Why I Hated My Vacation: The Worst of Summer Gaming

Summer will soon be at an end, and if you ask me, it can't come fast enough. The only thing worse than the unbearable conditions outside is the tepid wave of crap that gamers had to wade through this summer if they wanted to find any relief indoors. Here's a quick rundown of some of this summer's least memorable gaming moments:

Lipsticked Pig, Only 1200 Microsoft Points

Let's start with a problem endemic to the season itself. I know that summer is traditionally a poor time for gaming (even though one of its target audiences is home in front of the TV for three months, but whatever), and I understand that marketing departments might feel the urge to use whatever resources they have available to help alleviate that perception.

But when companies like Microsoft try to bully their developers into waiting to release their best XBLA titles until they can be "showcased" under a "Summer of Arcade" umbrella, thereby spacing release farther apart than what would be considered normal during any other time of year, that isn't an "event." It's even less than business as usual.

A-B-C, Easy as Z-Z-Z

Alan Wake spent five years in development hell while developer Remedy Entertainment chased the uptweak dragon, locked in a seemingly unending struggle to create this generation's premiere physics engine before the next generation outclassed it.

Too bad they didn't spend any of that time branching out their gameplay. Despite the aforementioned polish and a storyline that felt like a lost Max Payne script written by Stephen King, Alan Wake will be remembered as a game that gave players a flashlight, a few bullets, and a 10-foot-by-10-foot corridor.

Zombies Eat Brains. Also, Fun

Offering access to the Halo 3 multiplayer beta to Crackdown purchasers gave it a wave of guaranteed early buys, but after that initial buzz died out, players found to their surprise that Crackdown's nameless rooftop-leaping supercop stood perfectly well on his own.

How worst to capitalize on 2007's best sleeper hit? By strapping it to an overhyped horror fad, of course! Crackdown 2 replaced the systematic elimination of Pacific City's vast and interlinked organized crime syndicates with a halfhearted post-apocalyptic palette-swap and a pointless directive that read, "KILL TEH ZOMBIES NOW! RARR!" This in turn replaced interest in Crackdown 2 with the sensation one gets when one's wallet is touched in its no-no place.

Timecop, Meet Sgt. Gimmick

Singularity was touted as a game about the infinite possibilities of time manipulation as shown through the creation of (and restoration from) an alternate reality in which the Soviets escalated and then won the Cold War.

Instead, it was a linear corridor shooter with a gimmicky weapon, a tool that made climbing stairs and collecting ammo more tedious, and waves of repetitive soldiers interspersed with waves of repetitive ghouls. That sense of déjà vu isn't from timeline-hopping—it's from a game that has already been done a million times before. If I could manipulate time, I'd go back and kill Singularity's parents.

Dead Horses, Casual Edition

Someone needs to tell the games publishing community that the vast majority of players only liked Puzzle Quest ironically. Killing dragons with Bejeweled-rip-off tile puzzles isn't fun because it's fun—it's fun because it's ridiculous, and even then, it's a joke that's only funny once.

Unfortunately, casual gaming houses don't know how to let a one-hit wonder die with dignity. Puzzle Quest 2 is the formula's attempt to return home, but after a year or two of being passed wantonly between publishers with nothing more than a quick buck in mind, PQ2's homecoming has all the triumph of the return of a syphilitic prostitute to a familiar street corner.

Another Madden Game Exists

Hating the 22-year-old Madden NFL series is a bit Sisyphean; after all, birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and EA Sports gotta vomit up another non-sequel, even though Madden himself retired in 2009.

But come on, guys. It's 2010, and the consoles have finally jumped on the DLC bandwagon with both feet. If you people would stop buying the damned things every time they throw a new one on the pile, EA Sports might have some incentive to release Madden Arcade for $15 instead of Madden '11 for $60.

Then again, that would probably just be another Summer of Arcade title.