Let's face it: As the complexity and cost of developing a top-tier title has skyrocketed, console gaming has become a sequel-oriented business this generation. When millions of dollars and years of labour hang in the balance, publishers are inclined to bet on a sure thing. This has resulted in numerous sequels, franchises extensions, or whatever you wish to call them getting questionable go-aheads from publishers. They are the unwanted sequels. These titles aren't necessarily bad games, but what unites them is the universal head-scratching and unease that followed their reveals. Excluding blatant shovelware, here are the most unwanted sequels of this console generation.
Army of Two: The 40th Day
Army of Two: The 40th Day is a textbook example of the new reality in retail console development. The original Army of Two received a lukewarm reception both critically and commercially, in no way showing signs of a long-lasting franchise in the making. However, the pressure to recoup development costs and create viable franchises resulted in the creation of The 40th Day. Not an abomination by any means, but Army of Two speaks to the mediocrity that can be used as the basis for franchise-building in today's world.
The original BioShock felt like a complete story, set in the fully-realized world of Rapture. The general consensus was a follow-up was not at all necessary, right? Wrong, according to 2K. The blockbuster success of BioShock made a sequel a certainty from their perspective, but inevitably, the announcement of another title set in Rapture, made by a team other than Irrational did not sit well with critics and fans alike. In the end, BioShock 2 was a well-executed and worthy installment in the franchise, but the game never fully shook the perception it was simply a cash-in.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
The announcement of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was far from surprising, as the same formula has been used in the franchise's past and a new installment always seems to be around the corner. However, this time things feel different. Questions about Final Fantasy's relevance in the evolving console space have persisted, especially in the wake of XIII's divisive reception. That being said, the belief that XIII-2 - a game that will utilize the same assets, produced in a short period of time - will somehow resolve the uncertainly facing the series is simply too much to ask of it. Instead of recouping XIII's development costs with more of the same, Final Fantasy needs to spend some time away for self-reflection.
Front Mission Evolved
The first spin-off in the Front Mission series to released outside of Japan, Evolved cast aside the tactical, turn-based mechanics the series was known for in favour of mech-based third-person shooting. This choice ended up satisfying nobody, as fans of the series felt alienated by the change and shooter players had far better options to choose from. Evolved is a textbook example of a franchise overextending itself in the name of brand recognition.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
Dog Days turned heads in a very similar way to The 40th Day, resulting in a sense of confusion. Kane and Lynch had the promotional backing of an established franchise without the proven success to warrant it. When it failed to capture people's imaginations and sell in large numbers, the publisher seemingly decided to ignore the audience and try again, with similar results.
Left 4 Dead 2
Much like BioShock 2, Left 4 Dead's follow-up turned out to be a very competent offering. However, the road to its release was far from smooth. Legions of Valve fans felt betrayed by the apparent cash-in of a full-price retail game coming out within a year of the original. The steady stream of downloadable content and support for Left 4 Dead seemed in jeopardy. More importantly, why weren't they working on Episode 3?! Ultimately, this became a non-issue, and despite internet boycotts, Left 4 Dead 2 released without a hitch and Valve learnt a valuable lesson.
Perfect Dark Zero
The original Perfect Dark and its spiritual predecessor, GoldenEye 007, were both staple shooters on the Nintendo 64, as well as console gaming in general for their time. They also helped elevate developer Rare to iconic status. Microsoft realized the power of Rare in their search for a blockbuster title to launch the Xbox 360, and thus, Perfect Dark Zero was born. Unfortunately, Zero was doomed from the start because the first-person shooter had evolved since its glory days and nobody seemed to take notice.
Sonic... Take Your Pick
Legion of Sonic faithful have kept the folks over at Sega churning out the next anointed saviour of the series. Every one of them this generation has had to face the crushing expectations of making Sonic relevant again. Perhaps it's time to stop forcing new ideas into an outdated formula or relying on recreating nostalgic moments, and instead allow the developers to experiment with entirely new experiences. Perhaps it's time to let the hedgehog go gracefully into the night... Who am I kidding? It's far too late for that.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm
Much like Front Mission Evolved, Time Crisis: Razing Storm is a great example of what often happens when manipulating a franchise in pursuit of a new audience. Razing Storm was a game no one asked for or was happy with in the end. It partially abandoned its arcade rail gun roots in favour of imitating a triple-A first-person shooter using PlayStation Move. This awkward mash-up confirmed the suspicion that Time Crisis is best left to the arcade.
Tony Hawk Shred
What do you do when annual iterations have resulted in audience fatigue, declining sales and risked the viability of the franchise? Slap a cumbersome peripheral on it? Well, that was the solution determined for the Tony Hawk series with Shred. The results speak for themselves... record-low sales and the prompt cancellation of the franchise for the near future.