Whether you like it or not, remasters are a part of the gaming industry that are here to stay. Some developers have used remasters as a way to remind gamers of a franchise, before releasing a new entry. Other developers have used them to get experience programming on the new consoles. While I could never deny that some remasters are a blatant cash-grab (I’m looking at you Sleeping Dogs “Definitive” Edition), there are others where I’ve appreciated the re-release.
As someone who traded in their Xbox 360 consoles and games towards a shiny new Xbox One, remasters give me a chance to revisit some of my favourite games. I’m a huge Borderlands fan so the release of ‘Borderlands: The Handsome Collection’ was an essential purchase for two reasons. The first being that playing Borderlands 2 again with improved graphics is always going to be welcome. The second, and the biggest reason, was that when ‘Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel’ was released on Xbox 360, I had already moved onto Xbox One; this meant that I never got the opportunity to play it. ‘Borderlands: The Handsome Collection’ gave me the chance to catch-up on the game. I’m really hoping that Assassin’s Creed Rogue will also make the generation leap as that’s another game I’m disappointed to have missed.
Another good thing about remasters is that it can help smaller studios to gain experience, develop their skills, or just keep them going. Using a studio like ‘United Front Games’ to help develop ‘Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition’ or ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’, means that the main studios don’t have to divert so many resources to the projects but also helps the smaller studio. More and more work is being passed over to smaller studios and this does seem to be a good thing for the industry. Another benefit of this practise is that it reduces the need for the big studios to hire lots more people only to fire them once development is completed. Hiring smaller studios to help out, leads to better job security for everyone involved.
Remasters can also help a developer to realise their full vision for a game. A good example of this is ‘Halo: Anniversary’. Xbox Live wasn’t around when Bungie first unleashed ‘Halo: Combat Evolved’ into the world. ‘Halo: Anniversary’ finally allowed fans of the game to be able to play online. Grand Theft Auto V is an absolute masterpiece on Xbox 360, but porting the game to Xbox One allowed Rockstar to more densely populate the world as well as adding a first-person perspective to the game. While these additions were by no means essential, they add more authenticity and push the game to another level.
Recently, we have had a spate of releases that would be best described as reissues. These games have been coded to work on this generation of consoles, however no effort has been made to improve the textures and quality of the graphics, physics, or any of the other gameplay elements. My main issue with these reissues is financial. I don’t mind publishers releasing versions of their previous games but they should be at a sensible price. Activision are one of the worst offenders when it comes to this. In the last month or so, they have released reissues of ‘Transformers: Fall of Cybertron’, ‘Marvel: Ultimate Alliance’, and ‘Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2’. Activision saw fit to release ‘Marvel: Ultimate Alliance’ for $39.99; this is a game originally released 10 years ago and is available for around $10 on Xbox 360! This price would be very reasonable if Activision had remastered the whole game, but they haven’t, these games are reissues of the original games. It is this kind of cynical marketing that gives remasters a bad name.
We all have a few games that we would love to be remastered. Personally I would love to see updated versions of ‘Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’ or ‘Mass Effect’. For others it might be the early ‘Metal Gear Solid’ or ‘Final Fantasy’ games. I don’t have the reservations towards remasters that some people do, I just wish that developers would respect consumers as much as they respect their shareholders. Remasters can be great, and the best ones deserve a place in our game libraries. I even believe that decent reissues can be a good thing, as long as they are priced sensibly. I also understand that at the end of day, publishers release games to make money, however the price of some of these remasters and reissues are priced to the point where they’re not going to make a profit. If publishers choose games that people are crying out to be re-released (either as a remaster or a reissue) and price them competitively, then these games can easily turn a profit once again, while still keeping gamers happy.