Facebook has started showing me pictures of famous actors plastered with comments like: “Haters only hate because real hustlers remind them of everything they aren’t.” Photo of Keanu Reeves Wearing A Suit might have a point, but what can I say? Sometimes it’s fun to be a hater.
Case in point: When I asked the PC Gamer team to tell me everything they hate about the games everyone loves, they wrote 6,000 words in just a few days, and then wrote more. They had so many burns that I’m not going to publish them all today. We’ll give Grand Theft Auto 5, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Mass Effect, and a bunch of other games their due in part two of this roast.
In this edition, we hit Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3, Elden Ring, and 12 other beloved games of the past and present. These are games we’ve given awards to (or are likely to this year, in Elden Ring’s case) and that have appeared in our yearly Top 100 PC games list, some over and over again. We’ve written about what makes them groundbreaking and delightful more times than any of us can remember. So it’s about time we let them have it.
The things you know and love the most are by far the easiest things to tear down, and the criticism here is genuinely felt. Well, mostly. There are a few zingers that might be a little unfair, but like I told that photo of Keanu, sometimes it’s fun to hate. Roasts aren’t supposed to be entirely fair.
Here’s everything that sucks about 15 of PC Gamer’s favorite games:
The Witcher 3
Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor: Gwent doesn’t make any sense. Why does everyone play a card game where half the cards have this one Witcher and all his mates/girlfriends on them? Geralt’s not a celebrity, it’s a major theme of the game that people treat him like garbage even though he risks his life for them. You could pretend the Gwent we play is an abstraction of the one Geralt and every single bloody village merchant plays, except Zoltan has a whole questline about needing three special rares, including Fringilla. It’s clearly supposed to be the exact same game with the same cards, which is more immersion-breaking than the NPCs who quote Madonna. Oh, and it’s a shameless rip-off of Condottiere.
Rich Stanton, Senior Editor: The most overrated game of the last decade. CD Projekt Red cannot make a good combat system. I’m a Soullllsss man, da dah dah da da dah dah dahhh, which means I want terrifying precision combat against incredibly imaginative bosses. Geralt feels so fast-and-loose in the hands to me, and I hate running around in circles and doing his little dodge, the horse is the worst horse around, and all the pointless crafting and subsystems can do one.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I didn’t actually love The Witcher 3 until I modded it. I hated that its side quests give you so little XP, so I scaled that up. I got fed up with following a dotted line on a minimap the entire game, so I installed a compass mod that sort-of-kind-of let me navigate using landmarks and verbal directions. Nowadays open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint actually design for that playstyle, which is cool. It speaks to Witcher 3’s quality that I’m willing to mod around its weaknesses, but it has made me hesitant to replay it.
Lauren Aitken, Deputy Guides Editor: Not nearly enough full-frontal Geralt nudity.
Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: Nier: Automata is for weebs who haven’t read a book or watched a movie. It’s cliché sci-fi anime garbage that only feels like it means something because the music owns and Yoko Taro Googled “socialism”. Nier: Replicant is a better game because it gives its characters space to be humans, which is pretty important in a game about what it means to be human.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: Damn dude.
Baldur’s Gate 2
Jody Macgregor: Real-time with pause combat was a mistake.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: Gotta echo Jody here. I love telling my mage to do something and having them blithely wander through the enemy front ranks soaking up damage for some reason. Oh yeah, by the way, the enemies you were fighting all inflict permanent status effects, sorry. Half your party is permadead and the other half has had all their status reduced by half, only way to reverse it is to go to a town on the other side of the map, failing all the timed companion quests you had foisted on you, or load up your save from five hours ago. At least the writing’s good—oh wait, no, fan favorites like Minsc, Edwin, and Jan are just “lol so random.” False alarm on the good writing
Andy Chalk, News Lead: So close to a real tabletop D&D experience, you’ll have to know what THAC0 means! (No, seriously, you gotta know THAC0 or you’re screwed. Fortunately it’s all laid out in chapters 2, 3, and 11 of this concise 322-page instruction manual.)
And have you ever wondered where BioWare’s weird sex hangup comes from? Because I’ve got eight fingers and two thumbs, and they’re all pointing at Viconia.
Kentucky Route Zero
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: ‘Americana’ is just a fancy way of saying that Americans are so obsessed with their own country that they won’t even stop going on about its endless boring stretches of nothing.
Tyler Wilde: And for seven years! That was way too long to wait for someone to finish telling me about a weird dream they had. I got into Roberto Bolaño novels instead.
Jody Macgregor: I loved the first three acts, but I was underwhelmed by the final two. They’re quite different from each other, one a lengthy hypnagogic boat journey through the underworld and the other a brief denouement where you control a cat, but neither’s a satisfying resolution of Kentucky Route Zero’s themes. Seeing in the writing wiki that there were plans for act 5 to feature a return of the overworld and involve revisiting locations from act 3, none of which made it in, suggests there were some significant changes over the course of KRZ’s protracted development. I can’t help but wonder if the earlier plan would have made for a finale that tied things together. What we got doesn’t. It feels like the product of people tired of their own creation, an obligation dispensed with because they’d already moved on.
Alan Dexter, Senior Hardware Editor: Imagine an MMO, but with guns, and grindier than life itself. No thanks.
Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: There are many moments while playing Destiny 2 where I stop and think to myself: “Why? Why am I doing this?” I’m on step one of 58 in an exotic quest that will see me return over and over to the same locations I’ve seen a thousand times before. And then I keep going.
Lauren Aitken, Deputy Guides Editor: Destiny 2 is addictive, silly yet serious,and has a way richer storyline than an MMO FPS deserves, but for fuck sake, Bungie, fix your game.
Jody Macgregor: Someone told me Destiny 2 had a good introduction that got you up to speed if you hadn’t played the first game. They were wrong.
Robin Valentine: The onboarding in Destiny 2 is so bad that even having already played the entire campaign on PS4 a year previous, I couldn’t make any sense of its PC release.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: 700 hours I’m never going to get back, most of that spent grinding for guns I’m not allowed to use anymore. I remember diving into this for the rich lore and compelling characters—like the rhino alien Byzantine empire guy who’s kind of your friend—but found myself mostly just ticking boxes so I could have more fun bucks to get more boxes to tick. Big yawn.
Tyler Colp: Bungie tried its best to make the worst jump in videogames and still lost to Dark Souls.
Imogen Mellor, Features Producer: Daddy issues, the game.
Robin Valentine: Is it a dating sim disguised as a roguelike, or a roguelike disguised as a dating sim? Either way it generates too much fanart.
Morgan Park: Spelunky for game journalists.
Tyler Wilde: lol.
Morgan Park: This is maybe the most vanilla, baby-ass complaint ever brought against Spelunky, but it’s too hard. I like that it’s hard, but if it were like, 3% less hard, I probably would have gone down the rabbit hole of really finishing it.
Tyler Wilde: Spelunky was the most darling of PC Gamer’s darlings for a while. I liked that we made it our Game of the Year in 2013 (opens in new tab) because people got mad about it, but I didn’t play much of it myself. I don’t like the Indiana Jones theme; it’s boring and outdated (gee whiz, is that lava?). Maybe that’s just an excuse to avoid admitting that I don’t actually enjoy Spelunky-like difficulty, and just like to imagine that I do. I should try Hades.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Morgan Park: The worst thing about Red Dead 2 is that it’s actually two games competing with each other. Sometimes, it’s an emergent cowboy life sim about camping, brushing horses, fishing, terrorizing, or protecting the world in any way you want. Other times, its a linear, strictly-guided cowboy Call of Duty game that wants you to play it a certain way. Gallop off the beaten path in a story mission, as you’re encouraged to in the open world, and a failure screen follows. Many of its missions, though they tell an interesting story, are total misfires of design.
Tyler Wilde: Sounds like GTA in that respect. I played Red Dead Online for a bit, and it was fun to goof off (we piled onto horses and ran them into each other so that we all went flying into a creek), but we were frequently besieged by weirdo sharpshooters and cheaters. Another classic Rockstar game experience.
Robin Valentine: You can’t trust a studio that makes developers crunch for years for the sake of having perfectly realistic horse bollocks.
Sean Martin, Guides Writer: It’s also hard to trust Arthur, the most loveable cowpoke around, when he’s pondering whether he’s a good man after shooting like fifty people in the face.
Lauren Aitken: How can a game have such brilliant storytelling, a beautifully crafted world and amazing voice acting, yet handle like absolute dogshit?
Jacob Ridley: It wins the award for the most frustratingly slow walk in a videogame.
Tyler Colp: I thought playing cowboy was something my racist grandparents did.
Tyler Colp: The original Portal is great, but Portal 2 felt like it was trying to hit a word count for a college essay, repeating and double-spacing every point the first game already made.
Tyler Wilde: Damn dude.
Jody Macgregor: There’s a puzzle in the first Portal where you’re supposed to trick a rocket turret into blasting open a tube that transports cubes. Then you take out a cube and climb on top of it to reach a vent. However, you can also stack chairs from the nearby offices to make a jank-ass ladder to reach that vent instead. It’s one of several puzzles in Portal you can brute-force, and even when you’re doing what the designers intended you often feel like you’re inventing a solution. Whenever I tried something offbeat like that in Portal 2, it didn’t work. I had to figure out the real answer instead, which was inevitably just putting portals or gel on the clearly marked areas you were allowed to put portals or gel on.
Imogen Mellor: My biggest frustration with Portal 2 is that after avoiding it for 10 years so I could replay it fresh, I still knew the solution to every puzzle. The Portal games are best the first time you play them and then they’re just stuck in your head forever. One of the least replayable experiences in gaming.
Morgan Park: I tried to replay Portal 2 recently and lost steam exactly where I always do: after the first good batch of puzzles, but before I get punted down to the basement to see the best stuff. There’s a stretch there puzzling with GLaDOS where things feel just slightly too samey. That’s just about the meanest thing I can say about one of the best games ever.
Tyler Wilde: I remember I got stuck for like an hour at one part because I didn’t notice a tiny sliver of portal-surface that was really hard to see. Pretty frustrating, but I guess it couldn’t have been that frustrating, because I gave it a 5/5 in a review I wrote at the time. In hindsight, I’m not as charmed today as I was then by a guy named Cave Johnson saying ridiculous things in a serious voice. I’m reminded of how well Zork: The Grand Inquisitor (opens in new tab) did a similar tone back in 1997. It doesn’t overdo it by tweeting the whole draft folder, the way we’re bombarded with Cave gags. Portal 2’s extended lemon bit isn’t nearly as funny as Erick Avari simply yelling “I am the boss of you.” I guess I just really like this one Zork game and I don’t get why everyone else didn’t play it, and I’m using this as an excuse to talk about that. 5/5 contribution.
Andy Chalk: Here’s the real shock: I already played a better version (opens in new tab) of this in 1999.
Jody Macgregor: Exactly. It’s System Shock 2 For Dummies with bolted-on Big Moral Choices and a bad twist. I spent every other minute trying to deviate from the linear path. I’m supposed to believe I was conditioned into unquestioning obedience while I was rubbing up against every single dead end in Rapture?
Robin Valentine: “Right, we’ve pulled off a twist that will be talked about for years. Shall we just end it there?”
“Nah, I reckon let’s tack on another 5 hours and make you fight a big naked man.”
Dragon Age: Origins
Lauren Morton: Origins is still the golden child of this series despite its standard-issue fantasy story about pals in plate mail befriending elves and dwarves, killing hordes of not-orcs, and slaying a dragon at the end. And somehow BioWare got a reputation for beloved party member romances from a system that boils down to googling “Morrigan gift guide” and handing her assorted necklaces until she invites you into her tent for a bit of cutscene smooching.
Jody Macgregor: I liked the idea of the origin stories, where you play a different prologue depending what race/class combo you pick, but in practice they just make getting round-pegged into the square hole of the plot more obnoxious. I’ve got a whole dead family to avenge, I don’t care about the Grey Wardens and their nonsense. The one origin story that segues smoothly into the main questline is the mage one, beginning a trend later Dragon Age games would continue where the plot turns out to hinge on the conflict between mages and templars and if you’re not one of them then it’s all a bit irrelevant.
Robin Valentine: Your party standing around making light-hearted quips in dialogue scenes while visibly drenched in blood from the game’s over-exuberant combat gore effects is one of the most ludicrous tonal stumbles in gaming history.
Tyler Colp: The entire cast in Dragon Age: Origins looks like they’re made out of clay.
Lauren Morton: Bold of IO Interactive to spend decades developing a stealth series built on disguises that rarely cover up the highly identifiable tattoo on the back of Agent 47’s head.
Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: IO Interactive: Create a trilogy praised for its freedom of approach and replayability, and fill it full of expansive, intricate levels that are a joy to explore and understand.
Also IO Interactive: End that trilogy on a train, the most linear of possible settings.
Morgan Park: The only stealth trilogy where keeping up with its release strategy was its own mission. Episodic, then all at once, then all at once with Epic, then on Steam with an online tool to prove that you own all the other games. Hard to master and easy to fail, like any good Hitman level.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: It’s quite a small game, actually. Spatially, I mean. It’s basically two street corners, an empty industrial area, some small apartments, and a little island.
Imogen Mellor: Sure, it’s probably the best piece of writing gaming has ever seen, but does it need to shove that down your throat so much so that even saying hello to a post box feels like a learning moment? I think not.
Robin Valentine: This is my mum’s favourite videogame, so it can’t be as punk and radical as it thinks it is, can it?
Ted Litchfield: A point-and-click adventure with too many words masquerading as a CRPG. Didn’t build your character right? Don’t do drugs (the game’s edgy way of getting a stat boost), just quicksave and reload until you finally hit the roll to fish the bullet out of some guy’s head or punch the racist dock worker or whatever—that is if you don’t mind clicking through a wall of purple prose each attempt! A knock off of Planescape Torment (another overhyped reading simulator) with even greater political and literary pretensions. (Oh my god that hurt so much I can’t believe I said that, this is my favorite game, I think I’m gonna throw up.)
Chris Livingston: So, how should we end our ground-breaking game? I dunno… make the player throw balls at a metal cage on a roof? Perfect!
Phil Savage: A victim of how new and novel physics engines felt in the early 2000s. In this, ostensibly one of the greatest games ever made, there is a whole boring section where you have to move wooden palettes along a beach in order to progress without being attacked by bugs.
Tyler Wilde: I respect that Valve doesn’t try to bend movie scripts into videogame shapes. It designs great game narratives, but let’s be real: The Half-Life saga is a mid-tier Netflix show that would rightfully get canceled after a season. Characters like ‘spooky suit man’ and ‘woman who is friendly toward you’ were perhaps more lauded than they deserved to be.
Morgan Park: A fun snapshot of a time when videogame guns sounded like cereal pouring into a bowl.
Andy Chalk: Nonsensical lore! Impenetrable multiplayer! Overbearing soundtrack! A UI so bad you’ll believe it was created in a lab by a team of malicious halfwits! That’s right, it’s Elden Ring: Game of the year 2022!
Morgan Park: Elden Ring is a fitting finale to the Souls series: A game so overstuffed with Content that I never want to sit at a bonfire again.
Alan Dexter: I’d rather spend another 200 hours in Cyberpunk 2077 than another second in this frustrating mess of a port. What’s that? I’m playing with a keyboard and mouse and deserve everything I get? Okay.
Ted Litchfield: “Oh there’s so much freedom, so many weapons, you can create any kind of character.” Yeah, you can, and everybody just used katanas. Moonveil Moonveil Moonveil. Run errands for the anime witch lady, befriend then kill the hot wolf-man, it’s all very profound and meaningful, sure. I could have spent these 150 hours playing a game for adults with a compelling world, story, and gameplay, like FIFA 21 by Electronic Arts.
Tyler Colp: The game is way too big, and digging into the story leaves you with a lot of unsatisfying loose ends. It’s like a big bucket of ideas that could be something, but amounts to a cool vibe.
Tyler Wilde: Must have been a really cool vibe given your 90% (opens in new tab), though.