Xbox Live Thumbs Down – Ninja Gaiden 2, Dark Sector, Quake Wars, Frogger 2

Ninja Gaiden 2 (Retail)

I’m going to give this game the benefit of the doubt and assume it has the Virtua Fighter problem.  All the depth and balance and quality of high-level gameplay doesn’t mean anything if your game seems stupid and backwards compared to more accessible folk.  I’ve never had less fun dismembering ninjas.  The high def graphics accentuate the stupid and ugly the art design and animation of the story characters.

Dark Sector (Retail)

Falls below the bar for grunt-tastic Xbox shooters.  Lacks the story that the anime-looking main character implies.   Also missing co-op, intelligent enemies, and unique environments.  The boomerang-Krull “Glaive” is hard to aim and provides poor feedback on hits (shouldn’t a giant blade just decapitate enemies?).  The hulk boss in the demo seems like something you can shoot and slash away at, but he can only be hurt if you first set your glaive on fire by tossing it into a brazier, then hit him with it, then RUN UP TO HIM (WHO WOULD DO THIS) and hit a button you never hit otherwise in the game.  You dig the glaive into his neck and shoot him through the jaw, badass God of War fatality-style.  Only… a bullet straight through the brain doesn’t put him down, you need to do the EXACT SAME FATALITY 3 times to get him to then shift into a new phase where you burn him some more?  Absolutely terrible!

Quake Wars: Enemy Territory (Retail)

I played a lot of QW on PC, where it’s a clunky but earnest team-objective shooter with enough good stuff.  On consoles, everything borderline bad about QW goes rotten.  Different characters are impossible to recognize at a distance and the weapon/gear switching is Playstation 1-level ancient.  Text is tiny and hard to read, even at 720p, and the console UI obfuscates the fun leveling aspects.  Quake-speed character movement (think the Flash) combined with slow controller aiming makes open field combat impossible and close quarters fights frustrating dodge-fests.

Frogger 2 (Arcade)

Every hop from (Mr?) Frogger makes a hopping sound, each one a tiny testament that nobody played this game during development.  Cute but not charming, someone felt Pikmin’s plot was worth repurposing for Frogger.  Who better than a frog to rescue the parts of an alien’s space ship?  So easy that it’s no longer an action/arcade game, making it an adventure game?  A linear one with a no interesting powerups or prizes.