A few years ago, Crystal Dynamics released ‘Tomb Raider Anniversary’ after buying the rights to the franchise from Eidos soon after ‘Angel of Darkness’ was released in 2003. The game is a direct remake of the 1996 classic that changed 3D adventure gaming forever. It was reasonably well received for a developer finding its feet for the franchise that year and the subsequent games in the series built on this. The question that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is whether developers have started to run out of ideas and originality. Worryingly, Anniversary has triggered several other developers into doing similar remakes.
Console gamers should be worried even more as the Playstation network plan to release HD versions of classic games. This may be fair enough if the upgrade is charged at maybe five to ten pounds but to release them at a full price of £40 is ridiculously excessive considering that it is still the original game just with new textures and sound effects. The even more worrying trend is that console gamers will lap this up which will only spur on the developers to re-hash even more classics. They would never ever sell even a tenth as well on a PC because of the outstanding modding community. Halo: Combat Evolved is about to be re-released on the Xbox. I love this game on the PC and if I want to upgrade the textures, I’ll be able to download a mod within two minutes and play it for free. But to pay £40 for the remake? No Chance.
The Black Mesa mod for the original half-life is redoing all of the textures, sound, physics and even some engine changes and it will be released for free. The modders have a love and enthusiasm for HL so see it as a fun challenge that will be appreciated by other PC Gamers so a price isn’t necessary. They do have an option to donate to them which a lot of us have done to keep them going in anticipation for such an incredible amount of effort.
The more aware readers will be shouting at their monitor now “What about the Source remakes? They cost money!” Yes Valve did release remakes to an extent. Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Half-Life Deathmatch and Day of Defeat all received a run through the at-the-time brand new Source Engine. These are all classics of PC Gaming so fans addicted to the series were very excited about playing them in one of the greatest physics engines ever to sit on our hard-drives. £5.99 Valve asked for. That’s it. No more, no less.
Another reason this is a much better release system than that on consoles is that HL was released in 1998 so a remake of it in an engine made with 9 years worth of advancement in developing was a significant change. The God of War series being released on the Playstation is a remake of a 5 year old game and the only difference in hardware changes is that of the generation of consoles. The amount of upgrades a PC could have in the period of time is infinite so the difference in gameplay and textures would be staggering.
If we want to avoid seeing this becoming a trend, we should ignore these ‘HD’ remakes and just purchase games with a bit of imagination and originality before the developers and publishers can realise that all they have to do to make a bit of cash with extremely low effort is to re-draw the textures for a few weeks. Will this end up turning into what the film industry is today, when a classic Hitchcock is remade horrendously badly every couple of years? We want to avoid a world where Doom HD, Quake HD and Duke Nukem HD sell better than the likes of Braid, Portal and Trine.