Some of my greatest gaming memories happened years ago.
Whether it was storming the beach in Halo: Combat Evolved or diving through the air with dual pistols in Max Payne, the 2000s were the golden age of modern gaming.
Ideas were no longer limited by technology, and thanks to the power of Xbox, Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, developers were finally able to explore and create far less linear experiences, with new, never-before-seen features.
At the time, they were revolutionary. Today, they’re dated. And we know they are – yet we still get excited about the prospect of a ‘classic’ title getting a remaster.
Take 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved – a game that, at the time, pushed graphics to the limit with ‘hyper realistic’ textures, and sprawling, sandbox style maps.
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Playing through this as a teen, I remember feeling a sense of awe as I stepped out on to the snowy battlefield during the Assault on the Control Room mission.
I remember plasma flying through the sky and marines getting brutally gunned down all around me.
When 343 Studios and Microsoft subsequently remade the game in 2011 (and later for the 2014 Halo: Master Chief Collection) I was massively underwhelmed – my memories had tricked me.
Despite a new lick of paint (You could switch between the old and new engines simultaneously), 343 had tried to keep core gameplay largely the same – and it revealed just how repetitive and basic it was.
These ‘huge’ battles, even in ‘remaster mode’, were nothing more than a few samey-looking enemies running around a vast open space. The brutish Covenent Elites, I remembered to be one of the game’s most fearsome and terrifying foes, were just a vague bunch of blue pixels.
Sure, they looked a little better but I’d take my imagination over that, any day.
The same goes for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. There’s no denying it’s one of the greatest, and influential, games of recent years.
Who can forget the haunting All Ghillied Up mission – setting up a last stand by the Ferris wheel?
When the remastered version dropped as a bargaining chip with last year’s distinctly average Infinite Warfare, these iconic moments just didn’t feel the same.
Monster closets (where enemies keep spawning until you pass a certain point), dull graphics, legions of the same-faced enemy – all of these flaws were now so much more apparent, and ultimately tarnished my view of the game.
Thanks to Activison ‘remastering’ Crash Bandicoot earlier this year, I now hate the game I grew up with.
Crash doesn’t ‘stick’ to surfaces when he lands, meaning the slightest wrong move ends in death.
The developers kept this feature from the old game but in doing so hampered enjoyment and accessibility.
The list of these ‘remasters’ is endless – and no doubt more will be coming along next year. But why?
Say what you want about the hardware capabilities of the Xbox One and PS4, but they are very, very good at running older games.
Most of the classic titles were built on consoles with less than half the power, so by plonking them on to a new system, developers can go in and make things run and look better.
Naughty Dog did this with 2013’s The Last of Us, a game that – in my opinion, certainly did not need a remaster (it had only been out a year). Lighting was improved with the FPS up from 30 to 60.
This is time and energy developers should be using to create new IP.
Sure, you’re guaranteed sales if you give a classic a face lift and bump up the frame-rate, but no matter how good it looks, it’ll never compete with the memories people had of it when it first came out. It’s kind of lazy, if I’m honest.
Arguably my favourite game, Final Fantasy VII is getting ‘remastered’ for release next year.
Calling this a ‘remaster’, though, would be doing it an enormous disservice.
Unlike Halo, COD and countless others, Square Enix has essentially created a whole new game – a far cry from the blocky PS1 graphics we experienced when we were younger.
Final Fantasy VII set the bar for gameplay design, story-telling and visuals – it’s fitting that nearly 20 years later, it could well do the same for ‘remastered’ titles.
For a ‘remaster’ shouldn’t just be a tweak, but a complete overhaul and re imagining of the source material.