Game of the Year 2020

Shea Hates Everything Game of the Year 2020

Most Disappointing Game

I know this website is called Shea Hates Everything, but I actually don’t enjoy disliking games. In a perfect world, every game would execute amazingly on what it sets out to do. But due to budget limitations, shipping dates, worldwide pandemics, or other factors, not every game comes out the way that was intended. Or, to be fair, sometimes I just don’t like what the studio was going for.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will be so happy for the year when I don’t feel the need to include this category. That is not this year, but thankfully there were only two big games that I can’t seem to get over being bummed about, and a handful of others that just didn’t “do it” for me.

To be clear, these aren’t necessarily the worst games I played in 2020, just the ones I most wanted to be better.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions

Kentucky Route Zero
I bounced hard off this one. The narrative setup was super compelling and I obviously loved the visual style, but the story moved too slowly for my tastes.

Void Bastards
Based solely on aesthetic, I was hyped for this game. But the rogue-like structure and mishmash of corridor shooting and light puzzle solving didn’t hit hard enough.

5. Marvel’s Avengers

Marvel's Avengers - Most Disappointing Game 2020

At the end of the day, Marvel’s Avengers sits on the fringe of the definition of the word “disappointing.” Pretty much from the get-go, I was out on this game. Despite the strong cast, the gameplay trailers did nothing to make me excited and the “games as a service” microtransaction approach was a huge turnoff. But after the game was released and people gave it a shot, the common refrain was “well everything around the edges sucks but at least the gameplay stuff is fun.”

So once it hit Xbox Game Pass, I checked it out. And the gameplay is NOT fun. So basically I was disappointed in this one twice. First at the announcement and then again when I went against my better judgment and actually played it. Oof. 

4. Tell Me Why

Tell Me Why - Most Disappointing Game 2020

A new story-focused game from the makers of Life is Strange? Sign me up! And then unsign me up because Tell Me Why just doesn’t work as a strong concept. From the very beginning, I found the glacial pace of the story hard to get past, and the sibling main characters weren’t engaging enough to overcome this.

Whereas both seasons of Life is Strange balanced crazy superpowers and more relatable circumstances and relationships to me, Tell Me Why’s premise of estranged siblings reuniting after the mysterious death of their mother didn’t hook me enough to see this one all the way through to the end. While I appreciate the trans representation in this game and I think it’s important that more people play games with non-cis characters in them, there isn’t enough video game goodness to recommend Tell Me Why.

3. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla - Most Disappointing Game 2020

In fairness, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla moves up the rankings this year not because it was wildly disappointing, but more because I surprisingly avoided a long list of disappointing games this year. But does that mean Valhalla is good? No. No it does not.

I loved Origins and greatly enjoyed Odyssey, but Valhalla seems like Ubisoft took the “generic world over-stuffed with random activities” approach several steps too far in this one. I also didn’t find many of the characters to be engaging or the different areas to be differentiated enough outside of your main camp. There was no true fun in the sense of discovery or exploration, as the countryside felt strangely flat and lifeless compared to the last two games. Chock that up to a condensed development cycle if you want, but that doesn’t make it fun.

2. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 - Most Disappointing Game 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 would have been a strong contender for my game of the year had it actually, you know, worked. As it stands, the game still does enough right that I look back on my time as overwhelmingly positive, but I’d be doing a disservice to readers and to the industry at large if I didn’t hold the game’s feet to the fire in at least one category of this post.

I was EXTREMELY hyped for this game, like maybe more than for any game in the last few years. I am a huge fan of the cyberpunk aesthetic – I jam out to vaporwave mixes every day while working. And while I had a fair amount of skepticism about all the different gameplay systems coming together to create a cohesive experience, I trusted CD Projekt Red to execute at a high level given the reception to The Witcher III.

I pre-ordered the game on PS4 and it literally just did not work, but I’m sure I don’t need to rehash that dumpster fire for you. Even 18 months, a million patches, and a PS5 upgrade later, the game still ran like trash as I worked my way through the whole thing. Obviously none of those issues were enough to make me give up on the game, but that only adds even more evidence to how frustrating and disappointing the overall experience was.

It’s kind of unfair that I’m writing this well after 2020 has concluded, because Cyberpunk 2077 would have received nothing but derision from me if I’d written this post on time. And that’s why I wanted to be sure to call it out in this category. It really is not forgivable that this game launched in the state that it did, and I’ll be approaching future CD Projekt games with even more scrutiny – and without a pre-order.

1. The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II - Most Disappointing Game 2020

Hoo boy, this was a rough one. Spoilers inbound! To start, I wasn’t really bothered by Joel’s death in the opening hours (at least not at first), so don’t categorize me with the toxic reddit bros that downvoted the game before it even came out. My issues come down more to how Naughty Dog chose to deliver the story, how the characters were developed, how the themes were portrayed, and also some of the additions to gameplay systems. 

I don’t have the energy (or desire, or word count) to fully dive into every tiny detail of what I feel. That’s better suited for a two-hour YouTube video that I’ll never make. And it isn’t my job to rewrite the story or change the characters. But I think Abby would have been a far more complex, interesting, and likable character if we’d spent more time with her in the beginning of the game. 

This may have been wild, but what if we’d started the game by playing as Abby for a few hours? Nothing changes about the plot or central mystery. She’s still traveling with her friends, trying to hunt down some awful dude that is never named. But you see her interacting with her friends more, killing clickers, looting buildings, having a run-in with a random bandit camp. Maybe one of her friends gets bitten on the journey and there’s a terrible moment where they ask Abby to put them out of their misery.

You could cut back to Joel and Ellie during this to show the cutscenes of how their relationship has fallen apart. But only after several hours do you finally see those two timelines come together. By this time, you’re really rooting for Abby to find the asshole that hurt her family – only to find out it was Joel. This wouldn’t make you WANT to see Joel die, but it wouldn’t immediately put the player in a position to hate this character that they then have to play as for half of the remainder of the game. And it would also make Ellie’s revenge so much harder to carry out, because you’ve also gotten to know Abby’s friends throughout the introductory journey.

The Last of Us Part II - Most Disappointing Game 2020 (Pic 2)

I think Naughty Dog thought a little too much of themselves when writing this one. They thought they could retroactively get you to like Abby and empathize with the other characters after watching them do this horrible thing – that by making Ellie less and less likable, Abby would seem better by comparison. For me, this didn’t work. At all. It only made me also hate Ellie, a character that I used to love. In the end, I didn’t care about the epilogue (which was way, way too long by the way). I just wanted the game to be over because I no longer cared about Abby or Ellie. I wanted them both to die just to end their mutual suffering.

The hate and rage and frustration and injustice and sadness that seeps through this game is so overbearing. There is no hope in The Last of Us Part II. There is never hope that Ellie will overcome her demons and be with Dina. And then, at the end of the game, when it actually looks like the game will surprise you, Ellie just decides to go right back out and continue her revenge story. And then when she finally reaches the conclusion of that story, she doesn’t follow through so that the whole thing feels hollow and pointless all over again. Ugh.

This game is just a bummer. And it isn’t a bummer in any kind of interesting or compelling way. It just hammers you over the head with misery and condescension. Hate and revenge are bad, you guys. Did you know? And don’t give me the “that’s the point!” speech. I know that’s the point. I’m saying that the point is obvious and ham-fisted and honestly kind of lame.

On the smaller side of things, I really didn’t like how the dogs and Stalkers changed the way that stealth worked in this game. They made taking your time a less viable option, which is how I enjoyed playing the first game. Finally, it was pretty disappointing to start out in that large open area in Seattle, only to spend the rest of the game in more linear corridors with some small exploratory areas like in the first game. I wanted Naughty Dog to build on what they did in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a little more.

This is way too long of a section on The Last of Us Part II, but clearly I have a lot of thoughts. I’ve played The Last of Us twice, first when it came out and then again (begrudgingly) before Part II was released. I don’t ever need to play it again and it’ll remain among my favorite games of all time. On the other hand, I have no interest in playing Part II a second time – not because it affected me like the first game did, but because it didn’t offer anything memorable that the first game didn’t already provide. 

I feel like I say this about a game every year, but The Last of Us Part II is one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever played. And I never wanted it to exist in the first place, which makes this hurt all the more.

And with that super fun stuff out of the way, let’s get to the main event. Click to the next page for my favorite video games of 2020!

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