Broken Dreams: The 10 Worst Dreamcast Games

I realise I touched on this subject in my recent retrospective look at the Kalisto/Konami car crash Nightmare Creatures II, but I thought it about time that we temporarily suspended the blinkered praising of our beloved Dreamcast and investigated the pungent underbelly of the system's library more thoroughly. As Dreamcast fans, I suppose it is all too easy to look back at the console from an artificially rose-tinted perspective; and while there's nothing wrong with that it doesn't help those gamers who may be new to the system or those who perhaps didn't get the exposure to online game reviews or print magazines in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

You see, we can easily recall the monumental highs of Shenmue, Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi and the other genre-defining software titles that make up the star-studded top tier of the software lineup; however just like every other console, the Dreamcast has a number of sub-par titles. Games that are just plain bad for any number of reasons. Games that should really be avoided unless you're one of those 'full set' collector types (you know who you are). To this end, we thought it was about time that we looked to the other end of the spectrum and brought you a run down of the most insipid and downright reprehensible games ever to 'grace' a Dreamcast. And by 'grace,' I mean be deposited onto the console through the weeping anus of a particularly unpleasant and malodorous giant.
Yep - LJN returned from the grave for one last troll on the Dreamcast
I understand that there are other terrible games that may not be on this list, but I'm not listing titles that I can't play due to either a language barrier or a lack of functionality due to internet services being discontinued. No - I'm looking at games that were deemed fully functional by testers, but were unleashed on the games buying public in states not fit for human consumption. Horrific frame rates, terrible controls, broken game engines...these are all criteria that have helped to get the following titles onto this most unholy of lists. Now, please get comfortable and allow us to take you on a rather unsettling journey as we reveal the very worst games the Dreamcast has to offer...

Spec Ops II: Omega Squad
There's no denying that the Spec Ops franchise got pretty good in later years - Spec Ops: The Line is one of the better shooters of its generation and presented a unique perspective from which the tragedies of war are viewed in games. It wasn't always like this though, as is evidenced by the atrocious mess that is Spec Ops II: Omega Squad on the Dreamcast. The game begins well, offering you a host of missions to attempt in a plethora of locations from around the world, with a nice level of variety in objectives. You also get the usual choice of operatives to control, each with suitable weapon load-outs and abilities - snipers, demolition experts, grenadiers etc.
Once you enter your chosen theatre though, it quickly becomes apparent that Spec Ops II isn't a finished game. Your onscreen avatar regularly sinks into the ground up to his knees and if you go prone only the top of his head is visible. Enemies can shoot you from behind walls and trees without the inconvenience of having to actually emerge from cover - they just point their guns through any objects and fire away with pinpoint accuracy.
The environments look as if they are building themselves as you wander around, with whole portions of the level remaining invisible until you get to within 50 feet and a house or a mountain randomly appears in front of you. There are many, many things wrong with Spec Ops II and they aren't all graphical but when a game is clearly nowhere near finished before being pressed onto a disc, the desire to even bother playing through any of the missions with any real effort instantly dissipates.

90 Minutes: Sega Championship Football
It's no secret that the Dreamcast never really got a world class football (soccer) title, and this is mainly due to the lack of support from either Konami or EA in my humble opinion. A true Dreamcast optimised port of either FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer would have helped the Dreamcast out no end, but instead we had to make do with the average-at-best offerings from Silicon Dreams (Sega Worldwide Soccer/Dream Soccer), Virgin Interactive (European Super League), Rage (UEFA Striker) and Sega (Virtua Striker 2). Towards the end of the Dreamcast's life, another football game sneaked onto the shelves though, and it came from a development team with quite some credibility: Smilebit. If you're not familiar with that name, go and play Jet Set Radio for a bit and then come back.
Initial impressions of 90 Minutes: Sega Championship Football are overwhelmingly positive. You have the heritage of the developer for a start, but the menus and presentation are really rather impressive. Everything is well designed and it's pretty slick - the music, layout and number of customisable options is commendable. The game has official licenses and there are numerous club and national teams to choose from, and there are a multitude of different league and cup competitions to get involved with. Sadly, once you get out onto the pitch 90 Minutes falls apart faster than England's game plan at a major international tournament. The commentary is absolutely appalling for a start - while it is provided by respected British TV announcer Alan Parry, the sentences he utters don't make the slightest bit of sense as random strings of words are pieced together by the game leaving you scratching your head.
But that's the least of the problems you'll face upon loading up this dog's dinner, as when the whistle is blown you'll quickly realise the whole game is a total clusterfuck. Players randomly run around the ball in a circle, it's impossible to pass to team mates without the ball rolling to a stop before reaching the intended recipient. Goalkeepers are utterly useless, sometimes just standing and watching the most feeble shot roll past them into the net. It really is a lamentable experience and it just feels unfinished. Granted, it does look decent enough in stills but actually playing a full match in 90 Minutes is an exercise in futility. As the AI players run blindly off the pitch as you try to pass to them, you'll realise you made a mistake and turn the damned thing off.

Spirit of Speed 1937
The first slightly dodgy thing I noticed about Spirit of Speed 1937 when playing it again for this feature, is that the title screen announces the game as The Spirit of Speed. There's no mention of the year 1937, and while that may not seem like too much of an oversight, this lack of attention to detail is indicative of pretty much every other aspect of Broadsword Interactive's vintage vehicular pile-up. The setting for this racing game - the year 1937 - is certainly original and while motor racing in this pre-World War II era wasn't as technologically advanced as modern Formula 1, it was every bit as exciting and far more dangerous for those taking part. Safety measures in the early days of motor racing were something of an afterthought and the vehicles were basically missiles, so I can totally appreciate why a developer would want to base a racing game in this period. In reality though, Spirit of Speed 1937 is a masterclass in how not to make a racing game.
All of the vehicles handle and sound exactly the same for a start - badly. There appears to be only one constant sample for the sound of the engines and there isn't really any analogue acceleration: there is simply 'stop' and 'go.' Cornering is virtually impossible without spinning out and bouncing off the barriers and even slowing right down to a crawl doesn't help, as the cars simply do not want to go in any direction other than straight ahead.
One interesting thing I noticed is that all of the other cars on the grid leave tire marks on the asphalt in the same way as yours does, and at every corner you can see where they too hit a wall, careened all over the track and then straightened up before powering off to do the same at the next turn. I use the tire tracks as evidence of this terrible AI as it's virtually impossible to keep up with the pack during races because the computer-controlled vehicles seem to be equipped with Bugatti Veyron engines and all speed off at 1000 mph as soon as the race begins. Interestingly, even though Spirit of Speed 1937 is credited to infamous publisher of terrible games LJN, it was actually under the ownership of Acclaim at the time. My theory is that it was published under the LJN label as an internal joke, and for that I must tip my hat to a joke well played.

Urban Chaos
While it is commendable that Mucky Foot Productions and Eidos chose to release a game with a black female lead character in an era where white male lead characters (with the exception of Lara Croft, naturally) were di rigueur; that they chose to stuff her into a game so critically substandard relinquishes any praise due. Urban Chaos originally launched on the PC and received some pretty respectable reviews, but when it was ported to the contemporary consoles it appears that quality control was thrown to the wind. Playing like a pre-GTA 3 GTA 3 clone, players are tasked with controlling a rookie cop named D'arci Stern (or a vigilante called Roper on occasion) and taming the crime ridden streets of Union City. It's an ambitious title if truth be told and there are a lot of interesting aspects to the adventure - indeed on paper it all sounds rather appealing. You have free reign to go anywhere you want in the city, you can engage in hand-to-hand combat or firefights with weapons and you can climb into vehicles and drive around. Sadly, what comes across on paper is not really what you get in practice.
Urban Chaos is a very poor experience due to badly conceived controls, terrible fighting mechanics and laughable visuals. While it does look slightly better than the PlayStation version, the frame rate is very erratic and Union City looks empty and boxy. Everything is covered in a dark fog, textures are poor and almost everything - from the vehicles to the random citizens milling about in the dark - is oddly proportioned and out of scale.
Combat is very imprecise and D'arci is virtually uncontrollable on foot due to the random camera angle changes. On top of this, driving vehicles is a combination of twitching, hitting walls and stopping dead in your tracks...and you have to press 'up' to drive forward. On top of all this, Urban Chaos commits some of the worst crimes in game design such as randomly generating more enemies to increase the frustration level of a mission and incorporating utterly useless AI. What's also weird is that you have the ability to mess with graphical settings like you would in a PC game, so you can toggle shadows, mist, the background (?) etc. Why this option is present in a console game is anyone's guess, but I'd like to hazard it's because the developers couldn't be bothered to remove these options when they ported it from the PC. The most annoying thing about Urban Chaos is that there are a lot of cool ideas (such as being able to arrest criminals rather than just kill them), but the overarching game is anything but cool. No, it's actually a raging dumpster fire.

Nightmare Creatures II
As mentioned at the start of this feature, I did cover Nightmare Creatures II in some depth in another recent article (you can read it here), but for the sake of those who didn't see it and can't be bothered to click that link allow me to reiterate my previous thoughts. Nightmare Creatures II is a total stinker of an adventure-cum-beat 'em up. You wander around overly dreary and dark locations encountering poorly designed monsters, and the game automatically locks on to them and forces you to engage them in combat. This means it is impossible to run away if you're low on health, for example. Furthermore, the combat I mentioned amounts to little more than hammering the attack button until either you or the adversary croaks it...and this continues throughout the entire game.
The graphics are virtually identical to the PlayStation version (including the heavily pixellated environment textures) and the number of glitches is astronomical. Hit detection, warping scale of enemies, invisible walls, unappealing character design, illogical swimming and climbing controls and some painfully formulaic 'find the key to open this door' gameplay make Nightmare Creatures II one to avoid at all costs. 
There are some redeeming features, such as the mildly interesting plot and unusual setting of 1930s Paris; but the bad points fair outweigh the good. Considering that the developer of Nightmare Creatures II was also responsible for the outstanding 4 Wheel Thunder, you can't help but wonder what went wrong.

ECW Anarchy Rulz
I suppose this entry could cover all of the Acclaim wresting games on the Dreamcast and not just the final one in the whole shoddy series. That's because WWF Attitude and both ECW Hardcore Revolution and Anarchy Rulz are essentially the same game with slightly different front ends and character textures. Everything else is just reused from the previous game, WWF Warzone. And while Warzone was considered something of a looker on the previous generation of consoles something went awry when it was ported to the Dreamcast.
There are some really rather good wresting games on Sega's console - you only have to glance at Giant Gram 2000 or WWF Royal Rumble to see that. But when you compare Acclaim's sorry series to the aforementioned you can see immediately what I'm getting at. The arenas are devoid of any atmosphere, the cardboard cutout audience strangely muted and the commentary is on a par with International Superstar Soccer on the SNES, with the announcer simply calling out the names of the moves you perform.
On the subject of moves, the number of different attacks at your disposal is pretty limited and once again the moves are identical (or at least that's how it appears) throughout all three of these games. Sure, there are plenty of options to tinker with but when a game feels as lifeless and boring as this, why you'd want to investigate them is anybody's guess. Professional wrestling is all about razzmatazz and fanfare, the spectacle of the events going on in the ring. There's none of that in ECW Anarchy Rulz and for that reason it earns a place on this list.

Star Wars: Demolition
Here's an idea. Take the winning formula from Vigilante 8, take out all the good stuff and replace it with a bunch of nobodies from the Star Wars universe. That's essentially what Star Wars: Demolition is. It's a vehicular arena shooter that sounds like a corking idea on paper but once again the actual game falls well short of what is being promised by the guff on the back of the box. You'd think that being able to fly around in a Snowspeeder or take control of an AT-ST would result in some great battles, especially when set in such iconic locales as Hoth or Mos Eisley.
Sadly, Demolition represents one of the biggest missed opportunities of all time simply because the mechanics of the game are so...well, stupid. The flying vehicles can only hover 3ft off the ground, so as to keep you within the limited vertical range of your enemies, and this totally defeats the object of being able to use space craft. And why are none of the main Star Wars characters involved? The cast here includes a load of made up supporting characters (with the exception of General Otto and Boba Fett) that are never referenced in any other part of Star Wars lore.
It's such a pointless and pitiful excuse for a game that even with the basis of Vigilante 8 running the battles, you end up just zipping around, bouncing off walls while occasionally being shot at by some enemy you couldn't see because they were on the other side of the map hitting you with the skill of a sniper. Cheating computer opponents? This game is full of them. Horrible floaty controls? Yep. Terrible under-powered weapons and nonsensical limitations on famous craft? All present and correct. A terrible waste of a great license.

Exhibition of Speed
Another game we've looked at recently, Exhibition of Speed is anything but. The only thing it's an exhibition of is, is how to make a fucking reprehensible game. If you'd like to look at the full article, then go here...but once again I realise this is the internet and people don't like clicking away from what they're reading so I'll save you the abject stress of opening another browser window. I'm being totally and depressingly honest when I say that Exhibition of Speed is literally one of the worst racing games ever made - and that includes Spirit of Speed 1937...and every other bad racer you can recall.
Zero4 Champ Doozy-J Type-R on the Saturn? This is worse. Club Drive on the Jaguar? This is worse. F1 GP on the 3DO? GT64 on the Nintendo 64? Pro Rally on Gamecube? This is worse. This is worse. This is worse. I can't put this across in a more earnest tone than I'm afforded by the extremely basic grasp of the Queen's English that I possess: this is the gaming equivalent of eating a human turd in a sandwich. That's been soaked in yak piss for a week and then fried in breast milk forcibly extracted from a female Sasquatch. Did I mention I hate this game?
Look, it was made by Titus - the developer behind Superman 64, a game widely credited as being the worst game of all time. What more do I need to say? Just go and read my previous condemnation of this utterly disgusting game (or watch this video) and leave it festering on eBay where you saw it. Yes, it's a PAL exclusive so many people in other territories may not have had the displeasure of sampling it, but you really aren't missing anything. If I had the resources, I would buy up every copy of this game and fire the entire shipment into the sun so nobody had to play it ever again.

Ducati World
As a real life motorcyclist I've always been envious of those bikers who can afford a machine from Ducati. Most of my bikes have been Japanese models from either Honda or Suzuki, but a Ducati...well, that would be a dream to own. That said, if real life Ducati ownership was anything like the simulation presented by Ducati World, I feel I've dodged a bullet. For that, I am truly thankful.
I remember one time a few years ago, I was riding my trusty Suzuki GS500 along the M602 in Salford and some young lad pulled out in front of me without indicating. I was going too fast to avoid his rear end (no euphemism intended) and I hit him, slid across two lanes and ended up in the hard shoulder with the remains of my bike lying across my right leg. It was scary, but I was unhurt. With this in mind, I would like to offer that this experience was less mentally scarring than anything I've encountered while playing Ducati World.
There are very few games that replicate the feeling of riding a motorcycle like an actual person and not a professional racer, but I'd like to say Driveclub Bikes is the most accurate representation. At the other end of the spectrum is Ducati World, a game in which physics of reality are disregarded and the graphical abilities of the Dreamcast are completely ignored. There is no sense of speed, the ability to corner is replaced with that of a double decker bus and the graphics of a PlayStation game find themselves being hurled through a TV screen at somebody playing on a Dreamcast. It is actually quite impressive that the developer of Ducati World managed to so accurately emulate Sony's 32-bit system without the use of a Bleem! disc to be honest. Utterly atrocious shite. Buy this game and you deserve to be knocked off your bike on the M602. I speak with experience.

Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000
One of the most glaring discoveries I've made while creating this article is just how many of the games on this list were either published or developed (or both) by Acclaim Entertainment, or Acclaim pretending to be LJN. It could appear at first glance that I'm actually singling the defunct studio out but this really is just a coincidence, fuelled by Acclaims consistently poor output on the Dreamcast...and McGrath Supercross 2000 is just another example of this lacklustre portfolio. It's really odd when you think about it, because back during the N64's heyday Acclaim were one of the biggest and most respected publishers around thanks in part to stuff like Turok and the Extreme G series. That said, once the Dreamcast arrived Acclaim's output as both a publisher and developer got even more erratic in terms of quality and in-house titles tike Supercross 2000 show just how shoddy its games could be.
The problem with Supercross 2000 is that is just isn't any fun to play. The frame rate is never consistent and it doesn't seem to matter which rider or bike you choose - the experience is always the same: laborious. You can tell things are going to be slipshod as soon as a race starts and all the riders at the start line go through the same canned animation at the same time - you'd be forgiven for thinking they were a line of can-can dancers rehearsing a performance. Then, as soon as the light goes green everybody races off at breakneck speed while the game engine struggles to keep up with the action and delivers everything to your eyes in a vomit inducing slide show.
It's nowhere near as bad as that other motocross horror story Supercross 3D on the Atari Jaguar, but this isn't what you expect on the Dreamcast. Even if you do manage to get into a race and can look past the awful visual aspects of the game, the sound of buzzing engines will drive you insane before you can even start to wonder why your bike controls like you're riding on a frozen lake instead of a muddy motocross track. Motocross games can be fun - just look at MUD on the PlayStation Vita - but it's all down to interesting physics and a feeling that you're actually riding a bouncy little two-stroke with a bit of punch. There's nothing like that here. Oddly proportioned riders, a horrible soundtrack, crappy controls and a complete lack of anything approaching enjoyment make Supercross 2000 a lamentable experience.
So there we are. A complete run-down of the games that you, dear reader, should probably avoid at all costs if you're looking for something to actually play. I'm going to be honest here too - playing all of these terrible games to capture the screens actually rather depressed me, so I'm probably going to have a bit of a lie down after I finish typing the next little bit of the outro.

As mentioned briefly in the introduction, I'm aware that there are other games that should probably be included in this list; but there are a couple of notably poor titles I personally haven't experienced at the time of writing (Centipede, Frogger, Taxi 2 and MoHo all spring to mind). Ultimately though, all of this is just my opinion. You may disagree, and in that case which games do you think should be condemned and transported to Australia to dig ditches in the outback with Scott 'Doc Eggfan' Marley? Please feel free to let us know in the comments. Right, I'm going for that lie down now.


Polygonien said...

To be honest I think I had a tiny bit of fun with EOS back then. It is terrible in many ways but somehow I managed to also enjoy some parts of it. Maybe I should give it another go and see if I can still stand it ~15 years later :D

...oh, or maybe I just confused it with Roadsters... yep, the more I think about it the more I think I enjoyed Roadsters a bit and not EOS (same devs, right)

Tom Charnock said...

Hi, yes you're correct - EOS is the follow up to Roadsters. I should probably have mentioned that in the article but just thinking about either game makes me feel ill haha!

Brandon Aaron said...

I feel like I got ripped off by Acclaim and my games are on a 5 cent CDR.

Tom Charnock said...

Acclaim were a shit show on the DC.

Anthony Harrap said...

Sorry mate, all the ditches have been dug. Scott just finished the last one. Now we all get a day off at the beach before we ride our kangaroos home to have a BBQ.

DCGX said...

Great article, if a little depressing lol

I owned 90 Minutes for a while, but my biggest issue with it was one omitted in the article: there's a one to two second delay from when you press a button in game to when your player executes that command. Holy hell frustrating. It is a real shame the Dreamcast never got a good all around soccer/football game. I would've liked to have seen what Visual Concepts could've done.

Casper Egas said...

I have a full PAL set and played all of them, even some of the worst quite extensively. I think these are the ten worst: WWF Attitude, ECW Anarchy Rulz, ECW Hardcore Revolution, Fighting Force 2, Spec Ops Omega Squad, Jeremy McGrath, Taxi 2, Urban Chaos, Coaster Works, Roadsters. And yes, I count the three wrestling games as three games. Ever noticed that ECW Anarchy Rulz has actual PSX screenshots on the back of the box? Talk about lazy! I think Nightmare Creatures and 90 minutes or not that bad and EOS is far better than Roadsters in my opinion. EOS plays better with a wheel.

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks for all the comments guys. DCGX - yeah, I know what you mean about the delay in 90minutes, I may update the article to add that.

Casper - thanks for your alternative list. I cheated a bit by adding all the wrestling games as I wanted to give some other crappy titles the chance for their time in the 'limelight' too haha! I'm sure there are other terrible games but like I said, I only included ones I've played extensively myself.

Troy Thomson said...

Tom, fear not. I owned a Ducati 1098 and also owned and played Ducati World. The ownership of a Ducati is, thankfully, a different experience. Keep the dream alive, mate.

Tom Charnock said...

Haha! Thanks for the reassurance XD