Pretty video games can be a gamble for development companies. It takes a lot of resources to make a game look nice, and some games just can't live up to the hype that looking amazing brings. This leads to pretty bad games with good graphics finding their way to the market.
Horrible video games with great graphics can cause a lot of controversy, which isn't new to the community. There's little worse than saving up for a new game that looks amazing, only to find out five hours later that it plays terribly.
No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky may go down as one of the most divisive games in history. Its very existence was so offensive to certain players that they began bombing its Metacritic score in an attempt to destroy its marketability. That's unfortunate, because it's actually a really pretty game, when the player is lucky enough to find a pre-modeled world.
The game famously relies on procedural generation to create its environments and creatures. The issue is when design aspects are literally cobbled together randomly, there are bound to be some duds. In No Man's Sky's case, there are a lot of duds.
Racing games have a long history of gorgeous graphics, and Need for Speed: The Run lives up to that legacy. Racing games are also usually fun, which is where Need for Speed: The Run falls short. The tracks and gameplay were railed by critics for being overly linear, and a progression system that keeps players from online play did little more to endear them. Considering how racing games are usually best enjoyed with people to race with, that's a pretty big oversight. But hey, at least the cars are pretty.
Released on May 29, 2018, Agony enjoyed a truly gruesome and unique look that unfortunately didn't translate to the gameplay. A poor story, atrocious voice acting, an inconsistent save system, and truly grinding gameplay suck nearly all the enjoyment from the game. IGN's review of Agony says it best:
For every moment of jaw-droppingly detailed environments overflowing with gore and blood, there are moments of acute frustration due to poor level design, repetitive gameplay, and downright aggravating mechanics. It was almost as if Agony was trying so hard to be a “video game” that it lost sight of what made its trailers so grotesquely appealing to horror-loving gamers around the world.
On release, The Order: 1886 was lauded as a beautiful, atmospheric game. That didn't stop it from being critiqued for being boring to play. IGN suggested it was pressure to create a game that felt mainstream that harmed the beautiful narrative of The Order: 1886.
It's nearly a requirement to fit RPG or FPS mechanics into major titles, which is a shame. Walking simulators, like Tacoma and Firewatch, have found success in the indie market, and it's hard not to wonder why AAA studios are so hesitant to embrace the genre.