A couple weeks ago, details leaked out (and were later confirmed) about the impending release of Dead Island Definitive Collection, a re-release of 2011’s Dead Island and it’s 2013 sequel Riptide. The week before, Capcom announced that in celebration of Resident Evil’s 20th anniversary, they will be releasing Resident Evils 4, 5 and 6 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The zombies these franchises are known for aren’t the only things being reanimated, as dozens of “remastered” games have been released since the debut of the current console generation in 2013. Consumers see this as a way for publishers to milk more money out of already released games. COO of Electronic Arts Peter Moore has come out and said that developers who follow this practice are only running out of ideas. So if the game-buying public and the worst company in America think it’s a bad idea, it surely must be, right? Perhaps not.
Remakes and remasters are certainly nothing new. Nearly every Final Fantasy game has been remade or re-released over the franchise’s 30-year history. The original Resident Evil was remade for Nintendo’s GameCube in 2002, then remastered again for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2014. Resident Evil 4 has seen itself release on half a dozen systems in the past 10 years. While there are obvious financial incentives for re-releasing a product with a minimal amount of work, I see that these HD remasters serve two purposes.
The first, and more obvious, reason is for consumers who haven’t had a chance to play the games to get caught up before new titles are released. I was able to play through every main Halo campaign in the months leading up to Halo 5 due to the Master Chief Collection, and I caught up on the story of Big Boss thanks to the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. I plan on doing the same with Uncharted before the new game releases in May. I’ve owned many of these games already, and perhaps even played through them, but these collections provide a tidy package for me to binge on the series so I’m all set for an impending release. No doubt Deep Silver had this in mind when they decided to bring Dead Island into the new generation. Perhaps they even had new Dead Island 2 developers Sumo Digital work on the port.
Which brings me to the second reason: remastered games allow developers a chance to become acquainted to new hardware before releasing their next big title. Before Uncharted 4 releases, Naughty Dog has already released two games for the PlayStation 4 – The Last of Us Remastered, and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, both updated versions of PlayStation 3 titles. In an interview with EuroGamer, Naughty Dog’s community strategist Arne Meyer said that getting The Last of Us to run at 1080p with 60 frames per second on PlayStation 4 was a test for what performance they could expect for Uncharted 4. While the work has been described as “really fucking hard,” hopefully it will result in a better performing game than those that other developers have released over the past couple of years.
While none of Bethesda’s titles have seen re-releases on current-gen consoles, it was the process of creating one that allowed them to release Fallout 4. Executive producer Todd Howard said in an interview with Game Informer that the first step in developing the game for current-gen consoles was to port The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to Xbox One. I doubt it will ever see a retail release, but the process of creating it allowed Howard and his team to get more accustomed to the hardware that would be the home of their newest title. Despite the underwhelming graphics, features and occasional glitches, had his team decided to build Fallout 4 from scratch, perhaps the game would not turned out as well as it did, or perhaps would not have seen release for a number of years.
The list of developers that has released an updated version of their games is staggering, but perhaps the list of ones that have yet to release a new title on current-gen consoles can tell us a bit about what we can expect. Gearbox Software, Square Enix, and Quantic Dream have all released existing games for the new generation while their new titles are still in development. Perhaps companies like Rockstar Games, Volition and Undead Labs have some new ideas up their sleeves, but want to make sure they can fully implement them properly before diving in. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have personnel not currently involved in the project to become familiar with the new hardware in hopes it would make the new game look and perform better.
Whether the intent is to fill a gap in financial forecasts or boost developer knowledge for upcoming projects, at this stage in the current console generation, these rapid-release remasters are here to stay. But just because it exists, doesn’t mean you have to like it, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to pay for it. If you’re sick of developers shoveling out the same shit, different device, put your money where your moth is an avoid them at all cost. On the other hand, if it has taken you this long to jump into a franchise, and you want to support a developer in their future products, this is for you. As for me, I’ll take any excuse I can get to play Resident Evil 4 one more time.