What defines a remaster in this era and how does it differ from a 10 year old port?
More than a year ago, a rather odd trend began in the gaming industry. Various developers and publishers began to release “remasters” for their games. These weren’t 90’s era classics with a fresh coat of paint, much less Resident Evil HD on the GameCube (and oh the irony behind it in recent times) – these were essentially re-releases of games that had come out a year or two before the release of the Xbox One and PS4.
The trend really ballooned up by the time The Last of Us: Remastered came out. Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs were getting their Definitive Editions, Dead or Alive 5 was expected to hit the current generation and whatnot. In a hilarious decision, Capcom decided to release a “remastered” version of Resident Evil HD from 2002 and simply upped the resolution, cleaned up the cut-scenes, provided wide-screen support and Dolby 5.1 audio. There was no interest in overhauling the graphics like the HD version did with the 1996 PSOne title and wouldn’t you know it but this was still one of the best Resident Evil titles ever made!
"Of course some developers opt to bundle all the DLC with the original game, upscale the resolution and simply call it a day. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round are good examples of this…"
To be fair, many games that have released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 also had a PC version wherein higher resolution assets and graphical options were included. Why not re-release that PC version or at least spruce it up on current gen consoles and make some money, more than what was gained from a solitary PC launch? DLC could be bundled, some new content and costumes could be added, maybe Lara Croft could look a little different but for all intents and purposes, the idea was to not mess about with the visuals to an unrecognizable degree.
Of course some developers opt to bundle all the DLC with the original game, upscale the resolution and simply call it a day. Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round are good examples of this, and are virtually unchanged from their previous gen counterparts in that regard. The Last of Us: Remastered is considered a real “remaster” since it significantly improved the visuals while providing enough recent content for a fair price to appeal to PS4 consumers who didn’t have much to play anyway. Then there’s the recent DmC: Definitive Edition, a remaster of DmC: Devil May Cry, which includes brand new content and modes along with better visuals.
However, these games are still a far cry away from Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition where a conscious effort was made to remake every aspect of the game while staying true to the spirit of the original. Graphics were made from scratch, cross platform multiplayer was added but much of the essentials – specifically the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rule set – remained. And for its price, it makes for a far better deal than many of today’s remasters since this is one of the best damn RPGs ever created.
"On the bright side, at least some developers are gaining valuable experience in developing for the Xbox One and PS4, which will aid in their next current-gen only project."
“Remaster” seems to have become the new buzzword for what are essentially ports. Is there anything wrong with a port though? Should developers not be allowed to bring their most recent and high profile games to new platforms in order to recoup development costs? On the other hand, should a developer put so much effort into remastering a game and adding new content at the price of creating a brand new title or even focusing its resources towards an unreleased game? Take Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, for instance. Do the costs of remastering the game for Xbox One justify the preparation that The Coalition needed for developing Gears of War 4?
At this point, game developers and publishers can do whatever they want. It’s up to the people whether they buy it or not, voting with their wallets essentially. If The Last of Us: Remastered wasn’t successful, there wouldn’t be such a large number of remasters. If Resident Evil HD Remastered hadn’t become the most downloaded digital title ever, there wouldn’t be a mad rush to port the latest, half decent-looking classic. If games like DmC: Definitive Edition didn’t receive such critical acclaim, then there would at least be some hesitation based on critical backlash. There’s also the fact that many consumers who pick up an Xbox One or PS4 may not have owned either console previously. So why not cater to these users with AAA titles and make a little money in the process, as Gunfire Games did with Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition?
It’s all case-based at this point and ever developer has their own idea for how they want to handle a remaster. Some developers mandate their titles as “remakes” and go about recreating their vision from scratch while others add their DLC and the “remaster” tag. Which ones should be supported and whether the overall trend should be shunned are issues no one can definitively answer. On the bright side, at least some developers are gaining valuable experience in developing for the Xbox One and PS4, which will aid in their next current-gen only project. Of course, that will depend on how truly great games like Gears of War 4, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Rise of the Tomb Raider truly end up being.