This week John Garvin, the creative director on Bend’s zombie-apocalypse open world adventure, Days Gone, had a couple of sharp comments to make in a podcast interview with David Jaffe (the bloke behind the first two God Of War entries and the Twisted Metal franchise).
Responding to a question from Jaffe about whether there had been any “meaningful uptick of engagement” with Days Gone since the game was added to the PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5 (read: had any more people played the game for this new gen of consoles), Garvin had this to say:
“I do have an opinion on something that your audience may find of interest, and it might piss some of them off. If you love a game, buy it at fucking full price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen gamers say ‘yeah, I got that on sale, I got it through PS Plus, whatever.”
This is pretty bold stuff. But then, the game Garvin presided over ended on a cutscene that clearly left the door open for a sequel. An almost cliffhanger ending, some would say.
Whenever I think of cliffhanger endings in games, I always remember a group interview I took part in at E3 in 2010, when Bulletstorm had its first hands-on on the shop floor. One of the journalists asked Cliff Bleszinski, the game’s director, if People Can Fly’s new shooter was the start of a new gaming franchise. Cliff answered that no one can predict if a game is set to be a franchise until the sales numbers come in. Ultimately, it is interest from players – and resulting sales – that decides whether a game becomes the starting point for a franchise or not.
The last sequel they make in Hollywood is the last sequel that failed to make money, he said. In spite of that, the ending of Bulletstorm’s single-player campaign clearly left the door open for a sequel that never materialised – boo!
Days Gone and Bulletstorm, however, aren’t the only two examples of instances in which developers left players with either a cliffhanger ending or one that clearly creates space for a sequel. Here is a list of perhaps the most egregious offenders in this regard and be warned: because we’re talking about game endings, here be spoilers!
So let’s kick off with the game Garvin was involved with, which, while not presenting a knife-twist cliffhanger, does hint that Bend had future plans for the series. While the main plot wrapped up, one of the endings revealed that the game’s shadowy organisation, NERO, was coming for the remaining survivors and there was nothing Deacon or his crew could do to stop them.
Due to its mixed reception, Days Gone didn’t set the world on fire and recently it was reported that Sony shot Bend’s pitch for Days Gone 2 down, so we’ll never know what players could have expected from a sequel.
And yes, Bulletstorm is in this list too for its ending to the single-player campaign. Those who have made it to the end will remember a post-credit scene (dialogue only) in which it’s revealed that Sarrano – the game’s main villain – survived and was revived as a cyborg. Not only that, one of the player’s allies, Ishi, made it out too and is a rather foul mood over what transpired.
It’s clear this opens the door to a sequel, but in spite of Bulletstorm being easily one of the best shooters ever made, it underperformed in the sales department according to publisher EA and a sequel was never made. Now Gearbox owns the IP and its grand addition to it was to put Duke Nukem in the game. Bah!
Based on the French comic book of the same name, XIII tells an engrossing and labyrinthine story about a man with amnesia trying to piece his life back together – starting with the fact that he may or may not have assassinated the US president. As the player progresses, however, they discover the character is involved in a massive conspiracy involving the upper echelons of the US government and a cult-like band of power-players, each identified by the roman numeral tattooed somewhere on their bodies.
Sounds great, right? Well, XIII was met with tepid reviews and lukewarm sales, which meant its sequel was cancelled. A pity, because the final scene in the game puts the player face to face with the head of the conspiracy and then the phrase ‘to be continued’. That’s rather a poke in the eye to anyone who was taken with the game’s story. You could always try hunting down the comics, I suppose. Good luck with that!
The Darkness II
Speaking of games based on comic books that offer cliffhanger endings that will never be paid off, one of the most heinous offenders is The Darkness II. Based on the comic strip published by Top Cow, The Darkness II follows mob boss Jackie Estacado, who just happens to possess supernatural powers thanks to a demonic spirit he shared a body with.
The game was a satisfying blend of gunplay and visceral melee attacks, all shot through with an eye-catching cell-shaded visual style. Sales were less impressive, which means that players will never know if Jackie made it out of hell, which is where he and the player were dumped at the end of the game. Please, developers: stop with the cliffhangers until you know your sequel has already been greenlit!
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
What more can be said about Valve’s seminal FPS franchise beyond its ending which is at best a pretty big downer, and at worst will forever leave fans wanting more.
Valve released a prequel recently in the form of Half-Life: Alyx, but players would probably rather know what happens after the closing credits of Episode 2. Well, I’m going to call it: you’ll never know. You’re never getting a Half-Life 3. You’re not even getting a Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Deal with it.
Of all the games crying out for a remaster, 2004’s The Punisher is one of the top candidates. A love letter to fans of principled psychopath Frank Castle, The Punisher told a fantastic story, had appearances and cameos from Marvel greats, sported compelling gunplay and even featured a grisly mechanic with which players could finish off bad guys using items in Castle’s vicinity, like bandsaws and furnaces.
The main narrative was wrapped up pretty well, but after the credits rolled, players saw a clip in which The Kingpin basically intoned that he was going to make Castle’s life a living hell after the events that transpired in the game. That would have made for a great story. ‘Would have’ being the operative words.
Here’s a mean trick you can play on an Alan Wake fan: ask them what exactly the hell was going on by the time the main game’s credits rolled. If they come back with an explanation, ask them if they ever played the DLC packs and watch them squirm.
Alan Wake is filled with throat-clenching atmosphere, its mechanics are pretty decent (bar the driving section) and its story begins really well. However, by the end you’re looking at a plot that might make David Lynch wince in confusion. For a game driven so much by plot and characters, Alan Wake needed some sort of resolution, which it didn’t get. It didn’t even get it in American Nightmare.
Oh Anthem. Your issues were legion. For the purposes of this article though we can leave aside the myriad problems already reported on and instead focus on the game’s ending and post-credit scene that reveals an alien civilisation is behind the game’s… well, Anthem.
This was clearly a narrative strand the developers wanted – or were at least supposed – to explore in future development. That, however, will never happen because Anthem is no more. Unlike most other entries on this list, though, many players don’t seem to care.