games / Columns

The Top 8 Franchises That Got Bad This Generation: WWE, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, More

August 18, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
WWE 2K20

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about franchises that didn’t quite have a great outing for this generational video game cycle. I’m talking mainly franchises that either started or became big on the 360/PS3 then crashed hard when it became the XB1/PS4. Also, Nintendo doesn’t factor into this too much, they tend not to have a lot of new franchises, or if they do introduce them, they make sure they are damn good. My honorary pick here is the Fallout franchise because it’s shocking to me how a series I loved 10 years ago could degenerate so badly today. Let’s begin:

#8: Gran Turismo

One could say that the PS3-era Gran Turismo games may not have hit the high marks the series earlier had but the PS4 output has been embarrassing. They’ve released one game, Gran Turismo Sport, for the PS4 and that’s been it. It’s essentially an online-only racing game with about 300 cars and no one actually ever talked about it, after its release. The “Sport” thing is the weird online mode where you HAVE to be online in order to actually save your game, which is, you know, “cool”. I realize this game was deeply hamstrung by Drive Club’s epic failure but that still doesn’t really excuse it, especially not when Microsoft pumped out 6 Forza games in this console cycle, and at least half of them were good.

#7: Just Cause

The original Just Cause was a decent little action game with a few cool mechanics. Just Cause 2 really was a big open world for you to play around in and blow stuff up. Just Cause 3 was…lesser, it fixed a few issues that JC2 had but it was overstuffed with challenges and it became a slog. And Just Cause 4 broke it all. Just Cause 2 and 3 were all about liberating the island by destroying bases and finding stuff. Just Cause 4 barely has any of this. The base-destroying stuff is gone because the bases respawn parts. Instead it focuses on mechanics like grappling hook mods and tomb exploring (one might say “raiding”), instead of actually letting you just murder a bunch of soldiers. Even the vaunted weather system didn’t mean much in the grand scheme. Just Cause 3 might have been a bit too much like JC2, but it didn’t completely wreck the gameplay formula like Just Cause 4 did.

#6: Marvel Ultimate Alliance

I honestly thought the MUA franchise was dead after the second game. While I liked it, it didn’t get nearly as much positive reviews as the past iterations and with how Marvel got bought by Disney, I never thought we’d see another one again. Well, I was wrong, but frankly the franchise should have stayed dead and buried. Just battling regular enemies is mostly OK, but the boss fights are an exercise in frustration. You can’t directly damage bosses, instead, you have to build up their stun meter until it is full, THEN you can actually hurt them. If this was for a huge boss like Thanos that might make some sense, but not when it is the core mechanic for every boss fight. They also greatly simplified the game with you not really unlocking any new moves, and gear is completely gone. MUA 2 might not have been the best game, and might not even stack up next to MUA 1 or the earlier X-Men Legends games, but it’s still worlds better than this.

#5: Halo

In this console cycle we got three Halo games: a RTS no one really cared about, a numbered sequel that people have somewhat turned on and a collection of old games that came out and then took years to actually fix. Not exactly a great batting average for the Halo franchise. I’ll ignore Halo Wars 2 because…well yeah, and focus on 5 and MCC. Halo 5 is decent enough but I know the microtransactions really ticked off some people. Also the introduction of Locke is a giant “WHO CARES?!” to most Halo fans. MCC is just weird. It’s functional enough now but this is years after it came out and matchmaking was basically busted for at least the first year of release, which I’m going to classify as “unacceptable” considering it’s a Halo game. The new icing on the cake is Halo: Infinite slipping its release date and the early previews of it not exactly being positive so far.

#4: Plants vs. Zombies

Remember when Plants vs. Zombies used to be good? That was way back in 2009 when Popcap, then their own company, just released a full game experience for about 20 bucks? What a quaint time to be able to buy a game and not be hassled to keep paying for it. There are really two ways EA has screwed up PvZ for this console generation: 1. They turned the core games into free-to-play garbage with basically forced monetization, or else you have to grind out currency and stars constantly. That is always fun! And 2. They spun the Plants vs. Zombies formula into a weird third-person shooter that no one ever asked for but they keep cranking them out. It’s a part of that whole initiative of “IT HAS TO HAVE MULTIPLAYER, DURR!” that started in the last few years of the Xbox 360/PS3 life cycle and has continued to wreck EA games since then, as you’ll soon see.

#3: Need for Speed

Burnout is better, this is just a universal truth, but there were some damn good Need for Speed games in the last generation cycle. Starting with Razor Callahan’s Most Wanted (2005), Hot Pursuit was great, and the 2012 Most Wanted was also decent. Since then? Nothing. EA has pumped out an EA game every 2 years (not counting a port of Rivals) in 2015, 2017 and 2019 and they’ve fallen flat every single time. The last one, Heat, isn’t entirely bad, but after 6 years of trying, they’ve only just gotten the franchise into a passable state. For some bewildering reason, EA kept trying to chase this always connected/online world nonsense that just never worked out. Heat did away with it somewhat, thank god, but Rivals tried to have it and NFS 2015 definitely had it. I think they were trying to copy Forza Horizon or even Test Drive Unlimited 2 which had similar concepts but the difference was it wasn’t forced. In the Need for Speed games it was and it always sucked. Also the stories are becoming even more embarrassing than ever before which, while hilarious, is depressing when you really think about it.

#2: WWE (In General)

An argument can be made whether or not any WWE/WWF game has been good, aside from Crush Hour. Most games just barely pass muster, and the only one within the past 15 years that actually has been solid has been WWE All Stars. But MAN, this console generation has not been kind to WWE. Within a yearly franchise, the games are ideally supposed to get better with each year, not worse. I guess the standout game was WWE 2K19, which is generally seen as passable but the series still never fixed long-standing issues. And then WWE 2K20 rolls out and damn-near craters the entire franchise. I guess in the vein of following actual WWE stories and ratings it holds true, by being an unmitigated disaster, but holy christ was this game a mess. Their announced “Battlegrounds” game looks like an even bigger mess, since it’s just using the same game engine.

#1: Mass Effect

You could almost just say “Bioware” for this last one, but I’m one of the few that really liked Inquisition so of the 3 games so I can’t say they were all bad during this era. Anthem was and always will be a non-starter so let’s talk about Andromeda. “Yikes” is as good a word as any to describe the game. The shooting isn’t completely awful and the vehicle you can drive isn’t as bad as the old MAKO, that’s about the positives you can count. Well those and Clancy Brown, of course. The story and writing are just awful, “Peebee” might be one of the worst characters in all of video games, and that’s an impressive feat. There are only 7 planets for you to explore, a scant 2 new alien races and not a ton of character customization. For God’s sakes, your last name is Ryder, I should have the option, nay the right, to name him or her “Rough”. That’s not even diving into the litany of performance issues/glitches this game has, which I know even aren’t wholly fixed to this day. Mass Effect was one of the real breakout franchises of the 360/PS3 era and in one single game, EA managed to destroy it entirely on this console generation.

For comments, list which franchises you think became bad this generation and why.

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