It’s happened to all of us during our childhoods: It’s your birthday (or any other holiday) and you put your misguided trust in your aunt or grandma to get you that game you’ve been wanting for, like, forever. Your friends are all talking about the hot new game, and you’re tragically stuck with something much, much worse. Just like that, you’re the Bart to your friends’ Thrillhouse. Crappy Birthday!
While that definitely sucks, you can’t put 100% of the blame on your loved ones. You see, some publishers feel no shame in making games similar to the ones you know and love, and prey off exactly this kind of misinformed consumer. Here are just a few examples to get you going.
All-Pro Football 2K8 over Madden 08
I’m a victim of this particular farce, though I blame only myself. You see, I was a huge fan of the 2K line of NFL games, and all hope seemed lost when EA snapped up the NFL license. When 2K announced that they were making an unlicensed entry into their football series, it was all I could do to contain my excitement.
Oh, how wrong I was. Sure, it was fun burning defenses with my man Walter Payton, but almost all of the game’s commentary, no joke, was lifted from 2K5. Peter O’Keefe using the same tired “War & Peace” analogies, telling you that nothing is apparently coachable in professional football- every bit of it. With a three year gap in games, this was inexcusable. This was on top of the fact that you had to create teams from scratch if you wanted to play a quick exhibition (which could take hours if you wanted several teams), and suddenly those Madden games I irrationally hated weren’t looking bad at all.
Rock Revolution over Rock Band/Guitar Hero 3
This one befuddles me to this day. I’m not going to pretend that I thought this game would revolutionize the genre (derp, get it?!), but Konami created the rhythm game with GuitarFreaks and DrumMania several years before Guitar Hero ever came out. You would think they would know a thing or two about making this kind of game fun, especially watching how big Guitar Hero and Rock Band would become.
Alas, it was not to be. The game didn’t feature vocals, most of the tracks were covers rather than masters, the drum peripheral is ugly and unintuitive, the guitar tracks are terrible… I could go on and on. As if that weren’t enough, Konami actually filed suit against Harmonix in June of 2008 over what they claimed to be patent violations. Apparantly, this wasn’t a problem until Konami realized that money could be made with these games. One guess on who won that one.
Soldier of Fortune: Payback over Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
I seriously have no idea why this game even exists. On the one hand, SoF came out one week after CoD4, just in time to sucker in those that wouldn’t know any better. On the other, both games were published by Activision. Why everyone’s favorite-ist publisher thought it would make sense to cannibalize sales of their flagship shooter is beyond my comprehension.
Of course, this game wouldn’t even make the list without sucking something fierce. The only thing of note to come out of Soldier of Fortune was that it featured graphic dismemberment (which initially got the game banned in Australia), but that got old quick. Soon enough you realized just how bland the environments, music, and, most importantly, the gameplay really were. Here’s hoping you like the color brown!
MLB Front Office Manager over MLB 2K9
Just to be clear, MLB 2K9 wasn’t a very good game. On the PS3, it’s presence next to MLB 09 was laughable. For those misguided souls that did want to play 2K9, however, there was an all-too-real chance that they could get stuck with something even worse.
Even at the value price of $40, you’re still just paying for a slightly bigger version of 2K9’s Franchise mode. All of the decisions that you would make in the full game are here, and not much else. You can manage the games as they happen, telling your players when to walk a batter, bunt, or steal a base, but then comes the horrible realization that you were played for a sap. Seriously, what good is a baseball game without the actual baseball? Isn’t this like buying a watered-down version of God of War III where all you can do is level up your weapons, while watching Kratos do all the work on his own? Let’s continue before I break something.
TNA: iMPACT! over WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2009
For those of you who don’t follow wrestling- uh, not that I do or anything- TNA has been making quite a name for itself in the industry. After a couple of years of stealing away some of WWE’s ratings (and wrestlers), it was only a matter of time before they had their own video game to compete with the juggernaut’s.
For those who thought the SvR series was getting stale, the idea of a competing game was a breath of fresh air. While it was better than some of the games listed above, it still left an awful lot to be desired. The move set was extremely limited, as was the create-a-wrestler mode. Obviously, this is a major part of making successful wrestling game. The online functionality was less-than-great as well. It left a decent foundation for future games to build on, but they never came, although part of that had to do with the terrible shape Midway found itself in. Suddenly, gamers realized why SvR had changed so little over the years: the formula simply worked and always promised a great time.
Oof, all of that actually hurt to write, and surely you readers have your own tales of grief to share. Rather than venting on your unsuspecting loved ones, why not let it out in the comments below instead?