It can't all be roses and sunshine. While we've been celebrating the best of 2015, we also think it's important to step back and take note of the games that didn't live up to expectations. This isn't an exercise in talking trash—we just want games to be better.
We'll be publishing a different category each day through the end of the year, leading up to our final vote for best game of 2015. This has been a strong year for games, so anything's possible!
Methodology: Everyone at USG put their heads together and voted on 10 individual categories as a group, and each team member has nominated their own pick for the category. Rather than argue long and loud about personal opinions, however, we've taken a scientific approach: We voted on each category through an anonymous survey in which we weighted each nominee from "most" to "least."
This means, in theory at least, that a game that gets nominated by more than one person won't necessarily sweep the category—it's entirely possible for a dark horse to take the prize if it receives enough second- or third-place points from everyone.
Biggest Disappointment: The Nominees
We're not in the business of slagging games or taking mean-spirited swings here at USgamer; we're in this because we enjoy games. But we don't love games indiscriminately, and we've played our fair share of games that let us down in 2015. This isn't the "worst" games category—it's the "most disappointing." In other word, these are games with potential for greatness that didn't quite measure up. We wanted more from these titles, but we're holding out hope for their sequels!
Bill: NHL 16
NHL 16 doesn’t get a pass from me because it improved on NHL 15. I’m from Canada, and hockey is life here. If you’re also a gamer, this is the game you look forward to each year, and lately it’s been a complete letdown. EA Canada is just now getting around to including all of the game modes and features that were in the last generation NHL games, which is simply inexcusable to me. From a features and game mode perspective, NHL 16 is on par with NHL 14 on the PS3.
As a Left 4 Dead fan, I had extremely high hopes for Evolve, but its content-gating and cynical monetization had me putting it down after only a few weeks. Tragically, there's a good game buried in here somewhere, but unlocking all the essential parts entails grinding for experience with roles and characters you may not especially like. But, seeing as Evolve shipped with only three monsters to fight, it won't take very long before you've seen it all.
Jaz: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
The sad thing about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is that you can see its potential. Unfortunately, though, it's buried beneath a thick strata of mundanity: Lackluster graphics, unimaginative level design, and missions that just aren't much fun. It's clear that THPS5 needed far more time in development to polish and spiff it up. But alas, t'is not to be, and what we're left with is a game that feels like some kind of Alpha demo showing a lot of promise, but simply not realizing it.
Jeremy: The Order 1886
What a beautiful game! What a brain-dead, shallow, lackluster shell of an experience hidden beneath that beauty! Ready At Dawn produced a game on the level of Naughty Dog's best in terms of cinematic polish, but they forgot to add any substance beneath that glossy surface. With rote play mechanics, uninspired stage designs, and critical encounters that played out as absolutely wretched QTEs, The Order was a hollow shell of a game that could have been so much more.
Kat: Star Wars Battlefront
DICE's shooter is in many ways the worst of all worlds. They left out the single-player shooter, which would be fine if Battlefront were packed with multiplayer content, but that component is in many ways less robust than your average Call of Duty. Most of the game's content can be unlocked in the space of a weekend, and the majority of the modes wear out their welcome rather quickly, which is a big problem for a $60 game. DICE has done an amazing job of replicating the Star Wars universe, but they've built it around a shallow and uninteresting shooter. What a shame.
Mike: Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars Battlefront plays well and hits that Star Wars feeling straight on, but there just wasn't enough there to make me say, "Yeah, that was worth $60." Like Evolve before, I like the idea, but something needed to change before I bought into it. I wanted more. As a Star Wars fan, that's a big shame.
Nadia: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
I’m a big fan of the sometimes awkward but always lovable Four Swords portion of the Zelda universe. I can play it alone, or I can play it with a pal, but either way, I can count on having a good time. Tri Force Heroes tries hard and it has some great ideas (Link in a dress!), but shoddy online connections and the inability to play with just two live players and one computer-controlled dummy takes the luster out of its golden shine.
The Winner (?): Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5/Star Wars Battlefront (TIE)
It was neck-and-neck for these two games—both attached to beloved series, both benefitting from great licenses, both underwhelming in different ways. Tony Hawk simply felt unfinished, with a lack of polish that stands at odds with the refined PS1, N64, and Dreamcast that built the THPS legacy. Battlefront, on the other hand, is one of the most beautiful games we've ever seen, but it had almost no content. Both could have—should have!—been so much more. Maybe next time?
Runner-up: (3) Evolve
Tomorrow: 2015's Best Quest