Call of Duty: Ghosts (November 2013) – Ghosts only just makes the list. Many of its problems were the of the all-too-usual “rubbish PC port” variety, like a lack of FOV options, weird key-binding issues and a bunch of crappy textures. Oh, and in the PC version Riley the Dog is replaced by Microsoft’s famous paper-clip pal, Clippy, for mysterious reasons.
Okay, that was a lie.
But I’m including the game here for two reasons. First, the completely artificial and arbitrary 6GB of RAM limitation that prevented people with (say) 4GB from even trying to load up the game. Second, Activision’s hilariously litigious response to a user-made FOV patch.
So, Does It Work Now? Ghosts is probably still a strong contender for worst entry in the Call of Duty series, but that’s a separate issue to the PC launch. Where that’s concerned, the memory limitation has been removed and FOV patches are fully developer approved. No complaints there.
X Rebirth (November 2013) – The tag-line for the X series is Trade, Fight, Build, Think. Out of the four, only “Think” could really make any sort of claim to be working as intended in X Rebirth when it launched in mid-November; and the thing most players were “Think”-ing was “Can I convince Steam to give me a refund after playing this for six hours in an attempt to find the game inside?”
X Rebirth is a trading game that believes a suitable introduction to its trading system is a four hour mental and physical exercise with no solution. Actually, that’s not quite true. The solution is to download a saved game from somebody who somehow managed to make trade ships behave themselves long enough to complete a simple transaction. Lack of trade means a lack of materials, and that rules out any building you might have planned on doing.
X Rebirth is a space combat game that believes you don’t really need buttons to cycle through your targets or any sort of space radar/gravidar to keep track of where those targets might be. You certainly don’t need AI pilots who can navigate the large station structures that hang around in each sector, because it’s much better to just have them bump endlessly into things like a child’s clockwork train trying to chug through a wall.
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X Rebirth is a PC game with horrendous frame-rates and a suite of graphical options that basically do nothing to amend that problem. It’s also a PC game that thinks you hate keyboard shortcuts and would prefer to navigate through controller-style radial menus all day long.
So, Does It Work Yet? Like Rome 2 and SimCity, X Rebirth’s problems cut deep, spreading far beyond the technical and into the heart of its design. Being able to land on space stations to conduct certain trades sounds like a pretty desirable feature, until you meet twenty NPCs with less personality than the game’s main menu. Hoping between sectors on galactic highways sounds alright too, until you actually have to do it more than once. A co-pilot to accompany you on missions doesn’t seem unreasonable, until you hear her speak. Patching is well underway, but judging by the number of complaints still hovering near the top of the game’s official forums it’s not yet in a state you’d consider release-worthy.
Ashes Cricket 2013 (November 2013) – The extraordinary saga of Ashes Cricket 2013 begins back in the summer, when the game was originally due for release. At the last moment, the title was delayed to coincide with the November Ashes series instead.
If that threw up some warning signs, the game’s stealth release on Steam and subsequent self-evisceration in various splendid YouTube videos nailed the signs into the ground and added flashing lights. Sure, you could make a decent argument for that video being a semi-realistic portrayal of England’s recent Ashes failings, but even Alistair Cook’s jaded and weary charges know how to knock the stumps over when the opposition is trying to run for 38. Probably.
Fun though the footage was, you have to remember that it represented the actual culmination of a two year collaborative effort between developer and publisher to make, and sell, a cricket game. That’s what they made. In two years. 505 Games clearly thought they could get away with it on PC (despite being planned as a multi-platform title, it only came out on Steam,) then very quickly decided that, actually, no, they couldn’t.
Just a day after appearing on Valve’s digital service, the game was pulled from sale and 505 put out a lengthy and astonishing apology in which the publisher unreservedly put the blame on developers Trickstar and made the textual equivalent of pleading faces at licensees and sponsors. It was a crafty dodge, but there’s no real way of avoiding the fact that someone, somewhere at 505 made the final decision to try to release Ashes Cricket 2013 on to an unsuspecting world.
Thanks to them, we now have new question to add to the philosophical canon: “If a game is cancelled after it’s already been released, is it really a cancellation?”
So, Does It Work Yet? If you were quick enough to buy a copy, it’ll still work through Steam in the strictly semantic sense that it launches. In every other sense, no, it doesn’t.
The Big Vote: After reliving all that I’m too demoralised to pick an overall ‘winner’ for Most Rubbishest PC Launch of 2013, so that’s where you all come in. Leave a vote below for the game you feel did most to break your heart (there’s a space for “other” if it’s not listed above) and we’ll publish the results on IncGamers in around a week’s time.