by Lewis Empson and Marcus Yeatman-Crouch
Nostalgia is arguably the strongest influence within the gaming industry. Classics from decades ago are never far from the limelight as remakes and remasters dominate the scene almost every year to the joy and sometimes dismay of gamers. The real question is: do gamers want all of these remakes of the classics or would they prefer new and innovative games to take advantage of the increasingly powerful options of PCs and consoles?
Remasters, Remakes and Reboots – What’s the Difference?
It’s important to distinguish between these as they all offer slightly different interpretations of their source material. A remaster is usually the simplest; a shiny coat of HD (or more commonly 4K) paint over the often grainy original textures with a big bundle of DLC, all for a usually slightly cheaper price to reflect the fact that it’s a game you probably already own but can’t play on your console (PC and Xbox players feel free to laugh here, back compat for the win). We’ve seen plenty of remasters as of late with the Halo: Master Chief Collection, Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy and Burnout Paradise Remaster with the highly anticipated Mass Effect Legendary Collection on the horizon.
Remakes slightly differ here as they often refresh the graphics and audio but also add or change things that fundamentally alter the game to make it a new and more up to date interpretation of the game to bring it up to modern standards or to explore new ventures within the universe of the game. This can include new mechanics, characters and story lines. The most recent example that comes to mind is the Final Fantasy VII Remake which at first looked like a refresh of the classic with real time combat and fresh graphics but instead (SPOILER WARNING) ended up shattering the timeline of the original game setting up a brand new story for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2.
Finally there are reboots which, much like in the world of Hollywood films, revitalise a dormant franchise by starting over with a fresh take on the series with a brand new title – the annoying trend being that they will often be named identically to the original; looking at you Tomb Raider (2013) and Ratchet & Clank (2016).
Golden Oldies or Innovative IPs?
As much as playing the classics is great and fills our hearts with warm and fuzzy nostalgia, it also opens the door for companies to get super lazy with their games; milking old titles for money based on childhood memories. This doesn’t necessarily mean remakes and remasters are bad games, the likes of the recent Demon’s Souls remake was a compelling reason to get a PS5 because it was so good, it just becomes concerning when trends appear for recycling games rather than making innovative new titles. The most apparent one that springs to mind is Grand Theft Auto V, a fantastic game that was released in 2013 and has been remastered once and is about to be remastered again for the PS5 and Xbox Series X and S. Don’t get me wrong its still as entertaining as it was 7 years ago and is still receiving timely updates with no signs of slowing down, but fans have been clamoring for GTA VI and have instead been met with a remaster of a remaster of a game they bought years ago. There’s plenty more examples that spring to mind that have been either great or lazy cash grabs (a certain dragon slaying Bethesda titles has divided opinions in this regard) and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites as well as some of our not-so-favourite attempts to relive the classics.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Marcus)
You’ve probably heard about Skyrim from the memes more than anything. Yes, it’s still a running joke that Skyrim will find a port on every platform known to man, including the Samsung Smart Fridge and Bethesda’s own teaser of an Amazon Echo port (which apparently is real? Give it a try!). However, I’m an unapologetic fanboy of this series and Skyrim specifically, so when I got the chance to start my journey all over again on the PS4 I jumped at it. There were some graphical improvements, fixes to the innumerable bugs, and obviously the inclusion of all the DLC, but what really changed the game with the Special Edition was its introduction of the modding community to consoles. Granted, Sony being a bit stingy means the PlayStation misses out on the biggest and best mods because they don’t allow external assets to be used on the game, but if you’re on Xbox you can get all the crazy Thomas the Tank Engine dragon mods you want. Skyrim Special Edition may not be a favourite of everyone, especially those tired of what is considered to be a bug-ridden, over-hyped game, but to me it’s a nostalgic return to a title that shaped my gaming experience. With the opportunity of yet more ports to new-gen, I’m hopeful I can relive my venture into Tamriel yet again.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Lewis)
More often than not, myself and Marcus agree on our opinions on good and bad games… this is not one of those occasions. Bethesda has milked this cash cow all the way to Tamriel and I live in fear that one day I shall wake up to the news that it will be remastered again. This game was released in 2011, 10 years ago in November, on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Since then it has been remastered (“Special Edition”) on Xbox One, PS4 (it was also enhanced for the One X and PS4 Pro), PC, VR and Switch. In 10 years the only news we have had from Bethesda about a sequel is a glorified poster, and if you’re keeping count then the gap between the release of Oblivion and Skyrim was only 5 years. So in double that time we’ve had the same game remastered on every platform and little-to-no news of a sequel – the Xbox One is the first Xbox console not to receive its own Elder Scrolls game. Don’t get me wrong Skyrim “Special Edition” enhanced the game greatly with mods and fixes; I just hate what it stands for – laziness in one of arguably the most creative and limitless industries and there’s only so many times that I can take an arrow to the knee without getting bored.
Modern Warfare 2 Remastered (Marcus)
Yep, this title got my hopes up. My introduction to COD getting remastered, bringing back a flood of memories of quickscoping, camping, and lobbies that sounded more like a warzone than the actual game? Sign me up! Unfortunately, MW2 Remastered only featured the campaign. Don’t get me wrong, MW2’s campaign is one of the best in the franchise and certainly worth playing – but no FPS like COD has a campaign that can stand alone. What made COD was the multiplayer, the feeling of hoping in a lobby with your friends for a night of Search & Destroy or simply going solo and revelling in the chaos. With Activision clearly focused on promoting their new Modern Warfare’s multiplayer it was clear after the announcement that there would be no chance of reliving those intense shooting sessions, and the promise of a few skins for that other multiplayer isn’t tempting enough for some. The campaign is of course still incredible, and with updated graphics it’s even more fun to play through, but for a totally linear and relatively short set of missions there’s not much room for nostalgia. So, as much as Modern Warfare 2 Remastered was a reawakening of FPS love for many, the lack of a multiplayer crippled this venture and ensured it would only work for a quick hit of memories rather than a making of new ones.
The Last Of Us Remastered (Lewis)
As someone who never owned the PS3, The Last Of Us is one of those games I experienced through YouTube playthroughs and not through my own experience. However when it was released for PS4 (and after I jumped ship from team Xbox), I was able to pick it up with a refined control scheme, remastered graphics and the standalone expansion bundled in. It was one of the first titles I picked up for the PS4 and it was seriously a masterclass in remastering a fan favourite with its smooth performance and and more immersive graphics, its safe to say that it was one hell of a smart move by Sony and Naughty Dog to remaster this masterpiece early on as it not only somehow made it better, but it was also a huge incentive for Xbox player to jump over the PS4. What makes it so fondly remembered was the fact that although it was simply a remaster, it was so well done and lovingly crafted that it didn’t feel like a cash grab and it was a very desirable title for your PS4 collection.
So there we have it, some good remasters/remakes and some more divisive options. We love playing through the classics in moderation and all companies take different approaches, check out the NES classic mini from Nintendo for example for a really unique take on this. However, the classics are all fun and games with rose tinted glasses on and sometimes we want something new so for now these remakes can scratch that nostalgic itch although they won’t be my first choice for hotly anticipated titles when E3 rolls around.