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Top 7 Underwhelming Sequels

Sequels are supposed to be bigger, better, more. But some of them just don't cut the mustard, and it's enough to leave you thoroughly underwhelmed.

  • Text: Mike Holmes

Let's get it out of the way before we start; the games listed here are not the worst games ever. Saw II: Flesh and Blood, for example, is a pretty terrible game. It's also a sequel. But there was never any expectation that it would be anything other than crap. So it's not featured here.

All of the games in this week's Top 7 are here because of the expectations put on them after the success of their predecessors. With that in mind, here's number one on our list:

Duke Nukem is not what you would call a "modern man",

1. Duke Nukem Forever

"It's time to kick ass and chew gum. And I'm all outta gum."

That was one of Duke Nukem's catchphrases. "Your ass, your face; what's the difference?" was another. Iconic soundbites that defined the original, making it standout from the crowd of Doom-clones the popped up throughout the latter part of the 90s.

Duke Nukem had a certain charm. He didn't conform to the strong, silent stereotype. He had verve, personality, and a mouth that would run like a tap. In a nutshell; he was popular because of his attitudes towards aliens, strippers and urinals, not despite of them.

Fast-forward a decade, and Duke has returned, only this time he's run out of ass to kick, and he has an abundance of gum to chew through. You see, Mr Nukem has aged badly. He's tired, he's out of date, he's made his impact, and now he's a 40 year old Fonzie, played by Nicolas Cage, living in his mum's basement, desperately seeking out someone to love him.

Duke Nukem Forever took a decade to make. Sadly, that made it nine years too late.

Sonic 4 promised so much, and delivered so little.

2. Sonic the Hedgehog 4

Sega must watch Nintendo with frustration/envy. How do they manage to keep their iconic plumber relevant to the modern gamer? How does Mario stay so popular? Is it his hat? Is it his bushy mustache? Is it his green-clothed sidekick Luigi or his pet Yoshi?

If Sega had the answer to that question, then perhaps Sonic 4 wouldn't be the underwhelming sequel that it turned out to be.

Episode I was lackluster, certainly by the standards set by previous iterations. It didn't have the same feeling as previous Sonic games, it didn't capture the essence of white-knuckled adventure that made the first games iconic, genre defining releases.

There are several reasons for this, but the obvious one is has got to be speed, or a genuine lack thereof. Sure, there are nippy sections to Episode I, but they only really convey the illusion of speed. Control is minimal, and when it isn't, Sonic 4 is a frustratingly stop/start experience.

In the 90s Sonic rose to be the only genuine rival to Mario's crown as the king of console, and it was a close run thing, at the time. The little blue hedgehog achieved this by being considerably faster than the competition. But in the modern landscape, Sonic is no longer the fastest kid on the block, and with his increasingly humbled speed, his defining characteristic has been stripped from him. Now he's just a blue hedgehog.

A great game, but for many Civ IV remains the definitive title in the series.

3. Civilization V

The inclusion of religion and espionage in DLC expansion Gods & Kings has rectified many of the complaints leveled against the fifth game in the Civ series. Both elements, previously cornerstones of the Civ experience, were strangely absent at launch, and so many fans of the franchise quickly walked away from the latest title and went back to IV.

The old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind when you think of Civ V. Firaxis' decision to strip down core elements backfired a little, and marred the reception this otherwise excellent game received.

Obsidian's Knights of the Old Republic II is almost as good as the original. But not quite.

4. Knights of the Old Republic II & Fallout: New Vegas

KotOR II is another good game that is easily forgotten, due in no small part to the superlative excellence of the original.

Bioware developed the first, and handed over the template for sequel specialists Obsidian to carry on the story, which they did. Just about.

It wasn't a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination, but it was lacking in nearly every area when held against the first. It looked similar, it played similarly, it was eerily reminiscent in so many ways; but it wasn't as good and it felt less than. Somehow hollow.

Obsidian's Fallout: New Vegas is almost as good as the original. But not quite.

It's a trick that Obsidian has pulled since, taking on the Fallout franchise after Bethesda had dazzled with Fallout 3. New Vegas was a quality game, but once again it lacked the authority of its predecessor. It didn't quite measure up.

Both solid games, but both underwhelming when compared to their source material.

Call of Duty 3 missed the mark.

5. Call of Duty 3

There was a time when Treyarch was the ugly duckling of the Call of Duty franchise. Infinity Ward stunned the world with Call of Duty 2, its formula replicated ad infinitum by first-person shooters ever since. Its sequel, Call of Duty 3, flattered to deceive, and just a few minutes into the campaign it became painfully obvious that the high standards set by Call of Duty 2 hadn't been maintained.

Then came Modern Warfare; completely blowing 3 (and every other shooter, for that matter) out of the water. Infinity Ward were the masters, Treyarch were just there to make up the numbers.

Happily this is no longer the case, and Treyarch's more recent entries into the series; World at War and Black Ops have proved incredibly successful, the latter breaking all sales records (until MW3 was released the following year). But that doesn't change the fact that Call of Duty 3 was lacking, and of all the current-gen entries into the series, it's probably the only one we'd find hard to recommend.

Shooting dinosaurs should be cool, yet somehow Turok Evolution isn't cool.

6. Turok Evolution

Shooting dinosaurs should be cool. The fact the Turok Evolution made it a labour was something of an achievement. Laborious action was compounded by the weight of expectation on the game, which came after the success of the original.

2008's entry into the series was probably just a stinky as Evolution, but it was Evolution that sullied the family name, and not the most recent release, hence why it makes the list.

Fans: "We want something new!" Bioware: "How about this?" Fans: "Not that new,"

7. Dragon Age II

Dragon Age is a tricky one. The community wanted something new from Bioware, but when something alternative was put forward by the studio, it was savaged by the same fans calling for reinvention. It turned out that the community didn't want something new at all.

It's not a bad game (in fact, it's pretty good), it's just a departure from the norm.

Dragon Age: Awakening was a bit of an unexpected hit when it was released, and the sequel continued that trend. But given the level of expectation surrounding the game, and the reception it received upon release, it's got to be included in this week's Top 7.