It seems like you can’t turn on a TV, browse Twitter or Facebook or basically exist at all without seeing the reports of Canada’s little sweetheart going hell bent for leather and causing trouble all over the place. The baby-faced prince of teeny bopper pop has been involved in $20,000 egging incidents, had cocaine found in his home, he was pulled over for drag racing his Lamborghini in Miami while drunk and high on weed and Xanax and most recently had to turn himself into police in Toronto due to charges of assault on a limo driver. Looking at the mug shot from his Miami incident it’s clear he doesn’t give a rat’s backside about any of it but no matter what it’s easy to see that this kid is going off the deep end right now. WON’T SOMEONE JUST GIVE THE BIEBS A GODDAMN HUG!?
Of course when the fresh faced kid hit the scene a few years ago he was full of promise and gained legions of pre-teen girls’ affection. Anything was possible, the whole world was his to have and there was no stopping him. Now, amidst booze, drugs and constant comparisons to looking like Miley Cyrus the outlook just isn’t as sunshiny as it once was. I’d say he’s confirming what most of us knew all along; underneath that cutesy exterior is just another pimple farming shithead teenaged boy.
Like the Biebs there are a few franchises in gaming that started out with a big bang and full of innovation but somewhere along the way lost their direction. Once promising franchises that are now slipping off the wagon, and more importantly gamer’s radar, into their own digital rock-bottom desperately seeking attention when perhaps they should just go to rehab. Here’s a look at four of the former kings of gaming who are shells of their former selves.
Medal of Honor
Way back in 1999 the original Medal of Honor debuted on the Playstation console. If it wasn’t for this game we might never have seen the Call of Duty games or Battlefield. It’s the granddaddy of war games and when it was originally released it scored very well with critics. As I look it up here on metacritic it sits at a lofty 92, a number many games are hard pressed to reach. Fast forward 15yrs to present day and we have a total of 16 games that fall under the MoH banner.
Through all these games we’ve seen ups and downs sure but then we hit Warfighter. Obviously a few people are going to pipe up and whine ‘BUT I LIKED WARFIGHTER!’ and that’s great but the vast majority of gamers and critics alike thought it stunk about as bad as a week dead carcass in the desert sunshine. The gripes ranged from clichéd story to idiotic AI to weak multiplayer and more. Has the competition become too much? Is it time for Grand Pappy MoH to hang up the AK and call it a career? Well there’s been little to no news about the franchise in the wake of the new console drops and it seems like the franchise might be destined for a ride off into the sunset. It’s just a shame it couldn’t go out with its head held high.
The Tony Hawk Series
The Activision/Neversoft giant known as the Tony Hawk series took the gaming world by absolute storm. Kids spent hours upon hours plotting out their best lines all while attempting to pull of the most insane tricks and combos you’d ever seen. With the sport of skateboarding enjoying a buzz it hadn’t seen in decades the time was right when the first game of the franchise burst on to the scene in 1999. The most overused buzzword at the end of the 90’s had to have been ‘extreme’. The X games played on that obviously and helped put extreme sports on the map in a massive way. Well Tony hawk’s Pro Skater was extreme… for a game of course. It pioneered the skateboarding game genre and no other game that came along really could match it. As they trudged along up to Pro Skater 4, then Underground, American Wasteland, Project 8 and finally Proving Ground the series enjoyed meta averages from the high 80’s to low or mid 90’s.
It seemed like the series was a juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped. WRONG. Anything can suffer from over exposure and lack of innovation. Well over exposure was a given but innovation wasn’t something they were lacking. Unfortunately it wasn’t the innovation the series might have needed at the time. From Tony Hawk Motion for the Nintendo DS to Ride and Shred for consoles with that ridiculous skateboard peripheral the franchise saw its once mighty reign crumble away as the games suffered scores in the 40’s. A last stab at keeping the franchise in the forefront of gamer’s minds came in the form of the Pro Skater HD release but even it suffered the wrath of the critics. I’d say that Tony graciously faded away to let Shaun White take the lead but his games sucked too. Poor Tony… the king of skateboarding games reduced to rehashing old material… time to hang up the board old timer.
Shinji Mikami probably never even realized how big the survival horror genre would become when he pioneered the very first Resident Evil game. The year was 1996 and the console was the Playstation 1. Kids everywhere shut off the lights and turned up the volume to have the shit scared out of them on a level never before seen in games. Hours later they would silently hide their shit stained underpants at the bottom of the laundry hamper and hang their heads in shame as they went to clean up. Here we are a whopping 18 years later and the franchise is still trudging along. Shinji has moved on and is now working on the horrifying looking ‘The Evil Within’ but for better or for worse Resident Evil is still here.
In total there are an incredible 21 games ranging from consoles to PC to mobile that fall under the RE name. That is a lot. It also spun off to a successful (but really not that good) movie franchise. Sadly as time has worn on it has been less than kind to the Resident Evil fans. Playing on pure nostalgia it’s almost a guarantee that Resident Evil can sell copies. If you loved it as a 13 year old then now at 31 years old you’re going to get Resident Evil 6… CRITICS BE DAMNED!
Just like the MoH series mentioned above there have been ups and downs over the lifetime of Resident Evil. The odd stinker sure but they almost always redeemed themselves with a stellar and terrifyingly bed wetting experience. Sadly, when you look at recent years, fans of the franchise have had to suffer through Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6. Critically panned and leaving many longtime fans disappointed is this a sign that perhaps they should let go of this once genre defining series? On a personal note I think they can get it right again so I’d like to see them try but in an industry where sales defines everything can they do enough numbers to justify forcing out another one?
Gears of War
Ok, before you try and google my address so you can come to my house and rip me a new asshole just hear me out. I love the Gears of War franchise. When Gears of War first dropped and I fired it up on my Xbox 360 it was a take on shooters that I had never experienced before. Combining a great ‘over the shoulder’ third person perspective as you scrambled from cover to cover was exhilarating. Whether you were firing blind from behind a wall for fear of being obliterated by your foes or you were charging hard with guns blazing everything about it was fantastic. When you added in the well-crafted storyline with perfectly acted characters the experience was something akin to bringing home a sci-fi movie that you controlled. Gamers and critics loved the series. Moving forward and continuing the story of Marcus Fenix versus the Locust Horde on the planet Sera the team at Epic released two more amazing games to finish off the trilogy.
All three of these games scored into the 90’s for a meta average and each time they brought something new to the table in both the single player campaign as well as their multiplayer offering. Fans couldn’t get enough but it seemed like the Marcus Fenix arc of the Gears of War story was over. Fast forward to ‘Judgement’ and rewind to 14 years before the events of the very first Gears of War. Emergence Day, the single most important day in the history of the Gears franchise is the launch for the story here. Moving aside, well not moving aside so much as not even on the scene yet, we see Marcus Fenix give way to former secondary characters Cole and Baird. More challenging than previous offerings in the series the team at People Can Fly (Bulletstorm, Painkiller) actually do a pretty good job of offering what is a decent game as far as I’m concerned.
When it was all said and done the almighty meta average came out to 79 for the latest release. A decent score in my eyes that falls just short of the bare minimum 80 that for some reason seems to constitute a good game. I could go on and on about how a game rated a 75 is apparently a bad one (RIDICULOUS) but that is an article for another time. The bottom line is that a series that had consistently scored in the mid 90’s took a pretty hefty drop in the standings and in turn took a massive hit in sales. Gears 1 sits at 6.5 million worldwide with 2 and 3 hovering near 6 million… Judgement, 1.4 million and I’m being generous. I’m not sure if the drop had anything to do with the meta average but it’s certainly a factor.
That being said, this franchise is far from dead. Microsoft has only recently purchased the franchise from Epic in hopes of bringing the fifth game in the series to the Xbox One and in turn giving it another chance to win back the fans that gave ‘Judgement’ as pass. I know I’m not alone in hoping that they don’t screw this one up because there’s enough in the Gears of War story to keep this franchise going strong for a long time to come.