Very few games survive the “Journey of the Hype Train” (take note, No Man’s Sky) but depending on who you ask, one game both survived and crashed spectacularly. Never before has a game polarised the Midlife Gamer Community and this alone allows us to make sense of the awards that the community voted this title the winner of. As such I will hand you over to Billy to announce the “winner” of this years Stinker of the Year as well as the other awards it picked up.
Stinker of the Year
With Watchdogs winning “Most Anticipated game of 2014” last year it was hotly tipped as the first true “next gen” experience. When it was finally released in May it did so to a massively divisive reception. In order to work out why so many people eventually hated this we only need to go back and look at the original E3 demo that was shown several years earlier. Ubisoft had put together a presentation that nearly blew the minds of all who watched it. From amazing weather effects, tight, smooth gameplay, superb lighting and seemingly endless examples of how the hacking feature could be used.
When it finally landed people were given a much more “toned down” experience. The weather and lighting had all but disappeared, the hacking tool was a feature under used and the detail was nowhere near as sublime as what was promised. The plot was nothing more than a by-product, the main character had less depth than a puddle and it was littered with Ubisoft’s “general” gameplay elements like unlocking towers and map exploration. There was a big city to explore but it felt more like GTA 4’s rather than GTA 5’s. The vehicles felt decidedly samey too as the arcade style didn’t truly fit the grimy noir feel that the game was going for.
Several multiplayer elements were also introduced that were great in theory but once put into the seemingly single player experience just irritated the shit out of people. For example there were several times when I first played the game that I had managed to find a radio tower to hack. I negotiated my way through the doors and rooftops to gain access to it and as I approached it I was notified that I was being hacked by someone online. This then stopped my progress in its tracks and had to spend the next 5 minutes running around looking for the little shit. I couldn’t ignore him and just carry on. So as soon as I found the option to turn that off I gladly did so as the idea was much better in theory than in execution. I thought to myself “if this is next gen, you can shove it”
Also of note – It ran just as well on xbox 360/PS3 consoles and although the graphics were nicer it felt decidedly “last gen” in style and execution. Not once did I think “now this is why I bought the new console”
Hype was also a key element. The developers gushed about it at every opportunity and Ubisoft rammed so much PR down our throats that it was only inevitable that it was going disappoint a few.
However it must be argued that there were some great elements in the game, like hideout missions and stealth takedowns, competent shooting mechanics and even some nice side missions like the voyeuristic hacking of peoples computers that allowed you a glimpse into their lives and the seemingly endless stats about the random NPC’s.
But ultimately it didn’t live up to its promise with a buggy launch, generic gameplay elements and once finished, nobody wanted to go back. Sound familiar UBISOFT?
The Sheep Award 2014 (aka Worst Game Played off the Back of a Recommendation)
Not only was it disappointing for people who were waiting for it but it seemed to disappoint people who weren’t. I myself am guilty of this as although it did have flaws I still enjoyed the experience to a certain extent. I most certainly recommended it to many of my friends and boy did I get it in the neck for that one. I received much criticism from my friends that ranged from “are you blind?” to “you owe me £40 you twat”. I do not regret my decision as at the time there was little in the way of open world games on new gen and after AC4 redeemed my faith in Ubisoft I was on a very forgiving vibe. I told people it was just a game and you shouldn’t believe all the hype. To play it and judge for yourselves.
Well, they did play it. They did judge it and also judged me too. I had the same argument many times with mates and began to get sick of repeating myself “blah blah towers, blah blah collectables, blah blah hideouts, blah blah hacking”
Well sod it. I don’t regret it, I did enjoy my time with Watchdogs. There, I’ve said it.
I don’t hate Watchdogs.
I don’t really love it either though!
I’m so conflicted…
The 50p Award (aka Best Game You Played But Never Completed)
Now this is an odd one as it’s the “best game you never completed” award and flies in the face of the last two. Watchdogs was divisive as I’ve already said and although there are some avid haters of the title there were a few like myself that actually enjoyed it. Many people told me they liked the idea of hacking, spying, shooting and racing. To which Watchdogs did deliver. It may not have had the depth of a full shooter, the detail of a competent race game or the stealthiest mechanics but it did supply a decent level of all three genres. The variety allowed many to pick and choose their favourite elements and just ignore the rest. But this came at a price. The plot. Many didn’t really enjoy the full mix and when presented with a mission type they hated they simply chose not to progress.
I am proud to say I did stick with it and even got as far as collecting a whole host of trophies along the way (as many as I could without dipping into multiplayer that is). Sadly that’s where it ended for me and even though I had the season pass I traded it in as soon as it was done. I genuinely felt I had squeezed everything that I wanted out of the game and simply didn’t want any more.
Some argued they came to that conclusion far earlier (about half way through the campaign) but still there was enough for people to pick their experience and decide exactly how much they wanted. Which is why I feel it is one of the most divisive experiences on current gen consoles (apart from Destiny) so far.