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Most Disappointing Games of 2023

 Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, PS5/XBox Series/PC)

I had my doubts about the Resident Evil 4 remake from the get-go, mostly because it felt totally unnecessary - 2005's Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece of design, with immaculately optimized mechanics, tight controls and a carefully-crafted rhythm to its action that kept the gameplay manageable even during the most intense moments, and it still holds up wonderfully today.  Guess what the remake did away with?  If you guessed "all of the above", then you're correct!  The movement is slower and clunkier, aiming is pointlessly made more "realistic" as you have to point in the same direction and stay still for a second to tighten the reticle - in an intense action game, I'd like to reiterate - and enemies come at you constantly from every angle (even spawning just out of your field of view to get cheap hits in) so you can never take any time to actually line up your shots.  Their answer to all of this was to shoehorn in a parry mechanic where you can hit L1 to parry most melee attacks and drive your attacker back a bit, but the prompt is stuck way down in the corner on the tiny HUD so you'll never see it in time anyway.  Then you jam in lame filler "sidequests" to earn upgrades, a dopey achievement-tied unlock system just to pad the game out more and neuter every character of their personality and charm and... blech.  RE4's remake is just another example of what happens when some overpaid committee values gimmicky bullshit like raytracing and stodgy content-for-content's-sake (preferably nickel-and-diming you for every single bit of it) over tight design and entertainment value.  Forget this joyless dredge and pick up the original instead; any version of the 2005 Resident Evil 4 will give you way more value for your money.

Forspoken (Luminous Productions, PS5/PC)

The first (and it would seem, last) outing from Luminous Productions; a subsidiary of Square Enix comprised mostly of alumni from Final Fantasy XV's dev team.  It certainly got attention when it was announced, seemingly allowing for fluid movement over any terrain a la Saints Row IV or a much faster paced Breath of the Wild, having you battle enemies while zipping across the landscape at high speed.  It does indeed have that, but not quite to the extent you'd hope - while you can run relatively quickly over flat terrain, you can't really go up too steep of a cliff or wall without some handholds, so it's not nearly as free and exhilarating as you'd hope.  Combat in the game is downright dull too, mostly just consisting of repeatedly pressing the trigger buttons to pelt enemies with projectiles until they fall down, earning bonuses for hitting enemies from the side or behind, doing an aerial melee attack or landing finishing moves and having points deducted for taking hits.  Charged attacks and supportive spells (like restricting enemy movement in a radius) don't really add much to the experience either; the latter doesn't have any sort of homing ability unlike your basic shots and stops dead when it hits any sort of terrain, making it worthless outside of point-blank range, while supportive spells take far too long to recharge to be much use.   It's also pretty hard to get invested in the story when it has to rely constantly on such forced humor (trotting out the "peasants of this medieval world don't understand modern lingo" cliché about twenty times in every cutscene), and the near-constant witty repartee with your magical cuff throughout the gameplay just gets grating after the first twenty minutes, let alone a fifteen-plus hour journey.  It's very clear that none of Final Fantasy XV's talented writing staff worked on this one, as I actually found the banter in that game quite charming and the scenes to be consistently well-staged and acted, furthering the story brilliantly.  There are some fun ideas in Forspoken, but the gameplay's lackluster execution, the cliched premise and consistently grating protagonists made it a game I quickly grew tired of.

Starfield (Bethesda Softworks, XBox Series/PC)

Bethesda has been trapped in a rut of basically making the same game over and over since 2006 - vast, open, pretty to look at, but ultimately shallow, with forgettable main questlines and characters and dungeons and battles that start to feel very samey after a while.  I'd hoped Starfield - their first new IP in 25 years - would be their big chance to step up and really break the mold, but... Nope, not really, it's just the same overall feel again, with a few light elements of Starflight, No Man's Sky and Elite sprinkled on top.  In fact they've actually regressed to the Elder Scrolls 1 school of map design in that if you just go down and wander you'll never encounter anything other than blank terrain; you have to learn where something is via a book or quest order and then fast travel straight to it, and even then its usually just another samey building or space station full of carbon-copy mooks to take out. They've taken all the joy out of exploring; a killing blow to any RPG, but especially so when you're talking about a game set in the final frontier.  The fact that it came out the same year as several other amazing big-name RPGs like Tears of the Kingdom, Baldur's Gate III and Sea of Stars only makes its shortcomings all the more apparent.  Basically, Starfield is just another Bethesda game - safe and generic enough that casual fans and modders will get a kick out of it, but those searching for something deeper and more engaging on a mental and emotional level will forget about pretty quickly.