It was around E3 time last year when gamers got bombarded with a string of early 2019/February release dates for a lot of heavily anticipated games. I remember being pretty shocked because, traditionally, the beginning of the year is a little slow to allow everyone (gamers, developers, journalists, and PR people) to chill a bit after the holiday rush of games.
2019 was not the year for that though. In a short period of time, starting with the very end of January which saw the release of Kingdom Hearts 3, there was a rapid fire release of lots of pretty major games. Far Cry New Dawn, Crackdown 3, Jump Force, Anthem, Apex Legends, God Eater 3, and more.
Normally, this would be incredibly exciting. It’s almost like getting a little mini-holiday rush just a few months after the real one. It’s pretty rare in this day and age to see highly anticipated, marketed, and AAA games fall flat after all.
Even if they aren’t universally appealing like God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2, two of the most acclaimed games of 2018 for example, there’s usually a faction of gamers that most games can appeal to, and often times critics can see that. That well, um, wasn’t the case with a handful of games that release in February of 2019.
Publishers are so selective and so careful about what they choose to fund the development of, it’s far rarer now that they miss their mark than in earlier generations. What the heck happened this month then? [the following images are all via Metacritic]
Yikes. When you consider that user scores are usually a little lower than critical reviews, everyone seems to have been on the same page on being disappointed with these major games from February 2019. They weren’t panned, and none of them are “bad” games, but they certainly don’t appear to be living up to their hype either.
What’s interesting is that each of these four games had their own unique reasons for failing to meet critical/fan expectations.
Jump Force didn’t really do anything with its treasure trove of source material, Crackdown 3 feels trapped in the last-gen, Far Cry New Dawn failed to be anything other than more Far Cry, and Anthem is dealing with a lack of content common for the looter-shooter games it’s competing with.
All of those problems are valid, but I think we’ve also reached a point of fatigue with this generation. We’ve kind of seen it all at this point, especially when it comes to multiplayer and/or gameplay-focused games.
Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or God of War, which either truly break the mold or demonstrate mastery of its goals, can still get the universal acclaim and deserve it.
Apex Legends, for example, actually found a way to carve out what is appearing to be a permanent place in the battle royale conversation by doing something different and being polished from the get go, despite how impossible of a task that seemed after a string of failed attempts from other battle royale games.
However, impressing gamers and critics is something that is going to be consistently harder to do as this generation drags on. The buzz of new consoles will reset things a bit, but until then, publishers and developers are going to have to really bring it.