Video games can leave all kinds of marks on the industry and the gaming community, inspiring future games or showing developers exactly what not to do. In this article, we highlight 5 games from this past year that will either be benchmarks for future games, or left a foul taste in everyone’s mouth.
Bethesda managed to show the gaming industry how not to launch an online game with Fallout 76. It wasn’t simply a case of “high hopes”, where Fallout 76 did not live up to its single-player brethren. It wasn’t a case of a buggy launch, which Bethesda is known for – the gaming community expects buggy launches from Bethesda, and the mod community cleans them up (for the most part). It was so much worse. In fact, we’d rather be live participants in a Short Life style gameshow, than continue watching the train wreck that is Fallout 76.
It was a combination of some of the worst reviews in gaming history, a 47 GB which barely fixed anything, the controversy of the nylon bags sent to Power Armor edition buyers (which appear fairly similar to ultra-cheap, bulk-order available bags on Alibaba), inflated microtransaction prices… Fallout 76 could quite literally go down as one of the worst launches in gaming history, for a title tied to such a massive IP.
Is it fixable? After a soul-crushing silence amidst all the controversy, Bethesda finally started speaking up on various social media, letting the community (what was left of it?) know that they’re aware of and working on the various issues. At least Bethesda is aware they pooped the bed, but we’re not entirely sure if the sheets are salvageable.
Far Cry 5
Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 dialed up the open-world elements of the popular series to 11, creating an amazing game experience. Previous Far Cry titles were technically “open world”, yet kind of kept you on a predetermined path through location-based quests. Far Cry 5 definitely went in more of an “open world, no rules” direction, and earned itself quite a number of awards.
How Far Cry 5 impacted the industry was during its announcement, which came during a highly politically-charged environment in western countries. When Far Cry 5 was announced, Donald Trump had recently won the U.S. presidency, and the UK was withdrawing from the European Union. Thus, Far Cry 5 being set in the United States, with a storyline revolving around the emergence of far-right politics, drew a lot of headlines from various media outlets, who suggested that Ubisoft intentionally coincided Far Cry 5’s announcement with the current political climate.
Whether or not it was intentional, it certainly proved that video games can get people talking about politics.
EA managed to spark hot online debates simply by including playable female soldiers in Battlefield V. YouTube comments lambasted EA for its “historical inaccuracy”, because Battlefield V is set during WW2, and for trying to be “politically correct”. There’s even an ongoing #NotMyBattlefield hashtag floating around. Funnily enough, women did in fact serve as soldiers during WW2. Especially on the Soviet side.
It’s kind of funny – nobody batted an eye at eggs as playable characters in ShellShockers.io, but females as playable characters? Unleash the e-rage! It definitely had a lot less to do with “historical accuracy”, and more to do with male gamers being “forced” to play as a female character. On the bright side, EA may have exposed a very real gender-bias amongst a certain subsection of gamers, and hopefully empowered other developers to simply not care about that particular fanbase.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games nearly outdid themselves in 2018, showing the industry how open-world games are done (again). RDR2 was nominated for Game of the Year, and 7 other categories – and it’d be a surprise if Rockstar Games didn’t take home a handful of the trophies.
It isn’t simply a matter of RDR2 being huge – it’s all the tiny details that fill the vast, sprawling landscape, adding to the gameplay in mind-boggling ways. The painstaking detail Rockstar Games put into nearly every aspect of RDR2 is something we can expect other developers won’t even attempt to reproduce, yet the bar is set so high now. We expect open-world games will be compared to RDR2 for a long time.
Black Ops 4
Treyarch and Activision managed to drum up a new kind of controversy this year, by announcing microtransactions after the game had already been released and reviewed. Microtransactions were to be expected, sure, but the way they were sneakily added in, without giving reviewers a chance to comment on them, felt pretty shady.
Not only that, but the way the microtransactions were implemented felt horrible. The game was launched with an incredibly sluggish grinding system to unlock cosmetics – fair enough. Grinding for cosmetics has always been in the CoD series. But the cost of unlocking cosmetics compared to what you get is ludicrous – $9 USD for outfits that are literally re-shaded textures of other outfits, as one example.
If this hasn’t impacted the gaming industry, we’ll be a bit sad – it should be taken as a lesson on how not to do microtransactions. While we’re not exactly surprised with Treyarch and Activision (CoD is a cash-grab series, after all), we’re still a bit disappointed.