Game sequels are generally improvements over their predecessors, at least in terms of their underlying technology. Yet just like with movies, video game sequels often times lack that little something that made the original great… or seem to go out of their way to completely and utterly miss the point.
What follows is a list of some of the biggest offenders in that regard. Mind that many of these titles might be really awesome on their own merits… but how well they followed their predecessors is subject to debate.
1. Doom 3
What it is: Sequel to the series that put video gaming as a whole into overdrive.
What was good about it: The main theme was AWESOME, and for the time, Doom 3 had amazing (and dark) visuals that really added to the atmosphere. It was also the first id Software game to really focus on the story.
…but hang on a second….
The short version; id Software seemed to forget that they were making “Doom” 3, not System Shock 3. Doom was famous for its fast, violent and over the top firefights against massive armies of demons, all to a soundtrack that closely emulated popular hard rock themes of the time. While it’s nice that the developers decided that story was important too, they did it at the expense of the core game play.
Trouble is, they neither made a shooter that would appeal to Doom fans, nor did they go all the way and make a proper survival horror game, resulting in an experience that had way too many conflicting elements (slower paced and smaller scale battles, but also a game where all you really did was use your gun and occasionally read memos).
Saving grace: It didn’t miss the point of Doom nearly as much as the atrocious movie did… at least this still had Hell, and it was fun, even if it wasn’t “Doom”.
2. Blood 2
What it is: Sequel to the dark comedy controversy that was Blood. You play as an undead gun slinger whose only real agenda seems to be to massacre anything and everyone he sees.
What was good about it: Caleb was back! The soundtrack, while not particularly varied, also had its own charm to it. Another nice thing; you got to play as Caleb’s friends (the
…but hang on a second…
Blood was a dark comedy set in a horrific and extremely creepy world, filled with the undead, gargoyles and other monstrosities. Blood 2, by contrast, was pretty far from “horror”.
Yes, it still had black magic, undead and weird ancient gods with a dark agenda, but the overall experience was more akin to your typical near-future shooter.
Saving grace: The game did maintain Blood’s, well, bloody theme. Playing as Caleb is about as close to playing Alucard from the Hellsing manga as a PC shooter can get you.
3. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic
What it is: Technically a spin off rather than a sequel, this title was part of the attempt to re-invigorate the Might and Magic franchise after the reboot (Heroes of Might and Magic 5, the story of which is a predecessor to this one).
What was good about it: One of the few PC games to present melee combat in a fun way, this was one visceral FPS (or would that be FPM, first person melee?).
….but hang on a second…
Talk about missing the point! This game suffers from the “Darker and Edgier” idea some developers have when it comes to expanding their audience. It took the plot elements from Heroes of Might and Magic 5 – a pretty colorful game of strategy – and plunged it into this gritty, bloody world of horny (no, not as in “it has horns”) demons, decapitations and the standard color pallet of seemingly every first person shooter (brown and grey), where the only strategy you really needed was “use the boot”.
Saving grace: Despite the boring story, stale visuals and overpowered boot, the game’s combat was a lot of fun.
4. Empire Earth 3
What it is: The third game in the Empire Earth series of strategy games. If you haven’t heard of them, think of their game play as “Age of Empires on steroids”; you went from the stone-age all the way up to the far future with mechs and nukes.
Some found this scale and all the technologies and units that came with it were too much to handle, leading to the developers deciding to “stream line” the game, bringing us to part three.
What was good about it: Well, it… was more accessible, I guess?
….but hang on a second…
Forget that the complexity of the series is what its fans loved. The developers did more than just “stream line”. They went out of their way to completely destroy any semblance of Empire Earth. This was no game of playing through human history and changing its course. It was entirely, 100 % fantasy with some really odd directions. The number of nations was cut back, and what was left wasn’t a group of nations so much as racial stereotype factions that had… very strange ideas on the direction of the world and technology.
Saving grace: Nope. Sorry. I got nothing. This game completely missed the point and couldn’t possibly please fans of the series OR introduce new people to it.
5. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2
What it is: The sequel to Relic Entertainment’s killer strategy gem, Dawn of War 2, differed significantly from the original, and focused on smaller, more tactical battles where troops were not expendable.
What was good about it: The graphics and addition of real physics made the battles come alive in a spectacular way. The game was also more “tactical” than the original; instead of acquiring resources and building a base till you had a massive army, you controlled fewer squads and tried to keep casualties to a minimum.
…but hang on a second…
One of the best parts of Dawn of War was the sheer scale of the carnage; massive numbers of infantry gunning and slashing at each other with support vehicles wreaking havoc along the way, followed by a post battle scene that had the ground covered in bodies and craters.
Dawn of War embodied the over the top nature of the Warhammer 40,000 setting perfectly. Dawn of War 2, on the other hand, embodied the actual table top game a lot more closely, but in doing so and by shrinking the scale of things, the visceral and adrenaline pumping nature of the original was lost.
Saving grace: Really, how good or bad this change in tone was is highly debatable. Dawn of War 2 is a fun game for what it is, but it’s hard to think of it as “Dawn of War” 2 rather than something else entirely.
6. Unreal Tournament 3
What it is: Despite what its name suggests, Unreal Tournament 3 is actually the fourth game in the multi-player spin off of the Unreal franchise (not counting the Unreal Championship games).
What was good about it: Unreal Tournament 3 is one pretty game. It might not be Crysis and the art style might not be anything unique (in fact, it looked (un)surprisingly like Gears of War, Epic Games’ other big name franchise), but it still had a nice visual flair that really brought you into the battle.
The way the game handled also seemed a little more like the original UT than the other sequels, and best of all; they got rid of the assault rifle to make room for the beloved Enforcer pistols.
…but hang on a second…
The strangest thing about this game was the attempt to make a single player storyline. Unreal Tournament is about just that; a sports tournament where you are playing through the season’s championship. There is no real plot beyond that. UT 3’s ‘storyline’ seems to be a good example of why that is. What we have here is an extremely corny plot about some corporate war that ends up being painful not because of the shots fired or the lives lost, but instead because of the hammy dialogue and ridiculous voice acting.
The campaign’s presentation as a whole neither fits with what Unreal Tournament is about, nor does it try to do the most logical thing and just be an actual Unreal sequel, resulting in an experience that’s neither here nor there.
Saving grace: Well it was Unreal Tournament, which is always fun as long as you are not over thinking it. I dare say that the “campaign” would have been far more exciting and interesting if they just made it about the sport (with cut scenes and all if they were so insistent on making the single player something special) instead of some haphazard and pointless lump of training levels that try to give logic to the illogical, but regardless, the core “sports-with-guns” game play remained.
7. Duke Nukem Forever
What it is: The sequel to Duke Nukem 3D that no one thought would ever be released. Duke Nukem Forever took a whopping twelve plus years to finish.
What was good about it: Well, Duke Nukem was finally back, and regardless of how the final product ended up, it’s pretty amazing that the game once synonymous with the term “vaporware” was boxed and is available in stores at long last.
…but hang on a second…
Duke Nukem Forever misses the point in a variety of ways, but going through each and every one of them would be beating a dead horse, as the rest of the Internet has already gone through the list. I will, however, address what I felt was the biggest sore point.
Duke Nukem 3D, like Doom, was famous for its in-your-face, over the top violence that rarely let up. You were cast as a man who was essentially the gaming world’s equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and wielded an impossible number of guns and gadgets against a legion of grotesque alien monstrosities, all to the humorous taunts of the titular hero that made fun of then contemporary movies or other icons (including its rival, Doom!). DNF, on the other hand, starts off with a few moments of action… and then takes away all your weapons, puts tons of friendly characters in front of you, and then tells you to walk around without the promise of being given something to shoot.
This goes on for a lot longer than it really should, and even when the action finally does start, it’s still a fair bit of time before you get to the actual shooting. It’s great that the game tries to draw you into Dukes world by letting you become familiar with it before tearing it to shreds, but “peace time” in Duke is about as welcome and fitting as a porno clip is in a Teletubbies episode.
Saving Grace: Hey, they got it out of the door! Duke Nukem Forever was finally released, so the Internet can stop catching false alarms about its impending release, or laughing about how it’s vaporware.
…oh, and it’s Duke. Sort of….
8. Commandos: Strike Force
What it is: A WW2 themed first person shooter. It was billed as being a part of the long running Commandos strategy game franchise.
What was good about it: It let you see the action from the eyes of the titular commando squad.
…but hang on a second…
Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines and its expansion packs were all games of strategy, where you had to manage your whole squad and coordinate their movements. They were very particularly not games where you ran in with a machine gun and won the day.
Strike Force also had a completely new cast of characters, meaning it has pretty much no real connection to the franchise besides its name. Which begs the question… why was it being billed as a part of that series?
Saving Grace: On its own, it’s not a terrible game. There are certainly worse WW2 first person titles out there.
Image by stuartpilbrow via Flickr (cc)
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About Abhishek Chaturvedi
An illustrator and gamer, Abhishek writes because of that inner compulsion thingie. He’s lad of strong opinions on both gaming and the developer community. Ever the eccentric, one of his oddities includes plastering himself against the corridor wall to avoid being contaminated by passing homo sapiens. Yes, he’s an artiste at heart. Don’t dare forget the ‘e’. He won’t allow it. On wwwireframe, he writes about gaming.