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Gaming Matters: Top of the Flops

Andy Vandervell

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In the previous instalment of Gaming Matters I wrote about what a great year 2007 has been and as Parts One and Two of our Top 20 Games of the Year demonstrated, this was no idle chat. However, though the games have been largely excellent, this isn't to say there haven't been disappointments to be found, both in terms of gaming software and hardware. And, in the spirit of providing a semblance of balance, it seems a good idea to remind us all about those that promised much, but either didn't deliver or were simply ignored.

Assassin's Creed could be argued to be one of the greatest sinners. Yes, it sold very well. In fact, so well has it done that some have attributed it to saving publisher Ubisoft from a possible takeover from EA. However, its success must be tempered by the fact that as a game, it widely disappointed. A victim perhaps of the slick promotional campaign that generated so much anticipation, its crime was delivering a very fun experience, but only for around two hours. An easy trick, perhaps, to try and garner favourable reviews, but many, including our own Stu, saw through the pretty facade.

A flop for slightly different reasons, the well regarded Unreal Tournament 3 must be considered a serious disappointment because, despite its quality, it has spectacularly failed at retail. Why? Some have speculated it's another sign of the decline of PC gaming, but it probably has more to do with the time of year. After all, UT3 isn't the first high profile title to struggle in the face of stiff holiday competition - I for one was far too busy enjoying Team Fortress 2 to care. Another undeserved flop was Crysis. Though a technical and design marvel, the fact most people can't play the DirectX 10 showcase has resulted in poor sales. Both excellent games in their own right, it just goes to show that merit can sometimes count for little in the games industry.

Thankfully, in the case of Crysis this should be remedied in the coming year as the new generation of DX10 capable graphics cards arrive. Nonetheless, this doesn't save DirectX 10 from the ignoble status as one of the flops of 2007. It didn't help that Microsoft insisted on restricting its implementation to the faltering Vista operating system, despite the widespread opinion that there was no technical reason for doing so. Like Crysis, though, the future of DX10 is brighter, with more DX10 hardware and software on the horizon during 2008.

One company that doesn't have such a bright future is Aegia and its PhysX physics acceleration technology, which continues to prove absolutely no one wrong. Though the sentiment, if not the execution, was understandable when it first appeared, 2007 has done nothing to enhance the reputation of PhysX. The selection of games using the tech may have increased marginally but there remains little indication that developers and consumers are about to embrace using PhysX, which requires a secondary discrete card to power physics. Moreover, with Intel investing in competitor Havok, AMD ruling out an approach and quad-core CPUs becoming more common, it's hard to see where PhysX fits in.

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