Do you know how we see a trailer for a video game and do that forbidden thing by judging a book by its cover? Well, turns out, we've done that quite a lot. More so that we'd probably like to let on, in all fairness. And when that supposedly atrocious trailer turns out to be lined with nuggets of gold and a whole lot better than we first expected it to be — we can't help but feel ashamed for letting it slip between our fingers to begin with.
Time and time again we've been guilty of making early judgements on a game without taking a closer look at the contents laced within. Just take a look at the five as an example. Here are just a few of many hidden gems out in the wild that turned out to be surprisingly good and loaded with award-winning qualities. If only we clocked them before they became subjects to our critical line of fire.
5. Batman: Arkham Asylum
It almost seems impossible to believe that one of the few outstanding Arkham chapters was once a victim to unjust treatment. But like most superhero video games that came out before Arkham Asylum, fans were always quick to carry out a direct comparison to the source and bash the game for any misplaced reference. Like Superman and all those that came before the Dark Knight, video game ports never really managed to transfer the quality from the original package. So, what was to say this Batman game would be any different?
Boy, were we proved wrong. Arkham Asylum, for what it's worth, is still perhaps one of the greatest superhero video games of all time. Right from the fluid beat 'em up mechanics to the intense stealth segments, the memorable encounters with iconic faces to the downright horrifying asylum setting — Rocksteady Studios really did hit the nail on the head when it came to enveloping a compelling superhero tale. And from there, only greatness unraveled with each concocted journey, effectively fortifying the series as a true kingpin on the gaming front.
4. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
After basking beneath a shower of eternal praise and wealth following the flagship Shadow of Mordor launch, Monolith Productions started to get a little too greedy with their next project, relying on microtransactions to pave the way for the direct sequel. The problem to that costly decision, of course, was that nobody was overly keen on enrolling in a pay-to-win scheme in order to enjoy the fruits of the ambitious follow-up.
As expected, Middle-earth: Shadow of War did in fact release with an abundance of sneaky microtransactions, causing players to lose faith in the once-booming series. However, a year after launch, Monolith made the call to remove the anchor that weighed their reputation down and narrow focus on tweaking their poorest ingredients. And so, while it may have taken them a year to realize their mistakes and act on them — Shadow of War did somehow manage to live up to its sibling release, returning the prominent status on the series' shoulders.
3. Watch Dogs 2
Following the shockingly hollow tale of Aiden Pearce in the equally as vacant debut Watch Dogs sequence, people weren't expecting anything short of a mediocre sequel. But thankfully, rather than booting up a rehashed scoop of Chicago, Ubisoft instead learnt from their mistakes and rebuilt the franchise from the ground up, ditching the two drab counterparts that tarnished the original in the process. And to everyone's absolute surprise — it was a million times better than the first.
After tearing away from Chicago and establishing roots in San Francisco, Ubisoft only looked to further disassociate themselves from the original game. By introducing a bigger and better cast, a wide array of compelling side activities and a jam-packed florescent city brimming with character, Watch Dogs 2 finally managed to give the franchise a well-needed second shot at acquiring a quality fan base. Since then, Watch Dogs has only continued to evolve for the better. And as for the first game, well — Ubisoft prefer not to talk about it. But that's understandable.
2. Sleeping Dogs
Say, do you remember True Crime: Streets of LA? Perhaps True Crime: NYC? Or what about True Crime: Hong Kong? If you don't recall the last one ever coming to light then that's because, technically, it didn't. Or at least not under that domain, anyway. Once upon a time it could've launched under Activision's lengthy arm of acclaimed True Crime stories, though after a delay and a whole lot of commotion, it eventually passed over to Square Enix. Lo and behold — Sleeping Dogs came to fruition.
Admittedly, we all had lukewarm expectations when Sleeping Dogs was first brought to the table. We understood what made a True Crime game successful, and how Activision would tune one in accordance with our high expectations. And so, seeing a Hong Kong chapter being dropped and loosely wrapped for Square to scrape together — concerns were definitely there. However, despite the early bird doubts, Sleeping Dogs did, in fact, turn out to be a global success. Of course, it didn't quite meet Square's sales target — but it was still a top-notch homage to the True Crime series nevertheless. And, to be honest, it was much better than True Crime, anyway. Much better.
1. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
After Ubisoft single-handedly butchered Assassin's Creed: Unity and the trust of millions of loyal followers, it's fair to say that fans weren't too hyped to see in the following sequence, Syndicate. Plus, after neglecting Unity directly after its release and moving straight onto the next phase in the scrapbook, Ubi pretty much lost a lot of credit in the community. Their only chance of redemption, of course, was to deliver a next-level successor.
True to their word, Ubisoft served up one of the best chapters in the Assassin franchise to date. Completely removing themselves from Unity and learning from their mistakes, Syndicate delivered on all fronts, establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with. Since then, Assassin's Creed has only continued to evolve and aspire to become even greater. Should Syndicate have been a total flop, however — then we probably never would've seen Origins, Odyssey or Valhalla. So, well saved in our books.
So, what about you? Are there any games that have shocked you in the past? Let us know over on our socials here.