thing, much to the ire of fans. In some cases, a sequel isn’t outright “bad” – but certainly, manages to disappoint eager fans who wanted more.
We decided to take a look at the video game sequels that weren’t necessarily “bad” – but were disappointing in their time (and largely, to this day).
10. Dead Rising 4
By this point, the Dead Rising series had managed to carve itself a fun little niche. While gamers didn’t expect much besides a horde of zombies and quirky humor, the games had come a fair way. Dead Rising 4 was the first entry from the series to land on the current generation of consoles and man, was it a disappointment.
The decision to scrap the series much-adored tropes was heracy – robbing gamers of the psychopath bosses. Add in the fact that the game felt half baked at release, with awful camera controls, poor performance on Xbox One and an unremarkable story ruining the entire experience. Some gamers defend these decisions in the name of “making the game more accessible” – I just thought they were lazy and poorly executed.
There is also a multiplayer mode, but the only screams of horror you’ll hear are gamers desperately trying to get out of playing.
9. Lost Planet 2
Lost Planet is one of the last generations hidden gems. A really great game that went totally unnoticed by the masses. A sequel made sense and could have expanded the game’s mythology – but the execution of said sequel left a lot to be desired.
Instead of giving gamers better than the first, the focus on co-operative and multiplayer modes hampered the overall experience – with both modes feeling notably dated even by 2010 standards. The single player campaign was long but littered with design choices and awkward story drags that made experiencing it a complete chore.
It wasn’t the sequel many hoped for – and painted an awkwardly sad tale of a franchise that could have been so much more.
8. Crysis 2
Crysis 1 found fame in 2008 for its beautiful graphics and open gameplay. While it wasn’t the best first person shooter ever, it certainly had enough good ideas that a sequel made sense. It’s a damn shame then that said sequel ejected a lot of the things people loved about the original.
Trading the luscious green jungles for New York was an odd choice – but the game homed in on its more colostra phobic locale. The open gameplay that made the original so exciting was missing in action, replaced by hugely linear sections that felt out of place. The graphics also felt like they’d taken a step back, as the developers pushed the game onto Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It also doesn’t help that the game’s story pretty much hand waves the original game’s cliffhanger – as if to tell gamers that their investment in the original was a waste of time.
It’s a solid game – but it doesn’t come close to touching the impact the original game made. It’s one of those sequels that changed too much.
7. Assassins Creed 3
By the time Assassin’s Creed rolled around, Ubisoft had successfully squeeze four entries out of its popular franchise. But gamers wanted something new – something to excite them now that the Ezio storyline had reached its conclusion. With anticipation high, gamers figured that stepping into colonial America would be fun. It was sort of not.
It’s hard to put my finger on why this game was so disappointing. Maybe it’s because the main characters are as interesting as watching paint dry. Maybe it’s because without the huge cityscapes of Venice, Florence and other locales – Assassin’s Creed’s much adored free running ran face first into a brick wall. Perhaps it’s also something to do with the fact that this game really, really wants you to like the amazingly tedious Desmond storyline. The game actually has a slight obsession with turning his dull sections into main attractions – and it fails hard.
It’s funny because the next game in the series, Black Flag, is widely considered a frontrunner for the best game in the series. Many try to overlook AC3 – with good reason.
6. Batman Arkham Knight
Proof that size isn’t everything. Rocksteady crafted arguably the best superhero game of all time in Batman Arkham Knight. It was a brilliantly fluid take on the classic caper – delivering the best story without overreaching. The sequel to that game was the excellent Arkham City – which expanded the scope of the game to incorporate a more open world element. Sadly it was Rocksteady/’s third outing where this expansion reached a breaking point (We’ll skip past Origins)
Encompassing the entire city of Gotham, Arkham Knight felt somewhat disappointing next to its more focussed siblings. The introduction of the Batmobile felt wasted, while the shift to vehicle combat completely broke the experience. The game also features arguably the weakest story of the three games, awkwardly fumbling a Joker return into the mix. The Arkham Knight never really delivers on the villain stakes, while the gameplay overall moves between racing, driving sections and awkward platforming.
It’s not like Arkham Knight is a bad game outright. Its spectacularly awful PC version ensured that the conversation around the game was always doomed to be disappointing. A real misfire to end a great series and a show of how sequels can offer diminishing returns.
5. Hitman Absolution
Hitman: Blood Money is widely considered the pinnacle of the series – with good reason. It marries some of the best level design in the franchise to the open world gameplay that made the series so endearing. Absolution made the mistake of putting story ahead of gameplay, to the detriment of said gameplay.
Breaking up larger levels into smaller sections meant that some outings were insanely linear. Hitman is at its worst when the gamer is forced into one option – Absolution really loved this sections. The introduction of new features was welcome but made the game feel somewhat easier and more predictable. The removal of other series staples like customisable weapons and the introduction of DLC really grated hard on gamers. It wasn’t the sequel many wanted and, while the game isn’t bad, it’s not the outing that people expected.
IO Interactive admitted they’d messed up somewhat after the game released, promising to get it right for the next Hitman game (Which they did with the excellent Hitman).
4. Dragon Age 2
BioWare almost made this list for their Mass Effect Andromeda – but I opted out of that. Andromeda isn’t strictly a sequel, more a side project gone wrong. Dragon Age 2, however, is very much a sequel – and a bad one at that.
After the original Dragon Age introduced gamers to the exciting world of Thedas – BioWare saw the success that Mass Effect was racking up and decided to eject DA’s better features to tempt those gamers over. In the process, much-loved features like the ability to choose your race and more hardcore RPG elements went missing. It’s still got a lot of the things that makes BioWare games so enjoyable – but for those who found themselves immersed in the original games excellent world and story, the comedown is pretty hard.
DA2 was a sequel aimed squarely at those gamers who wanted more Mass Effect – which was a hard pill for fans to swallow. If sequels don’t make players from the original excited, what exactly is the point?
3. Grand Theft Auto IV
After creating the larger than life Vice City and San Andreas, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto was the poster child for mature gaming. Mixing over the top elements with huge freedom had created a recipe for excitement – and gamers couldn’t wait to see the first proper HD version of the series. It wasn’t quite what they were expecting.
Out went a lot of the series over the top elements, the game centered back in a redesigned Liberty City. With more grounded tones and a story that demanded emotional investment – some gamers couldn’t make the jump. Without the zany over the top antics that had characterized the previous games, it felt like a different series entirely. It also didn’t help that Liberty City felt small in scope next to the three city behemoth that was San Andreas.
Perhaps the most amusing frustration came in how the game’s cars handled – with almost every vehicle feeling like a brick on wheels. There’s a sense that the game went too far in trying to be realistic (Something the games own expansion packs would try to roll back). A solid game no doubt, but there’s more than a few gamers out there who see this as hugely disappointing – not helped by the fact that GTAV is almost universally adored for getting the balance right. Sequels aren’t always perfect, eh?
2. Dead Space 3
EA realized they were on to something good with the Dead Space franchise quickly, delivering a solid sequel in the form of Dead Space 2. With audiences loving the horror tones and violence littered throughout, it was hard to imagine how they could mess up the third entry. But this being EA, it was inevitable.
Dead Space 3 makes the bizarre decision to shift focus to a more action footing – allowing you and a friend to co-op Issac’s nightmare adventure. Out went the precise aiming and desperate scrambles for survival, in came an aiming mode that ripped on every third person shooter from this period. No longer were you forced to conserve ammo, it practically fell out the falls. It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t scary. It was just dull.
Oh and that whole thing about EA turning the weapon upgrade system into one huge DLC middle finger. Nothing says classy game like the requirement to part with real money for much-needed weapons. One of the sequels on this list to outright kill enthusiasm for the franchise it served.
1. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
Arguably the queen of awful sequels – Angel of Darkness didn’t just fall flat on its face, it almost destroyed the Tomb Raider franchise outright.
The first entry on PlayStation 2 promised a great new experience for Lara Croft but bogged itself down in poorly executed RPG elements. Everything was upgradable – from Lara’s jumping ability to the ability to climb walls. Perhaps this might have worked in a better sequel – but with an awful story and laughably tragic levels littering the game, there’s very little to make gamers want more.
The most amusing thing with this sequel – it was intended to be the launching pad for a new trilogy of Tomb Raider games. Gamers hated it. Reviewers hated it. I hated it.