• Jim Sterling

The MEDIOCRE Awards 2017


We’ve given our awards for this year’s best games, and tomorrow we shall trawl through the trenches to find 2017’s shittiest offerings, but what of the limbo between? The games that neither amuse or disgust? The milky, lukewarm games that one struggles to even remember?


Here at The Jimquisition, we celebrate ALL games, and that includes the unforgivably pedestrian!


It’s time for our third annual MEDIOCRE Awards. Which games failed to make us care? Which ones struggled to elicit a single emotional response? Let’s find out, and hand out some pococurantism trophies!

For Honor


Can you actually believe For Honor came out this year? After Ubisoft built up so much hype around it, what initially looked like a competitive online Dynasty Warriors turned out to be a mundane, slow-paced, astoundingly forgettable product.


An online fighting game pretending to be something more intricate than it is, For Honor mostly consists of players chasing each other around small maps because that’s all that ever really happens. Instead of epic battles between vikings, knights, and samurai, what we’ve ended up with is a glorified game of tag because For Honor offers no reward for bravery.


This is at least true when it comes to team-based matches, which at their best are dreary eight-player affairs that fail to capture the scale or scope of the warzones they’re attempt to portray.

The only way to get an actual fight going is to enter a 1v1 duel where you can indulge in the game’s tedious rock-paper-scissors combat to your heart’s content.


For Honor’s six remaining fans would tell you that 1v1 is the main point of the game, but unfortunately Ubisoft marketed it as anything but a fighting game. I purchased it expecting what was advertised – exciting hack n’ slash battles between opposing armies. Instead, I got a disappointingly small and unambitious team-based mode and was shouted down by others for “not playing the right mode.”


Why shouldn’t I have been let down by it, though? Ubisoft promoted this game as something very different from what its bedraggled community tout as the main point of the experience.


At any point, it doesn’t really matter anyway. The game’s online performance has been so notoriously fucking pathetic you’d be lucky to find a single working game.


And now, months on, barely anybody remembers it. Rightly so.

Mass Effect: Andromeda


The main problem with Mass Effect: Andromeda is that it’s a complete mess, and I’m not just talking about how famously broken the game was at launch.


Andromeda is all over the place narratively, interactively, and tonally. There are fleshed-out interesting characters juxtaposed by shallow and terribly written ones. There are genuinely exciting shootouts that get lost among sluggish planet scanning bullshit and inane puzzles. For every great scene featuring refreshingly bold writing, there are far more cringey, embarrassing moments that no writer should ever be proud of penning.


While others outright hated Andromeda, my time spent with it was filled with fluctuating emotions. I really did love a lot about it, but I hated just as much too. When we split the difference, we can only declare ultimate mediocrity.


On top of that is, of course, the notorious number of glitches. While BioWare Montreal patched what it could in the weeks post-launch, the sheer volume of bugs were unforgivable, making even Bethesda look like a bastion of quality assurance. Here’s a reminder of just some of the bugs I found, a list that is by no means exhaustive:

  • Allied characters merging into one nightmarish gestalt entity during cutscenes.

  • NPCs creating duplicates of themselves after dialog.

  • Protagonist Ryder’s legs breaking and causing her to hobble around like her tendons have been cut.

  • Character models blurring during dialog scenes, appearing as if behind a veil of vaseline.

  • Enemies and allies alike spawning mid-air and dropping to the ground in frozen stock poses.

  • Missing transitory animations leading to certain attacks displacing or awkwardly teleporting characters.

  • Enemies and allies alike spawning mid-air and refusing to drop the ground.

  • Ryder speaking with her voice distorted as if wearing a helmet, even when she isn’t.

BioWare long ago stopped updating the game’s single-player campaign, leaving it unfinished and unsatisfying. On top of that, Electronic Arts did what Electronic Arts does best and killed the studio responsible, with EA Motive consuming the BioWare offshoot.


So much for this kickstarting a whole new trilogy, eh?

Perception


Perception, to its credit, is far better than most indie first-person horror games on the market. However that particular market is utterly flooded thanks to Steam and hundreds of pathetic “me-too” quasi-developers attempting to ape the success of such titles as Amnesia and Outlast.


Being better than the competition ain’t saying much in the survival horror genre these days.


What’s heartbreaking about Perception is that it has a unique hook and tons of potential. Featuring a blind protagonist, players must navigate by tapping their cane and utilizing echolocation – essentially seeing the world in a similar fashion to Marvel’s Daredevil. It’s an interesting premise, but outside of its single driving conceit, Perception is a fairly run-of-the-mill spookfest that fails to capitalize on its own concept.


One major problem is that, despite the game starring a visually impaired hero, Perception relies on visual effects to a self-defeating degree. It’s a twist of unfortunate irony but the echolocation system means that what you see is the most important thing in the game – the visualization of sound is imperative to movement and puzzle solving.


Imagery represents sound to such a degree that audio itself has barely any impact on the experience, and that’s something of a problem when your entire premise is about using sound to navigate the world.


Ultimately, Perception comes across like a shallow gimmick piggybacking off of a real-life disability to get attention for itself. Without its one special trick, it’s just one of far too many horror games out there, and considering the team behind it consists of ex-BioShock developers, I expected far better than this.

Prey


Sorry, folks! It bored the piss out of me, and while I fully respect that this game is beloved by many and has even made several GOTY shortlists in other publications, I found the majority of this game completely tiresome.


Its story is unremarkable (I’ve already forgotten almost everything about it, save for how dull it was), while its environments are sterile and uninspiring. Most of the narrative is deployed via audio logs, but characters are given little depth or time to develop and their stories aren’t particularly engaging.


As for the game’s enemies, the Typhon… wow.


Oily black shapes are about as shitty as it gets when it comes to alien design. They lack any sort of personality and they’re not scary in the least. They’re just gloopy globules of garbage, at best resembling Jarvis Cocker cosplaying Venom, and at worst just being lumps. Clumpy, lumpy lumps of nothing interesting.


Prey manages to produce a functional forgery of the System Shock games and it serves a decent enough purpose if you’re absolutely desperate for that sort of experience.


It works, it’s well made, and polished, and all those things we expect “AAA” games to be. What it is not is exciting. At all.


It’s an also-ran that I was quite frankly happy to see the back of once I was blessedly finished.

Oh, and the audio balance is complete fucked. Whoever worked on Prey’s audio needs some retraining. Lots of it.

Warriors All-Stars


Despite being a Dynasty Warriors fan, I’ll be the first to admit Tecmo Koei is a lazy company that cuts far too many corners and is in NO position to be as complacent as it is – not given how critically maligned its games often are for being lazy and cutting corners.


Warriors All-Stars is a perfect example of what a disappointment much of Tecmo Koei’s output is these days. What should have been an amazing crossover of Warriors, Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Nioh and others was instead a slapdash, half-localized, slog of a game.


All-Stars recycles tons of assets from previous Omega Force games along with the intricate, years-old, corridor-like maps that have started to make recent Warriors games far less fun to play. Despite having lots of new characters to try, the game’s lack of varied missions and reliance on old, old content to flesh itself out makes for a huge disappointment and a waste of potential.


Playing a Warriors-style hack n’ slash game with characters from Toukiden and Deception should be amazing, and there is some fun to be had in all the drudgery, but it’s squandered on some shitty little game about previously unknown cat people who are engaged in some conflict I don’t give a flying fuck about.


The tons of characters from Tecmo Koei’s back catalog play second fiddle to these furry feuders, and the whole thing stinks of desperation as Omega Force desperately pulled the quickest and stupidest excuse out of its arse to haphazardly throw these protagonists together.


What a shame. They had one chance to make a good first impression with this concept and they blew it. With what I’m hearing about Dynasty Warriors 9, I don’t expect 2018 to reverse Tecmo Koei’s current quality trajectory, either.

Call of Duty: WWII


It’s just another fucking Call of Duty game.


After the success EA had with Battlefield 1, it seems extra cynical to see Activision Blizzard return to COD’s roots with a game set in World War II, but while Battlefield 1 genuinely refreshed the series to which it belonged and provided a distinct atmosphere, Call of Duty WWII is, as I say, just another fucking Call of Duty game.


The most notable thing about it is the fact it contains embarrassing loot boxes that drop onto Normandy Beach in a social area where other players can see you unbox it. Activision Blizzard has been pushing its luck as much as if not more than EA when it comes to glorified gambling mechanics this year, and loot box voyeurism has been an alarming new liberty taken.


Outside of that, WWII is just another fucking Call of Duty game and I really don’t know what else to tell you.


You know fucking Call of Duty games? Well, here’s another one.


There will be another Call of Duty game next year, and do you know what that’ll be?


It’ll be another fucking Call of Duty game.


Doesn’t matter what it’s called, what the premise is, or how much hype ActiBlizz throws behind it. Ultimately, it’ll be another fucking Call of Duty game.


And at this point I just want it to stop forever.

© 2019 Jimquisition. I don't really know what else to write down here. Why are you even reading down here? Are you bored? I'm bored, so I don't really know how I'm going to help you with that. I'm listening to a podcast. You could do that too if you want! It's something to have on at least. Am I hungry? I dunno, it's kinda late. Maybe just a snack...