The Remake Revulsion

HD Remakes are all the rage.

Although it started innocently enough with the idea of reviving and preserving some classics of the gaming industry, the monster has grown exponentially in recent years to encompass games that perhaps don’t deserve to be revived (Turok and Splatterhouse), or game franchises which have hit an evolutionary dead end (Tomb Raider and Silent Hill).

And yet the beat marches on – with Halo in line for a complete overhaul, God of War rumoured to be getting a 3D overhaul, as well as the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD collection, Silent Hill 2 and 3 HD remakes and Project Zero/Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly rumoured to be on the way for the Wii U.

And for all of this, the question no-one asks is this;

Why are we remaking, or updating, games from the last generation?

Now, I admit this generation has given us some cracking games franchises – Dead Rising, Uncharted, Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed to name but a few. However, there has been a part of the industry that is consuming and cannibalising all others.

Shooters.

The industry thrives on these – first and third person action games that rely less on plot and more on the experience, and the explosions. These are games that propagate a very Hollywood ethos of American Patriotism, of misunderstood heroes and scantily-clad women taking on invading forces and coming out on top.

These games get huge budgets, and lots of advertising. The likes of the games I mentioned were extremely high-risk titles – Assassin’s Creed was advertised but the game itself didn’t really work, and somehow someone gambled a sequel to correct it might work. This very risky strategy has paid dividends for Ubisoft, who can count it as one of the most successful franchises of this generation.

But as the costs of making a game rise from millions to tens of millions, and in a few rare cases hundreds of millions of dollars, the industry has become increasingly risk-averse. Taking a chance on a new intellectual property has to be done in hazmat suits and with the accountants and CEOs watching in through a window to see if the new lifeform is going to have an alien virus that will destroy them from the inside out.

Which is where remakes have thrived.

A remake generally doesn’t cost as much as a brand new IP – even if the models have to be redone, much of the work and code is already done. It takes less time to update, recycle, polish off and thrust out. And when a remake does take a chance – it’s still often cheaper for them than a brand new game in a franchise.

The bonus of this goes even further – seeing which remakes take off and which don’t give developers and publishers a good idea of which games and franchises would be profitable for them in the long-term. Rather than gamble on a new game, it can be easier to see if the old one will still sell. Rather than compete for advertising, a remake collection can make the public warm to a new installment or not. Lower the price, and consumers will likely place the game, and franchise, on their radar.

None of this is a surprise – nor is it cynical, because there are games which deserve to be carried on from the last generation. Beyond Good and Evil was a defining moment in gaming, of a game pitched with precision and perfection. I think Fatal Frame/Project Zero deserves another shot at glory, despite its lack of success in the West. And I of course deeply love Silent Hill.

But Silent Hill was abandoned by those who made the game a success. The series had run its course, and everything since hasn’t been able to match up in terms of quality or the horror in the game itself. An HD Remake of Silent Hill 2 and 3 to me is welcome, but cause for cynicism. Especially considering there’s a new game out this year as well. Covering your bases much, Konami?

But I generally am AGAINST most remakes. Or at least, against the business practices behind them. The likes of Ocarina of Time 3D I can get behind – it was and is a perfect game, brought up to todays visual standards it sings as clearly and sweetly as it did in the late 90s. Bringing the true classics up to date from a couple of generations ago – or more – is something I can support. Some true greats have bypassed a new generation of gamers.

But it’s not that expensive to buy a working PS2 and a bunch of games for that. Halo – I was never a fan of it, but it was the right game at the right time. Remade, will it really have that same magic, or will it be like Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a game that forgets somehow why it was so magical.

Timing in the games industry is everything, and some things will – and should – run their course. And we should mourn them, not continue to beat the horse hoping it will cough out one last gasp of air before the inevitable rotting stench drives everyone away.

The games industry is a creative one that thrives on creativity and new ideas.

The problem with remakes is simply… they are neither. And their popularity is stifling a lot of new ideas from coming through.

And that is bad for the industry.

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