Are Remasters Finally on the Right Track?
As an industry we’ve all heaped a bit of criticism upon one of the biggest trends of this console generation. Now, as we close in on the end of PS4 and Xbox One’s second full year on the market we’ve seen a number of remasters get revealed, released and ripped apart by both fans and media alike. What I’ve seen more recently though might be the beginnings of improvement in the industry’s approach to remastering games. There are signs of improvement and I’m here to present my verdict on the current state of the remaster and what impacts recent events may have upon the future of remasters in this generation of gaming.
I cast my mind back to late 2013, my eyes were bright and filled with hope for the new console generation. I had my PS4 and Xbox One and I was licking my lips with anticipation of what was to come next. What followed though stumped me; what I was finding with every passing month is that there were almost more remasters of older games being announced than actual new titles. I started to worry that perhaps developers collectively hit a roadblock, maybe there was something wrong with the new hardware, maybe they all had writers block – something had to be wrong. I didn’t want to play Saints Row IV again, nor did I want to play the rebooted Tomb Raider again; as much as I loved Tomb Raider, the game wasn’t even a year old and this re-release was being hyped up as if it were the second coming.
I understood and trusted Naughty Dog when they said that they remastered The Last of Us so that they could come to understand more about the PS4’s architecture, but even a game of that amazing quality wasn’t going to see me rebuy it just so that I could play the same game all over again with some buffed up textures and a better frame-rate. I got my fill with all these games when I played them on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and didn’t see much reason in rebuying them when I could still experience them (in HD) on those systems. I gave Sony a pass when it was busy re-releasing old PS2 God of War’s, Ratchet & Clank’s, Sly Cooper’s and Jak & Daxter’s because these were all games that came from a time where we didn’t have HD visuals, nor did we have trophy support, and I gave Microsoft and Square-Enix a pass with their remasters of Fable, Halo and Final Fantasy X|X-2 for the same reasons.
It was 2014 where I got the first sniff of things beginning to change and improve. At E3 2015 Sony announced that it was working with Disney and Double Fine to bring back Grim Fandango, a game that was virtually impossible to play due to advancements in technology; a great sign of good will to gamers that many may never forget. What really impressed me the most however was what Microsoft delivered with the announcement of the Halo Master Chief Collection. Bunding Halo 1-4 on one disc, with all the multiplayer intact, remastering Halo 2 on the Xbox One and promising seamless play all seemed too good to be true.
It was too good to be true in the end though with the game falling victim to horrible online issues that ruined the multiplayer experience, but it was the first steps on a better path. Now Sony has followed suit with the upcoming release of the Nathan Drake Collection, a compilation of the three PS3 Uncharted games, they’ve removed the multiplayer, significantly improved the look of the games, and added new difficulties to provide further challenge to players. On top of that they gave the task to porting studio Bluepoint to ensure Naughty Dog could keep working on the next big Uncharted game, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
We’re now seeing more quality remasters on the way. Tearaway Unfolded brings the critically acclaimed yet commercially ignored Vita game to PS4 with new gameplay and mechanics, the recently release Gears of War Ultimate Edition packs in a wide range of content from the original 360 game, the PC port and future games’ multiplayer to give them the ‘ultimate’ Gears experience. Rockstar did a fantastic job on the remastered Grand Theft Auto V bringing first person mode and a whole bunch more to a 2013 classic, while Sony has again partnered with Double Fine to remaster Day of the Tentacle. We’re finally starting to get some meat on the bones of these remasters, and it seems publishers are finally putting some time into ensuring that we’re going to get some value from our purchase if we’re choosing to rebuy a game that we already own.
Microsoft has thrown a real curve ball into the mix with their E3 2014 revelation that the Xbox One will soon support backwards compatibility. Suddenly the need for a remaster on that particular console has diminished with players easily able to pop their copy of a large number of Xbox 360 gems into their Xbox One and can enjoy them without having to dust off their older system. What this means for remasters in general is that should a publisher decide to go down the path of remastering one of their old games, the work they put into it needs to be meaningful. No longer can they get away with simply opening up the old game, hitting Save As and calling it Tomb Raider.PS4 or SaintsRowIV.XB1, slapping it on a disc and sending it out to drag in extra cash. Publishers will now have to give serious thought to the games they remaster because players now have the means to play these older games on their new system, and if the remaster isn’t up to standard, then they have no incentive to rebuy it. Whether the same backwards compatibility comes to PS4 remains to be seen, but you can be sure that this decision by Microsoft impacts any future remasters that might have been planned for either PS4 or Xbox One.
Gamers will always get joy out of replaying some of their older favourites just as much as they love getting into the newest blockbuster. Microsoft have changed the face of remasters with their decision to bring back backwards compatibility, a feature that used to be a standard in the industry. So perhaps this means we’ll see fewer, but more value filled remasters in the future – I’m crossing my fingers, but in the meantime I’ll temper my excitement about Uncharted 4 by getting my hands on the Nathan Drake Collection next month.
Are developers and publishers finally starting to see sense when it comes to the topic of gaming remasters? Or are we still not getting enough value from these products to warrant a second purchase? The choice is ours as to whether or not we buy these remasters, but sound off in the comments below with your thoughts or please reach out and let us know your thoughts on Facebook/Twitter.