1080/60 Wars? Uhh… how about Content Wars?

If we can’t have both…

There’s another massive debate over 1080/60, following the revelations that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition may not be quite so definitive on the XBox One, running in ‘only’ 30 frames a second. Now, allow me to play you the song of my people… *plays invisible violin*

Sorry, bad habit. Coy as it is, it’s NOT the framerate or resolution that bothers me. It’s that as definitive as it is, Tomb Raider is more or less the same game; tarted up a touch, sure. But it’s the same nice but deeply flawed video game that disappointed almost a year ago; and frankly, any suggestion that someone like myself as an avid gamer is going to buy another version of the game just because they upped the framerate and resolution a tad is going to be met with riotous laughter. Tomb Raider, for me, was a game much like a lot of games in recent years; the first Assassin’s Creed, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and such; they lay a foundation on which to build, but they are not the complete package.

Please don’t misunderstand however; I am not saying that striving for 1080/60 is the wrong thing to do; quite the opposite. I’m a firm believer that if we can have both, then we should demand and expect both; but not at the cost of a myriad of other issues. And it’s this that, in the fervour of argumentative console wars, tends to find itself left out on a windowsill to rot. That we’re arguing over superficial cosmetics; when in reality, we’re being sold the same game as we got last year. And I wouldn’t suggest that was worth the £40 I paid for it.

At no point in Tomb Raider did I think it needed more visual fidelity, or higher framerates, or better resolution. I had quite a lot of OTHER complaints however; and most of these were to do with the structure and format of the game itself. The stop-and-start nature of it, coupled with frequent annoying quick-time events that required inhuman reflexes to guess from the off (often then resulting in glorifying the demise of Lara in a variety of grotesque and unpleasant methods) bothered me far, far more than anything the game did graphically. The simplistic puzzles and tombs were a nice thought; but shallow, and ultimately a little depressing. And that Square-Enix decided to imbue Lara with the supernatural powers of a certain order of assassins did nothing to make me feel I was exploring; the game basically tells you where things are and you go and get them. I don’t like being punished for a games shortcomings; Tomb Raider managed to both make impenetrable QTE’s AND make exploration/treasure hunting an effortless breeze. Quite an accomplishment! Although perhaps not something they’d put on the front of the box.

These are far deeper flaws; flaws which would be wonderful to hear them fixing, but of course, they aren’t. Nor are they adding any content; bar some new textures and a brand new Lara look (which makes Lara look less Lara than she’s ever been, I fear), this is the same game. And they’re going to ask you to part with £50 for that.

It’s not just Tomb Raider though; Capcom are pulling this with Resident Evil 4 as well. A game which has seen many re-releases, now coming in 60 frames a second. But with less of the visual touching up; presumably, once again Capcom are deigning to actually leave this in the hands of the PC modding community than get off their own tush and give it out of the box, but I digress.

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“Torture Porn” is a little strong, but with better graphics, the constant battering and murder or Lara Croft isn’t going to be any easier to stomach…

I’m sure Tomb Raider will look lovely; really, really lovely. But I can’t be the only person to sta… well, sit and raise my hand, to ask the question; “Uhh, why do I want to pay £50 for the same game?”

You see, the problem I’ve got isn’t with 1080/60, it’s that developers are making it out to be the only thing that matters in their games. As long as they get it, who cares about anything else, right? Well… not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve visited these problems before. Let’s bullet-point them quickly;

  • Games lacking content end up in second-hand racks sooner, leading to stunted sales.
  • Games which are skewed or broken end up being boycotted, or taken to court now.
  • Spending money to fix visuals when the visuals were not the problem is, frankly, the problem.
  • There are better games to spend time remaking.
  • There are stronger games in the companies library to be reinventing.
  • This money could have been better spent actually going into the next game in the series.

Somehow, I don’t think Square-Enix will get anything like the sales they want; no doubt there will be a very big selection of people who want to see the power of their shiny new consoles in full flow; believe me, I appreciate the sentiment. You’ve blown a big hunk of cash on that new machine, why wouldn’t you want to SEE it? To show your friends it wasn’t a waste of money! To prove that there IS a difference! To… I dunno… feel validated, I guess.

But eventually, the novelty fades – as it always does. We get used to the visual fidelity, the upgrade, the next gen. And then comes the next stage in a consoles life; it needs to demonstrate what it can do for games beyond mere superficial graphical grunt. And so far, no. No console has really pushed that boat out – not even the Wii U, as hard as Super Mario 3D World tried. We’re at the beginnings of a new era, but right now we’re being sold the clothes and promised the Russian bride sometime down the road. Some people do feel a little cheated out of the gates.

And loathe as I am, as an habitual early adopter of consoles, it’s probably those yet to buy the consoles who are getting the best deal. Because we’re going through this little circus, when really they can get the same game much, much cheaper.

Just remember in these discussions; is the game worth the 1080/60 investment? Is it really the fight to be taking on? If we were talking a new Uncharted, or the upcoming X reveal, or a new Halo then I’d perhaps be rather interested in the discussion; a lot of this is about what the internal studios can bleed from the stones inside the box, and internal studios are often the ones with the most space and time to get the best from their particular machines; I mean, if 343 Industries couldn’t get 60FPS from the XBox One for a new Halo game, I’d be rather concerned. But a game like Tomb Raider? Where a lot of us did it, got burned and left it alone? No. I think arguing over the framerate and resolution of a game like this is facetious at best; and dangerous at its worst.

Ordinarily, I’d advise not buying it; after all, why buy another version of a game you can get elsewhere? But I fear a lot of this is going to fall on deaf ears. The start of a new generation is always one of adjustment; and the vocal people right now want to visualise the improvement in their lives, irrespective of the actual quality or content of the product that demonstrates it. Personally, I’d rather not spend £50 on a game you can 100% in a weekend. But that’s just me. I expect… more for my money. But I always have done.

We’re paying more now for these next-gen games; at a time both the developers, manufacturers and retailers need the extra cash. Thing is, I’d rather not keep retreading the same damned boards unless they were deeply misunderstood the first time – such games arguably exist; Alan Wake, for example, is a game that took a few years before the sting of the hype was diluted enough from the tears of disappointment to get us through to an actually rather nice little horror game. That or enough distance has passed for the revisit to not look at all cynical or desperate; see Beyond Good and Evil, or some of the Gen-6 Resident Evil games. And even then; I’d struggle to justify a £50 expense on them. Even if they had been tarted up to 1080/60.

I’m sure Tomb Raider will be everything people want visually; they’ve had a year and heck knows how much to do this. But I doubt it’ll satisfy hungry, demanding gamers for long. Eventually those people will need, want and desire a substance that Tomb Raider just won’t be able to deliver. And we all know why Tomb Raider hit the second-hand rails hard last year; because the game is short in spite of the ridiculous QTE padding. What is Square-Enix going to do to ensure that doesn’t happen again?

If it thinks the looks will stop that, then it’s more worryingly shallow than I give it credit for. And if people believe this will save the game; they’re more worryingly shallow than I’d prefer to believe.

Some will argue this is the inevitable conclusion of a digital era; people who shout the loudest online tend not to have the best interests of the industry at heart. It’s true in a sense I suppose. Sometimes it’s the most selfish of people who demand the most superficial changes to please them, failing to consider the long-term ramifications of their demands. But either way; they’ll still get bored, and those games will often still find their way into a second-hand bin down at your nearest games specialist in the coming months. The brutal reality is, once again, making sure a product is desirable beyond mere looks. Giving people games they want not just to own, but to keep.

Maybe this whole visual thing isn’t a war worth fighting, if by the end of it, we’re going to just toss the damn things away…

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