While the first game in the Dirt franchise from Codemasters had a good focus on rally racing, and the move to a more varied gaming experience in Dirt 2 with modes like Gatecrasher proved to work well, the series started to go downhill with the release of both Dirt 3 and Dirt Showdown. The added focus on Gymkhana-style gameplay rather than rally driving and races didn’t sit as well with fans, while there was only a one-year gap between the two games.
Fast forward to 2015 and Codemasters had started working on enhancing Dirt Rally, which they released in early access on Steam. While that move was both an experiment and necessary due to the small team that had been working on the game, the move back to a pure rally experience with a focus on realistic handling went down very well. Even Dirt 4, which released June 2017, went back to the roots of the series while keeping it fresh with licensed World Rallycross Championship cars and locations.
Now EA Skate was definitely not a bad game, it provided a new realistic skateboarding experience that the Tony Hawk franchise never did. Its twin-stick trick system was slightly difficult to get used to but felt great, and the large open world meant not having to go through loading screens to get to different areas. It wasn’t without criticism, however, with some fans not being happy with the camera angle, and it was difficult at times to move about due to always being on your board.
EA focused on these issues, while also noticing part of the game community that used the world as a sandbox to create realistic montages. In Skate 2 two camera options were provided, with the close view positioned slightly higher than before, while the feature of off-board movement gave the player more skateboarding possibilities. The clip creation system was also enhanced with extra camera angles that could be placed anywhere, making it easier to make interesting clips of tricks and funny moments.
After Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella were moved on by Activision in 2010 and made a development studio with EA, their new team started work on Titanfall. The first-person shooter released in March 2014 as a multiplayer game that heavily revolved around mech combat. It was well received by critics, getting around 86 average on Metacritic across each platform.
While the game was reviewed well, for some fans the experience just got boring after a short period of time, and the exclusion of a proper single player campaign was something people were unhappy about. Two-and-a-half years later EA released Titanfall 2 with a well-received single player campaign, but while they learned from that, you could say they now know not to release the next game within two weeks of their other popular first-person shooter.
From the moment Ubisoft surprised everyone watching E3 with the reveal for Watch Dogs, there was a lot of hype for the release. The game ended up being underwhelming, and not just because of the controversy surrounding its final visuals compared to the previous E3 trailers. Players found main protagonist Aiden Pearce and the story of the game fairly bland, you weren’t put on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next.
You can tell from Watch Dogs 2 that Ubisoft took the complaints they received to make a better experience. The story was more interesting than what you got in the first Watch Dogs, while the main characters that you are introduced to are more relatable to players, and you get the feeling that they are making a difference. There’s more emphasis on the internet, social media, and technology, while San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area environment also link these aspects and hackers together better.
The first game from Guerrilla Games in the Killzone series had mixed reactions from press and fans. While the soundtrack for the game was positively received and the sci-fi based setting gave the game some character, there were technical complaints about the frame-rate and the draw distance, while some felt that the gameplay and controls were improvable.
Killzone 2, on the other hand, was found to be a massive improvement when it released in Feb 2009. The game wasn’t plagued with the technical issues of the first one, with the graphics of the game praised. With the game being regarded as one of the best first-person shooters of 2009, you can see that Guerrilla Games took what they learnt from Killzone 1 to make Killzone 2 much better. Future games may not have improved as much, but the improvements and lessons made during Killzone 2’s development meant they didn’t go backwards with the series.
Fans have previously not been happy with the direction that the Resident Evil series has taken with its games. While the first game on the original PlayStation was an enjoyable survival horror experience, and Resident Evil 4 revitalized the series for the first time, later games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 went more in the direction of being an action game with horror elements, which fans didn’t appreciate. The games also started to go downhill in terms of quality, with Resident Evil 6 having an average Metacritic rating of between 60 and 74 depending on the platform.
The release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard corrected the course of the franchise by going back to its roots of being predominantly a survival horror experience, which was achieved through the pacing of the game, gameplay mechanics like managing your limited resources, and the atmosphere of the game through its environment and sound design. The game is regarded as one of the best survival horror games in recent years, and one of the best games to release so far in 2017.
The Hitman series revolves around stealth assassinations with main protagonist Agent 47. While usually games in the series have given fans some freedom to do this through open levels, Hitman: Absolution was more linear in its levels, and some critics found the game overall to have lost some of the flair that made previous games enjoyable.
IO Interactive went back to the drawing board, releasing an episodic-based Hitman in March 2016 that concluded seven months later. Each episode was based around a single open world level that gave the player countless ways to assassinate their targets, giving the game a lot of replayability and a varying level of challenge. It may not have performed as financially well as Square Enix would have liked, but IO Interactive was able to complete a management buyout from Square Enix along with the Hitman IP knowing that they have a good formula to build on further.
Most people won’t remember other games in the Spec Ops franchise, or that there was more to the series than just Spec Ops: The Line, but that is mainly down to the previous game being released in 2002. Spec Ops: Rangers Lead The Way, the first game in the series from 1988, was a decent gameplay experience at the time, but later games in the series didn’t try to improve and were seen to have a lack of purpose or direction.
While Spec Ops: The Line feels like a separate game due to the time between releases, Yager Development and 2K Games knew to make something with a purpose. The game focused on having a serious and compelling story, but they also made sure that the third-person combat played well and that the environment and graphics were as good as they could be.
NieR was an action RPG which released in 2010. Reviews of the game were mixed with the PlayStation 3 version having a 67 average rating on Metacritic, and the main criticisms coming from them were for the environments being boring and the visuals being underpar. The game did go on to become an underrated classic among fans however.
Director Yoko Taro worked with renowned studio PlatinumGames, makers of beloved action games like Bayonetta and Vanquish, to make the sequel NieR: Automata earlier this year, and the general consensus between critics and fans is that it is a brilliant game. The graphics and environments were improved, combat was kicked up a notch, and it has brought the series to a higher level through the characters in the game and the story. NieR: Automata will be up there with the best games of 2017 when the end of the year rolls around.
The first two Saints Row games were pretty well received, with the gameplay and story revolving around street gang warfare in the fictional city of Stillwater. It was meant to be a bit less serious compared to the Grand Theft Auto series with some of its features, but the comparisons between the two franchises would have only carried on if something didn’t change.
It’s why Volition went down the route of making the series even less serious and more unrealistic with its story and weapons. Saints Row: The Third did this well while also keeping fans of the original two games happy, there was a more obvious distinction between the games and the Grand Theft Auto series.
They went several steps further with Saints Row 4, which started with the main protagonist being both the leader of the 3rd Street Saints and the President of the United States, then saw an alien invasion and the player later on getting access to superpowers. While some fans that enjoyed the earlier games thought that this angle went too far in the direction of being unrealistic, the gameplay was fun and the story linked well with it.