Are developers offering gamers a better experience or just gouging fans for more money?
Developers must think gamers are made of money. Chucking out DLC for games left, right and centre: new characters, new objects and new phrases for your protagonist to say when they’re slicing bad guys open. Even better: missing out whole sections of the plot only to ask players to fork out a couple of pounds to find out what happens next. Now they’ve come up with the idea of HD remakes – remakes of games that have only just been released.
The Last of Us: Remastered is out soon for the PlayStation 4. The PS3 version won countless E3 awards and over 240 Game of the Year awards since it released last June. Given its huge reception, and how soon the remastered edition is releasing after the original, it sounds like Naughty Dog and Sony are simply cashing in on their success and hoping the same will happen while there aren’t that many games out for their next-gen console.
With slightly improved shadows and character models, The Last of Us: Remastered is only marginally better than the original. Sure, you will also receive Ellie’s prequel chapter, sold separately as DLC since February 2014, but it costs around £12 on PS3, far cry from the £50 price tag of the full game on PS4. If you have already parted with your hard earned cash for the first game and then even more for Ellie’s DLC, the remastered edition is absolutely not worth it.
Another recent remake is Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Releasing on the 31st of January 2014, a mere 11 months after Tomb Raider for PS3 and Xbox 360, the only aspect that is noticeably different is the graphics. The next-gen outings use Tress FX for Lara’s hair which, while an obvious improvement, is a feature the PC version had in the 2013 original.
Like The Last of Us: Remastered, gamers got to pay a £50 premium for the luxury of slightly upscaled graphics for Tomb Raider. The improved quality of the image isn’t enough to justify charging the same price as a brand new game. Granted, it makes up for the lack of backwards compatibility on Xbox One and PS4, but rehashing games is the answer to a problem that was forced on us. We are expected to throw our old versions away and upgrade to a newer model for full price, even if it is only slightly more polished. It’s an outrage.
The increasing popularity of HD remasters is another sign of games selling based on graphics rather than gameplay. Developers are motion capturing facial features for realistic expressions that make no difference if your character is hollow and unreal on paper. They mask gaping plot holes with explosions and bright light. Maybe if the player is too busy marvelling at the texture of the character’s skin, they won’t notice the bad dialogue.
Developers can distract for a while with shiny new graphics, but ultimately it is the story and journey of a game that stands the test of time much longer. Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid – great games that are still played today despite outdated graphics. These are the type of games that players will keep coming back to. Not just for the sake of nostalgia, but because they had fantastic stories, believable characters, and were just fun to play.
As we hear news of The Order: 1886 and Batman: Arkham Knight being delayed until sometime next year, while The Last of Us: Remastered and Metro Redux are well on track for a full-priced release in the coming months, I wonder what it would be like if developers channelled all their creative energy into coming up with fresh and exciting new storylines rather than obsessing over the graphical quality of games released just a year ago. Who knows how much quicker they would release, how much better gaming as a whole would be. HD remasters are a waste of time, let’s move on to something new.
Images; Sony Computer Entertainment, Square Enix