pop culture | no politics
Like it or not, HD remasters of classic games are now a mainstay of contemporary video game culture. Its become one of the more polarizing topics amongst gamers as many experienced players are getting frustrated by the fact that old games are often stealing the spotlight, while fresh titles are constantly getting delayed. We all want new experiences, but for me remasters aren’t a problem at all.
First off, nobody is making anyone buy a game that they've already played. Everyone has the opportunity to vote with their dollar and not buy these remasters. But companies wouldn’t invest any of capital into producing these games if they weren’t generating a decent revenue stream, so the fact that the market has become somewhat flooded with them indicates that they’re being well-received by the public. And secondly what’s wrong with sharing great games with people that only have a current generation system? I found myself is a similar situation a few years ago when I only owned a PS3 yet wanted to play Shadow of the Colossus, which at the time was only available on the PS2. Sure, I could’ve tracked down an old system and bought it on the cheap, but just to play one game? And it still would’ve featured previous generation graphics. Because they eventually released an HD collection that included both Ico games for a reasonable price I got to experience the game without jumping through all the hoops that would’ve been necessary if it hadn’t been remastered. It’s a win-win for everyone, the developers get some easy cash that they can use to make new games and gamers get to play better-looking versions of classic titles. And just like last-gen Playstation 4 users deserve the same opportunity today.
The idea that to make these re-releases developers are taking resources away from new IP games or sequels to established franchises is grossly overblown. Often these conversions are being handled by a specialist like Bluepoint Games, and even if the upscale is performed in-house all the original assets are still available. Rarely are any new vocals or character models necessary. And from a storytelling perspective, there’s generally no additional writing that needs to be done. The fact that developer Naughty Dog took the time to upscale The Last of Us has nothing to do with the highly-anticipated Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End getting delayed until next spring, these conversions are relatively easy and aren’t that time-consuming. But that hasn’t stopped a good portion of gamers from finding these reissues to be annoying and underwhelming.
And there’s no doubt that they have a point in some cases. The outstanding Playstation 3 classic God of War III, a game that is only 5 years old, got the remaster treatment this past summer and honestly the PS4 version is almost indistinguishable from the original that it is supposed to be an improvement over. The release of the game came late in the PS3’s life cycle and was developed by Sony’s own Santa Monica studio, so it was already a beautiful game that performed well. So what can really be done with that to make it look and feel special? Well the answer was to improve the frame rate and to add access to a Photo Mode. The former is certainly something we can all appreciate, any time a game can run at a more stable, higher rate is a good thing. But the ability to capture Kratos’ adventures on “film” is pointless and not something I was going to waste any time on. I played it and enjoyed it, but it certainly wasn’t an experience that stands out when I think about remastered games.
Bluepoint’s remaster of the Naughty Dog Uncharted series suffers from similar issues as well. It offers access to three of the best games from the Playstation 3 era, and for $50 provide 25-30 hours worth of fantastic gameplay. That’s a good deal for those of us that had already played these amazing titles, but it’s an absolute steal for new PS4 owners that missed out on the experience the first time. But like God of War III, they’re straight up conversions of the games, lacking any bonus material on the disc that would make the experience special or really set it apart from the previous releases. With Uncharted 4 only a couple of months away, this was a missed opportunity to celebrate one of Sony’s flagship franchises with some cool behind-the-scenes videos or art galleries. And the biggest offense of all is not including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a game that was originally developed for the Playstation Vita and was the sole reason that I bought Sony’s last hand held. It’s a fantastic game and would’ve made a great addition to the collection, offering up another new experience for the huge portion of the Playstation community that never purchased a Vita. There are some really nice moments in the game that made good use of the handheld's touchscreen, and if the game had been included in the Nathan Drake Collection we might have seen the first real interesting use of the Dualshock 4’s touchpad, which like I wrote in an article last week is basically being treated like an extra oversized button by most developers. It's a great collection, but like many remakes it just lacking something special.
But that’s not always the case. Renowned developer Rocksteady made the bold decision to incorporate a first-person view option into least year’s re-release of Grand Theft Auto V, a change that was so revolutionary that it transformed the game into a completely new experience. This goes above and beyond what has become the standard of expectation for reissues and makes the game stand out from its competitors. The world of San Andreas looks and feels completely different when viewed from the first-person perspective and after a brief adjustment period I never switched the view back. It was such a fresh take on an old game that the GTA V remaster made my list of best games of 2014.
Reissues can also offer gamers a great opportunity to catch up on the back story for new releases. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of the best games of 2015, but I can’t imagine how confusing the story must be to players that are new to the franchise. How nice would a PS4/Xbox One version of the previous four games be for those gamers right now? I’ve played through the series countless times, but an even higher-detailed version of them would still be a day one purchase for me.
At the end of the day re-releases aren’t going away as long as people continue to purchase them, and I’ll keep doing so assuming its a game I've enjoyed in the past or one that I never got the opportunity to play the first time. These games gives me a chance to experience a prettier version of a game that I know is good going in, as well as being able to add a few trophies to my list. But more importantly it gives my friends that are new to gaming a chance to play some of the most important titles in video game history. And that’s where I find the real joy in reissues, in my discussions with them which allow me to compare their fresh experiences with my own.