The nature of modern video games is that many of them release broken. As open worlds grow more sprawling and online-only ecosystems become larger in scope, too often do such grand ambitions results in a final product that isn’t anything like the one promised by trailers.
Rather, to everyone’s chagrin, you run home to find that the latest triple-A release you’ve spent months looking forward to playing is in fact flawed, defective, and filled with bugs. Hi, Fallout 76.
No more does the sting of buggy games prove harder to bear than in those where it’s clear that they would have been great, were it not for the perseverance of glitches and stutters. We thought it worth looking back in appreciation of these unpolished gems; those that should have scaled the heights of critical and commercial greatness, but for whatever reason remain doomed to sit on the pile of games regularly referred to as “a broken mess”. In some cases, a little unfairly.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
As the first Assassin’s Creed to release exclusively on the current generation of consoles, what should have been cause for excitement with Unity was instead a PR fiasco for Ubisoft back in 2014. The issues with French Revolution-set entry were rife, with the player-controlled Arno often falling through the ground, getting stuck in hay carts, bumping up against invisible walls and, at times, finding that parts of his own face were missing.
All these technical issues detracted from a game that otherwise featured one of the most beautiful renditions of Paris we’d ever seen. One that should have should have been endlessly fun to parkour through, all while experiencing a story that let you brush shoulders with such historical figures as Napoléon Bonaparte and the Marquis de Sade.
Assassin’s Creed Unity also saw the introduction of a new take on co-operative multiplayer that challenged you and friends to take on assassination missions together. Cool innovations like this have since been left forgotten by the wayside, however, especially since the continuing RPG-ification of the franchise marches forward as evidenced by the relatively bug-free (by comparison) Origins and Odyssey.
A regular stream of patches eventually built Assassin’s Creed Unity up to a smooth and playable state in the weeks following release, but understandably, this didn’t do much to appease early adopters wanting to embark on an 18th century Parisian adventure. The ordeal was so devastating that the chief executive of Ubisoft Montreal & Toronto issued an apology. “Unfortunately, at launch, the overall quality of the game was diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues,” wrote Yannis Mallat. “I want to sincerely apologise on behalf of Ubisoft and the entire Assassin’s Creed team.”
Batman Arkham Origins
The odds were stacked against Batman Arkham Origins right from the off. Not only was the Christmas-set prequel (intended to fill the long gap between City and Knight) handled by an entirely new studio, but many took issue with the game’s reliance on the overly familiar. Origins featured an iteration of Gotham that was almost double to what we’d seen previously, sure, yet the three added districts did little to add character to the already impressive iconography achieved by Rocksteady previously. Bigger isn’t always better, publisher WB soon found out. And player perception only continued to dwindle as Batman Arkham Origins turned out to be riddled with game-breaking bugs.
At its worst, Batman Arkham Origins would send players into an endless loop of falling through the world, which somewhat makes the act of progressing the narrative a little awkward. The 360 version in particular suffered from constant crashing and freezes, leading to common sights of the caped crusader becoming stuck in the air mid-flight. Some players were able to resolve this issue by disconnecting their console from the internet – not a good look, however, in a spin-off title that’s big new feature was a PvP multiplayer mode.
Despite its many flaws, WB Montreal was able to release a patch that somewhat stabilised the game. Batman Arkham Origins might be the most unpolished of the series, but power through the odd stutter and frame rate dip and you’ll unearth one of the freshest depictions of the Joker/Batman relationship ever seen – a ‘true romance’ of sorts between calculated chaos and blunt order. This tale is infused with the same brand of Arkham combat that has since gone on to influence countless other open-world brawlers, and Origins was the first in the series to truly lean into the Dark Knight’s detective side, thanks to the addition of virtual crime scene investigations. It also had some of the series’ best boss fights.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo: The Master Chief Collection should have been every Xbox fan’s dream: all of the Chief’s epic first-person adventures compiled into one neat and tidy experience, complete with a return to the glory days of Halo multiplayer, including every map originally released with each game from Halo 2 onwards. Numerous bugs and technical hiccups plagued the entirety of 343 Studios’ ambitious project at launch, but it’s the latter portion that continues to be plagued even to this day.
A lot of MCC’s problems would have likely been overlooked were it not the case that matchmaking proved painstaking impossible. Players would be forced to wait hours before being able to connect, Halo: Combat Evolved-specific playlists weren’t made available at launch, and the general wish fulfilment of playing all Halo maps across a suite of custom modes was simply nowhere to be found. What followed was four years of slowly but surely getting MCC’s multiplayer to a playable state, with the most recent update coming as a 73GB download to coincide with the game’s addition to Xbox Game Pass this past September.
The game’s single-player was thankfully mostly unaffected by the pervading online issues, with special recognition going to Saber Interactive’s complete remaster of Halo 2, which features updated visuals and two new cutscenes created by Blur Studio. All of Master Chief’s adventures capture the magic that made the first three games special, and the ability to switch between the original Halo and Halo 2 graphics and their updated versions is still a nice touch. MCC’s online, however, isn’t still without its quirks, with one of the largest issues being 343’s decision to region lock servers. What should in theory reduce matchmaking woes, is at times resulting in the opposite.