Given the enduring popularity of complaining about games on the internet, you might be forgiven for thinking that every month represented a new low for the medium - the latest social media-fuelled scandal about DLC pricing, online functionality, or non-inclusion of a feature that was previously present but never used is invariably the trigger for worldwide bewailing and rose-tinted reminiscences of a time when every game was wonderful and happiness was unbounded. For our 100th issue, we thought we'd actually crunch the numbers and work out when, exactly, we never had it so bad.
We took a rather contentious leaf out of the industry's book and used Metacritic scores to identify the highs and lows, looking at every Xbox 360 game listed from the console's launch until May 2013. We thought we knew what to expect: summer's always a dead and blasted land populated only by half-arsed film tie-ins, so we expected June and July to be disproportionately well-represented, and game quality has dramatically improved over the console's lifespan so our money was on the first few years of the Xbox 360's life. In both cases, we were wrong. Read on as we count down a particularly odious Top Ten.
10. February 2008
Average Metacritic score: 64.2% (20 games)
Highest scoring game: Devil May Cry 4 (84)
God, how do we manage to make it through the winter months without flinging ourselves under a bus? February 2008 produced another insipid line-up with, the fourth and final entry in the traditional Devil May Cry lineage being the sole highlight. And even then, we think we preferred DMC3. (Although Lost Odyssey (78) is one of the best JRPGs of the generation, and can count itself unlucky to have scored so poorly, in our opinion).
Lowest scoring game: Jumper: Griffin's Story (29)
Ugh. Just, ugh. You'd get more flavour from sucking a used teabag than from this horrid hack-job of a platformer. Its only redeeming feature was its awkward camera, which prevented you from ever getting a clear view of the horrifying, terrifying tedium you were being subjected to. Fortunately, this kind of cheap and cheerless cash-in is getting more and more infrequent these days.
Other lowlights: Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (43) imagined how history would go if Winston Churchill had died before World War II. We'd all be blowing up tanks by sneaking into sewers and gluing explosives onto their undercarriages, apparently.
9. August 2009
Average Metacritic score: 64% (15 games)
Highest scoring game: Batman: Arkham Asylum (92)
The magnificent Arkham Asylum stood out amongst the rest of the manufactured dross released this month like Batman at a Ku Klux Klan convention. Looking back, no other game this gen has had more of a positive impact on game development than Rocksteady's batty Metroid tribute. The average monthly Metacritic score noticeably soared from this month onwards, as Arkham Asylum taught publishers the value of treating licensed materials with reverence and respect.
Lowest scoring game: Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger (38)
A four hour campaign? Birdbrained AI? Repetitive level design? Laughable voice acting? Teammates who don't understand the basic laws of physics? Accents so dodgy they'd make Dick Van Dyke wince? Real-time strategy segments that boast no scope for strategy whatsoever? (Seriously, they should have called them 'real-time padding'). A boring, plodding, tedious first-person shooter, devoid of entertainment or excitement? That's so Raven Squad. (For a reminder, read the review here.)
Other lowlights: GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra (42) came on strong like a modern-day Ikari Warriors, but ended up missing the target as regularly as the Cobra Commander's misfiring troops... Watchmen: The End Is Nigh (44) is a licence that could spawn an intriguing action-adventure. Or, a lame-o beat-'em-up. Guess which one this is?