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You go onto a gaming website of your choice and look up the upcoming releases for silly season. You look at your bank balance. That feeling of crushing resignation hits and you realise you can’t afford all the pretty things. But there is a bright side! Not only do you save a few quid, but odds are a large number of upcoming releases will be buggy as hell, if not more broken than a plate at a Greek wedding. So, based on nothing more than track record, development history and my admittedly flimsy understanding of betting, what are the odds of that game you really want being broke?

  1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
    I remember loving this franchise as a kid and it pains me to see the lack of love and attention this latest instalment seems to be getting. Virtually zero promotion and covering up the sub-par graphics with cel-shading reek of a developer not being at all confident in their product. It’s lazy, it’s uninspired and points to a game that will be a disaster.
    Broken likelihood: 1/4
  2. Minecraft Story Mode: Episode One
    Reaction to Telltale’s games have been decidedly mixed since it reinvigorated the episodic genre with the first season of The Walking Dead. In large part this is down the their continued use of Telltale Tool, a game engine developed in 2004 and saddled with more and more expectations as technology has progressed. This has led to bugs galore, with the strength of the writing saving a lot of blushes. I can’t see that changing with Minecraft.
    Broken likelihood: 3/1
  3. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
    There isn’t a chance this won’t be broken. Considering the utter mess that was Unity and their insistence on Assassin’s Creed being an annual franchise, there’s more chance of me beating up Dwayne Johnson. I’d bet my entire life savings on this game having, at the very least, horrendous frame rate issues and texture pop-in. More likely we’ll see more game breaking bugs a’la Unity. I simply don’t have the faith in Ubisoft to prove me wrong.
    Broken likelihood: Evens
  4. Halo 5: Guardians
    If you’d asked me a year ago I’d have said there’s no way this would be broken. With 343 Industries taking over the Halo franchise and releasing a remastered Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 4 to high praise and very few, if any, bugs. Then came the Master Chief Collection and things went tits up. Yet I can’t help but feel that Halo 5 will be largely issue free. Without the pressures of an annual release cycle and learning from the mistakes made with the MCC, I think it might actually be all right.
    Broken likelihood: 10/1
  5. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
    Treyarch have a pretty good handle on Call of Duty and if the beta for BLOPS III is anything to go by that run will continue. COD may have a few problems as a franchise (though those seem to be being addressed more this generation) but stability isn’t really one of them. Even Ghosts was fairly bug free.
    Broken likelihood: 20/1
  6. Fallout 4
    Like a dodgy takeaway at 2am, bugs are guaranteed with a Bethesda game. By the very nature of it’s scope it’s inevitable that problems will occur. The real question is will they be game breaking like they were on the Playstation 3 releases of Fallout 3, New Vegas (admittedly that was Obsidian, but still) and the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I hope not, but the track record isn’t great.
    Broken likelihood: 6/1
  7. Star Wars: Battlefront
    Battlefront’s an odd duck. It’s being developed by an experienced studio and with a massive licence behind it, tying it to arguably the biggest film of the year. Yet DICE’s development of Battlefield 4 was plagued by problems and their collaboration of Hardline with Visceral was a disaster. That being said, I think the power of the franchise will see it through. I can’t see Disney allowing EA to tarnish, no matter how slightly, their crowning jewel. Bob Iger would blow his nut.
    Broken likelihood: 10/1
  8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
    Another one to add to the pile where the chances of game breaking bugs are slim, but not impossible. As with any game that tries to increase the scope there’s always a risk of bringing in unexpected variables that mess with the engine. Yet short of an Arkham Knight style fiasco I can’t see anything game breaking. Bugs yes, but that’ll be the extent of it.
    Broken likelihood: 15/1
  9. Just Cause 3
    I get the feeling that if there’s significant problems with this that it might just add to the fun. It’s a silly sandbox designed for having fun in and so long as the game doesn’t crash silly bugs might just add to that. Sure there’ll be torrents of boiled piss for people not being able to have the fun they want, but I can already see the YouTube videos of people exploiting them.
    Broken likelihood: 12/1
  10. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
    The final entry on this list I can see going one of two ways. One way is that it’ll be fine. Perhaps with a disappointing single player but with a multiplayer to write home about. The other is that it’ll be plagued with matchmaking issues and server problems in the run up to Christmas. The pre-release buzz is positive so if Ubisoft can keep the server’s ticking over in theory it should be fine. But that’s relying on Ubisoft which is never a good place to be.
    Broken likelihood: 9/1

It’ll be interesting to see how wrong my wild conjecture is come Christmas time. With any luck I’ll be completely wrong and none of these games will be broken at all. Yet with the range of games on offer and with the developers involved I think there’s more chance of Christmas being cancelled.

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I finally finished Mass Effect 3 at around three o’clock this morning and I’ve never felt this conflicted over a game before. On one hand, you have this utterly amazing game 99% of the time that’s a vast improvement over the previous two instalments. Unfortunately, it’s that 1% right at the very end that puts a massive damper on what could easily have been one of the best games ever made.

Before getting to the ending, I think it’s important to go into more depth on just how excellent the game is besides. So much is improved upon and refined. The way in which you explore the galaxy and collect resources (in this case War Assets, salvage and fuel) is easily the best of the trilogy. Gone is the repetitive Mako missions and tedious planet scanning. Instead, you scan the system and outrun Reapers who detect and chase after you. Perhaps the best thing about the War Assets is that they give even the most mundane side-quests a sense of weight and importance that they didn’t have before. It actually feels like you’re making a difference.

The weapon customisation makes a welcome return as well. Though not as extensive as in Mass Effect 1, it’s a system that works better. You get upgrades but you aren’t left with the older versions of those upgrades, it replaces them. You also have a weight limit, restricting the weapons you can take with you on missions, meaning you have to think about your equipment, rather than just give yourself the most powerful weapons.

I’m also rather fond of the soundtrack for the game. As disappointing as the departure of Jack Wall is and the fact that Clint Mansell is only responsible for two tracks, Sam Hulick. Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan do a great job on the rest of the score, though I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t have been nice to see what Mansell could have done if given a free-reign.

As for the gameplay, that’s been upgraded nicely. I was worried when playing the demo that it had become clunkier, but I found myself pleasantly surprised at how fluid it felt in the final product. It’s not changed all that much from Mass Effect 2, but I didn’t think it really needed to; they’ve just improved on a winning formula.

The highlight of the game for me is the character moments. There are lots of them littered throughout the game and the emotions they generate can leave you crying or laughing. The new characters are also done very well. James Vega, contrary to my earlier expectations, is actually a decent character. Secondary characters like Cortez, your shuttle pilot, and Samantha Traynor, the replacement for Kelly Chambers, are great additions with a good deal of depth to them. Plus, they finally have crew interaction on the Normandy, either by commlink or by visiting them in their quarters. It adds an extra dimension to life aboard the Normandy where people aren’t separate but do in fact talk to each other, in some cases even forming relationships together.

Really, this game would be damned near perfect if not for the ending. Now, I’m not going to be like some people and say that it ruined the game for me. I cannot stress enough how fantastic the game is prior to the last fifteen minutes. It just makes no sense and there’s a real lack of closure, a quite literal deus ex machina plot device and plot holes you could fly the Citadel through. It’s incredibly lazy writing on Bioware’s behalf and I can’t believe that it was okayed by management. It’s not even that it’s a sad or tragic ending. I could deal with that. Instead, you’re left remarkably unfulfilled and with a very bitter taste in your mouth.

What is so disappointing is that it’s such a lost opportunity. If the ending had been done that bit better then Bioware could pat themselves on the back for creating probably the best video game trilogy ever made. Now, with the fan backlash generated by the ending, they’re left in a difficult place. Do they release some DLC to alter the ending to provide something more palatable for fans à la Fallout 3? Personally, I think that’s what they were planning from the beginning. The ending is left highly ambiguous and gives ample scope to be able to retcon. Of course this will generate backlash from those who liked the ending as well as from those who hated it, seeing it as profiteering from fan anger as I’d be amazed if it was free.

Ultimately, Mass Effect 3 goes from the sublime to the ridiculous at a rapid pace of knots. Does it deserve the merciless bashing it’s getting across the internet and the precipitously small user scores on the likes of Metacritic? No. Is it as good as it could be? Definitely not.