Nostalgia is a lovely notion in life. Memories of a time most pleasurable, and reliving these moments is usually such a wonderful thing. Be it a catch-up with an old friend, a re-visitation of a restaurant from your first date or watching an old sitcom you’d long forgotten about, these moments of remembrance are cherish-able and heart-warming and bring light to the relentless drag of everyday life.
Video games have also latched on to this idea, in quite an extreme way. The release of the ‘next-gen’ consoles has paved the way for developers to re-release their once-popular games with shiny new visuals, allowing their fans (new and old) to relive these glorious playthroughs in the slickest way possible.
The reason for this post is mainly down to the imminent release of ‘Gears of War: Ultimate Edition’. Gears is genuinely one of my favourite series around, mainly due to the fact I can actually compete online, and I am really looking forward to playing the original of the trilogy again (I am pretending Judgment doesn’t exist). We are promised enhanced visuals, including a much-brighter trudge through locust-infested hallways, as well as 60 frames per second and much tighter controls when sliding through cover. Gears of War was originally released in 2006.
However, this is far from the first game to be given a makeover for the new era of consoles, and therefore the next generation of technology. Everything from Halo to Dishonored has seen an updated version released, and the growing sense of gamers’ boredom is beginning to seep through.
Personally, I sit on the fence. On some occasions remastering a game is a positive thing for both the developer and the player, but in my opinion this is only when the original was released a long time before the new release. Gears, being released 9 years ago, just about scrapes through. There have been 2 sequels since, both adding some minor and major gameplay tweaks as well as additions that weren’t seen in the original, and would therefore enhance the experience on a higher level than just looking prettier. It was also released right at the start of the Xbox 360’s lifetime, when the console wasn’t being pushed to the limit it is now.
We have seen, and will continue to see, some remasters of games that were only released a couple of years previous. The main one springing to mind is ‘The Last of Us’. The original PS3-exclusive was released in June 2013, and received incredibly high review scores and had plenty of commercial success. In July 2014, 11 months later, ‘The Last of Us: Remastered’ was released on PS4. This version brought with it all the DLC, as well as enhanced visuals as you would expect, a higher framerate and ‘an upgraded combat mechanic’. 11 months is not a long time in the videogame industry, most games taking at least twice that long just to develop. Naughty Dog, who created the game, couldn’t have spent too much time updating TLOU for next-gen as they would have needed to hold off to wait for any (arguably inevitable) success before giving the green light. On top of this they have other ventures to work on such as Uncharted 4, which is to be released in 2016 (originally intended for 2015).
Other games have taken a similar road, such as Tomb Raider and God of War 3. These are games that haven’t really been out long enough for us to forget about them yet, and although the visual upgrade is noticeable, it isn’t enough for me even with the ‘extras’ that come with them, to get the wallet out again.
I did say that I’m on the fence so here are some positive contributions! Rockstar are a company that I have a lot of time for, and you can only admire the way they go about their business (delays aside). The amount of love put into each game is clear to see, and the hours that people have invested is a testament to Rockstar’s dedication to their work. Also, when crafting DLC, it isn’t just tacked on for an extortionate price, it is usually a genuine expansion, such as Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption. I’m not the biggest Grand Theft Auto fan in the world, but I was impressed with the way Rockstar released their next-gen version of GTAV. Simply called Grand Theft Auto V, it was released for PS4 and Xbox One as just that. No ‘remaster’, ‘definitive edition’ or any other named added to it. This had led many to believe that the game was originally intended to be released for the next-gen consoles in the first place, and the ‘old-gen’ versions are in fact ports of the later version. Rockstar also added a sublime first-person mode to GTAV, something which had never been seen in a Grand Theft Auto game before, yet adds a completely new dimension to the experience.
We have also seen an emergence of ‘Collections’ recently. This is a notion I can get on board with, usually because it obviously involves more than one game, meaning that the original must have been released quite some time ago. As well as this, you are literally getting more bang for your buck as there are more games included for the normal price of one. Lately we have seen ‘Rare Replay’, including a massive amount of games on one disc including games that are 10-20 years old all crafted from the much-loved but recently wayward company Rare. Also there is the ‘Halo: Master Chief Collection’, bringing four much-loved games into one, and soon the ‘Nathan Drake Collection’ will hit the stores, meaning Naughty Dog are somewhat redeeming themselves by bringing all the Uncharted games to Playstation 4.
Last we have the true ‘remakes’, of which we are yet to see too many. The big one everyone is talking about is Final Fantasy VII, an absolute classic that has had a remake/remaster clamoured for by gamers for years now. Based on the short teaser, this will be a total rehaul, being built from the ground up. FFVII was released in 1997, probably 20 years before the remake will be made available, and has seen numerous ports to newer consoles, but it has always basically been the same game rehashed. Reports are saying that everything, including (unfortunately for me) the combat, will be redone. This is a remake I can definitely get on board with (despite the fact no-one will be 100% happy with the eventual outcome, but gamers will be gamers)
So, remasters are very much at the forefront of gaming in these early years of next-gen. An easy way for developers to make a bit of extra money, and a nice way for us players to re-live the ‘past’, even if it was only a year or so ago. Originality in this industry is becoming a dying art, let’s hope the future paints a prettier picture.