10 Original Xbox Games That Were Held Back By The Hardware
On November 15, 2001, Microsoft officially entered the video game console market with the Xbox, which was, at the time, the most powerful home gaming system around. Featuring state-of-the-art graphics, online connectivity and the biggest controller the world had ever seen, game developers were chomping at the bit to get their games featured on the system. Big ideas and attempts at innovation are great, but sometimes, they just don’t pan out.
Despite the advancements in technology the new console offered (and some of the fantastic titles in its library), many ambitious ideas were curtailed by the limitations of the freshman console.
10 Halo 2: The Fake E3 Demo And Subsequent Massive Content Cuts
Bungie revealed Halo 2 at the 2003 E3 convention, and gamers were excited. The ambitious, spectacular demo the team presented followed everyone’s favorite Spartan as he dual-wielded SMGs for the first time, aggressively hijacked vehicles from Covenant forces, and blasted grunts in a highly-detailed New Mombasa.
Seven years later during a retrospective interview, Halo 2’s engineering lead Chris Butcher admitted that the entire graphics engine used to create that famous demo was thrown away soon after the debut. “It was never going to support the kind of environments that are really important for a Halo game,” he said to Eurogamer. Elaborating, he stated that the team was “building things that just couldn’t be played” and the ending was rushed, which is why players didn’t get a classic warthog run.
9 Doom 3: The Port’s Unsteady Frame Rate And Muddy Graphics
When Doom 3 came out in 2004, PC gamers were really the only ones with hardware capable of handling it. Even today, it’s a feat for Nintendo Switch. Xbox owners would get their chance to play almost a year later, but with some disadvantages.
Xbox’s NV2A processor was a generation behind the Nvidia GeForce 3 the game was developed on, resulting in a major scaling back of graphics. Entire areas had to be removed, shuffled around, or significantly altered. Vicarious Visions, who were in charge of the port, also split levels into chunks, which interrupted the flow of the game. Frame rates were also unstable when multiple enemies were on screen. A success, but undoubtedly an inferior version of the game.
8 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Lackluster Controls On Top Of A Much Smaller Scope
A game aiming for 60 FPS in the early 2000s was a wild idea. A huge open-world RPG populated with detailed characters and loot? Absurd. Still, Bethesda tried to make that a reality with the Xbox port of Morrowind, the third entry in the Elder Scrolls series. They didn’t particularly succeed, as the game would dip below 20 FPS regularly and was finicky to control.
Inventory management was a pain without the minute movements a mouse and keyboard can provide. The lack of mod support, which some players consider essential, was felt all around, too. Nevertheless, gamers persevered and turned Morrowind into one of the highest-selling Xbox titles of all time.
7 Grabbed by the Ghoulies: The Shift From GameCube To Xbox Ruined It
Back in the heyday of the Nintendo 64, Rare was at top of the game developer food chain after a string of smash successes, in particular their adaptation of the highly remake-worthy Goldeneye 007. The transition into the sixth generation of consoles, though, was rough for them.
Rare was acquired by Microsoft at the start of the generation, which meant Grabbed by the Ghoulies would have to change platforms. Members of the development team have lamented the process of converting the game, which would have been a GameCube exclusive, to an Xbox exclusive. Due to time constraints, gameplay was sacrificed, and it was an ill fit for the console. The game was poorly received for its simplicity and repetitive nature.
6 Shenmue II: Extraordinarily Dated Graphics
The original Shenmue debuted on the Sega Dreamcast, and was widely praised for featuring one of the first fully fleshed-out, realistic-down-to-the-weather open worlds given to players. When a sequel was put into development, Microsoft claimed exclusive console rights in America.
This was a bad move, as the port of Shenmue II that American players would receive for the Xbox was less than stellar. It had muddy graphics, slow gameplay and awful English dialogue. The game would fail commercially due to the fact that it was commonly regarded as a shoddy, simplistic port, not up to the standards of other Xbox titles.
5 Knights Of The Old Republic I & II: Content Cuts Make The Games Feel Slightly Hollow
While already highly regarded as some of the best Star Wars games ever made, both Knights of the Old Republic titles could have been far better if massive swathes of content weren’t cut from them. According to KOTOR I’s lead designer James Ohlen, there was an entire gladiator planet run by Huttese gangsters cut early in development from the first game.
Knights of the Old Republic II got it even worse. M4-78, a droid planet, was cut entirely and has yet to be fully reintegrated through mods. Thankfully, much of the cut content (including endings for all playable characters) has been restored by the dedicated community.
4 Fable: The Pinnacle Of Overpromising And Underdelivering
Peter Molyneux, game developer extraordinaire, had a propensity for hyping up his projects to excessive degrees. It often landed him in hot water. The hottest water, however, boiled over when the original Fable failed to live up to the many promises Molyneux made.
The storied developer had promised the ability to sire children, the ability to view the player character’s entire lifespan, from birth to death, and the strange concept of watching trees grow from seedlings over the course of the playthrough. None of that made it into the game, which, while incredibly popular and full of fascinating details, was nowhere near the towering mammoth of progressive gameplay ideas that was promised.
3 Advent Rising: The Infamously Failed Xbox Live Contest
A mostly-forgotten failure at an attempt to spawn a franchise, this game is infamous for its controversial advertising campaign. Majesco, the developer, was offering $1,000,000 to the first player to find a set of clandestine symbols that were hidden throughout the campaign.
The company was forced to scrap the whole idea, GameSpot reported, saying there was “no technically feasible solution that would allow the contest to continue in a fair and secure manner.” Majesco was worried that hackers would cheat; almost a guarantee in the early, unsecured days of Xbox Live. Instead, two free games were offered to players, much less than the $1,000,000 promised.
2 Obi-Wan: The Shift From PC To Xbox Ruined It
When LucasArts first announced Obi-Wan in 1999, Star Wars fans were excited. A PC exclusive sort-of sequel to Dark Forces was a tempting proposition. Sadly, when Obi-Wan finally debuted on the Xbox in 2001, fans were immediately disappointed.
Featuring last-gen graphics, empty arenas, an unstable FPS and a poor camera, nobody was happy with the finished product. Numerous features promised by LucasArts were removed from the game, further ports were canceled, and the Star Wars collective has almost entirely forgotten about this buggy game. Fans can get their lightsaber-waving fix in far better Star Wars titles today.
1 Blinx The Time Sweeper: A Cat Too Ambitious For His Own Good
At one point, Blinx the cat was slated to be the Xbox mascot. After his titular game debuted, however, that idea was quickly quashed. The game was touted as a 4D platformer, due to the complex time manipulation mechanics. The developers even commented on how difficult rewinding time was. “There are a lot of contradictions,” Naoto Ohshima, director of the game, told IGN. “For instance, if you tackle an enemy…then you rewind, and the enemy resurrects. But here, in Blinx, what Blinx does is not… rewindable. That’s the complicated part.”
Players would certainly notice this complication, as the game itself is notoriously difficult. It was just too ambitious for the hardware, its controls too tough. Instead of heralding in a new era of cat-based time shenanigans, its 2004 sequel Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space was similarly largely forgotten and Blinx was relegated to the failed mascot pile, right next to the likes of Bubsy and Croc.
NEXT: 10 Xbox Games That Were Too Powerful For The PS2
- Doom 3
- Halo 2
Joshua Heath is an entertainment writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. He went to E3 2019 – which may possibly have been the last one ever – as an actual, honest-to-goodness journalist, Steam says Joshua has 637.7 hours in RimWorld, which, some might say, is too much time. Thankfully he now writes for TheGamer, mostly as a way to distract himself from RimWorld. He also used to do stand-up many moons ago, is a member of the local indie improv team Yes, Andromeda, has three failed podcasts under his belt, and interviews famous comedians when they roll through town.
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