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The Current State of Remakes and Remasters

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Resident Evil 2 Remake Remaster

What is the intention behind a remake/remaster?

When retrospectively looking at the eighth generation of consoles, innovation took a back seat to familiarity. Rather than forge a legacy of their own, each console found security within past titles to save them from hardware flops. From the beginning of this generation, Microsoft had shot itself in the foot so bad that it is just now recovering. PlayStation found success in Microsoft’s mistakes, only to have the first half of its lifecycle full of remastered titles. Nintendo is the only platform that can show for innovation this generation, however much of its success is bolstered by remastered WiiU titles.

Over the past few years, the gaming industry has looked familiar to many consumers that have been playing video games since early childhood. Along with new experiences that continue to shape and improve the medium going forward, the industry has titles that consumers and developers alike refuse to let go. For every Red Dead Redemption 2 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, exists a Skyrim and Final Fantasy. Remasters and remakes can do a lot to benefit the industry by contributing to fan service and even innovation, but often enough they find themselves tarnishing the memory of the game they desire to honor.

When the industry announces the desire to bring back an old gem, fans of the product are eager to revisit personal favorites. Along with that excitement comes skepticism towards how faithful the product will be to its original. Within the current generation of gaming consoles, the industry has shown a desire to both bring back older titles for consumer good will and capitalize on nostalgia purchases. During the eighth generation of consoles, the current state of remasters/remakes can be seen through the lens of fan service vs. profit driven.

Given the legacy of modern gaming and the majority demographic that invests so heavily in it, bringing back older titles that are honored within the industry should be a celebratory affair. Most recently, Resident Evil 2 was remade for the current generation of hardware with the full intention of bringing good will to consumers and fans alike. Capcom marvelously took the original 1998 classic and remade it for the modern era, breathing new life into the game as if it was a brand-new IP. Every square inch of Resident Evil 2 was crafted with care and devotion to the legacy it carries, and that is truly evident among consumers and fans.

As much success and good will Resident Evil 2 brought the industry toward reshaping the narrative of a remaster/remake, a multitude of examples exist where developers failed to dedicate enough care to similar experiences. Back in 2007, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released to consumers with overwhelming praise. Although not the first of its kind, the military-based FPS game changed the genre and forever influenced future titles. When Activision announced that the game was receiving the remaster treatment for the current generation of consoles, fans were overjoyed by the concept of revisiting one of the best multiplayer shooters of the generation.

When released, however, Modern Warfare Remastered proved to less of a love letter to fans and more of a cash grab. Having its purchase price originally locked behind a combo pack with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, MWR was instantly seen as a way for Activision to recover its projected sales loss from Infinite Warfare. Additionally, Activision’s desire to seek further monetization of a game from 2007 that originally lacked additional purchases provided further proof of its willingness to capitalize on fan nostalgia for profit.

Along with profit-driven desires for a remaster, certain developers within the industry are known for re-releasing a product in order to capitalize on a continuous revenue stream with little effort. This method is otherwise known as double dipping: the concept of having a re-released product or remaster solely for the purpose of making more money off an IP that consumers already own, under the guise of modernization and nostalgia.

Companies such as Bethesda with Skyrim and Nintendo with its entire retro lineup will release their products countless times on every new platform, marketing it as a new way to play an old classic. Skyrim has achieved meme status with its amount of ports, and Nintendo’s retro gaming lineup will always tug on a player’s nostalgia no matter which platform it is on.

Therefore, when is a remake/remaster a good thing?

Indie titles are becoming more accepted within the gaming industry due to the uneasy relationship that has been forming with big publishers and their business strategies. Their ability to expand on lesser-known genres, increasing their popularity within the industry, has changed consumer perception of a product numerous times. Many people within the industry thought platformers to be a genre of the past, until a small resurgence of fan support surrounding titles such as Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale began to emerge. Despite a mixed reception, these titles reminded players of the experiences they had in their youth on the classic consoles and sparked an interest in revisiting older titles.

The recent resurgence of traditional platformers has led to the revitalization of older classics for the new-age gamer. Originally released for the PlayStation, the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro series’ developed a cult following for their charming characters and simple but effective gameplay mechanics. Now, due to the increase in popularity for the platforming genre, Activision has completely remade the two series with modern visuals and mechanics. Despite cautiously optimistic reactions from fans, both remakes sold surprisingly well and proved to be a motion of good will towards consumers by Activision.

A few theories exist that could prove the success of these two remakes, given their dated concepts compared to what players are more accustomed to with modern gaming. One theory is that these releases would not have happened without the fan support of titles like Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale. Despite minor success with sales, Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale garnered enough support and coverage pre-launch to stand out among the competitive market.

Another theory is aimed towards the fact that gaming today is more popular than ever before. Now that gaming resides within the mainstream media, Crash and Spyro represent a simpler time of gaming where, since aging, many adults have had to leave the hobby behind due to life circumstances. In this case, these games are designed to be for everyone, bringing older members into the community that have not been involved with video games since childhood.

Aside from the two extremes of making a remake/remaster solely for fan service or profit reasons, a middle ground also exists: one that benefits both developers and consumers alike. Rarely in the industry, a developer will announce a remaster of a once-presumed dead IP. This announcement is done to signify the interest of the developer in making a sequel for future generations, while simultaneously gauging the current gaming environment for a sequel.

A recent example of this is with THQ Nordic and the Darksiders series. Thought to have been lost with the closure of THQ back in 2013, the Darksiders series was purchased by Nordic Games, which soon released a remaster of the second game in the franchise, subtitled Deathinitive Edition. Following the minor success of the remaster, Nordic Games, now THQ Nordic, remastered the first title as Warmastered Edition. Both of these remasters served as a test run for fan feedback surrounding the state of the franchise at the time, and with success, production of Darksiders 3 began.

The future of remakes/remasters.

Despite feeling as if they have been around for a long time, the modern concept of a remake/remaster is recent. As previously mentioned, the desire to remaster older titles for the current generation only gained steam during the eighth generation of consoles due to the sparse launch windows. With the direction of current gaming technology, the modernization of remasters will likely dwindle away. Imagining an industry free from remasters is difficult, seeing as they have been so prevalent during this generation, but with how successful services like Xbox’s Backwards Compatibility is, along with Steam’s native library retention, remasters might not survive beyond the eighth generation.

As aforementioned, Resident Evil 2 has proven itself to be a near-perfect remake by Capcom. The game not only encourages replayability with its multiple story lines, but its core gameplay mechanics are easily accessible and addictive. What Capcom was able to do with a game that is more than twenty years old is impressive, and now that it has been modernized with technology, is now finally the time to say goodbye? Has the medium reached a point where remasters during the current generation will be considered the definitive experience, and have it be the last time we see the game for the foreseeable future?

Given the success of the Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom has already expressed interest in the possibility of remaking Resident Evil 3. This would not only fall in line with Capcom’s recent initiative of modernizing the original Resident Evil games, but would additionally set a precedent for their future releases. Due to this precedent, the industry is now left to speculate which side of the franchise Capcom will prioritize. Will the company innovate and proceed on with Resident Evil 8, or will they continue to seek success within the past? Either way they choose, Capcom has found success within the Resident Evil franchise again, further built upon the good will they received from Resident Evil 7‘s return to its horror roots.

The finite capabilities of remakes and remasters stems from the belief that hardware technology has reached a plateau within the video game industry. In terms of visual fidelity, modern gaming has largely reached its apex, leaving only power and performance to be sought out. Although PC gaming will continue to be ahead of its console counterparts, the technological gap between the two is considerably small. Aside from virtual reality and augmented reality, modern gaming has reached experiences that are near life-like, minimizing the “wow” factor found in previous generations.

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Editorial

The PlayStation 5 Specs Are Beefy, But Not Entirely Necessary

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PlayStation 5

Six years have passed since the launch of the PlayStation 4, and, consequently, the launch of the eighth generation of consoles. Throughout this time the industry has seen a shift in how the medium is consumed. Nowadays, gamers are no longer forced to experience titles through conventional controller inputs thanks to the implementation of VR, while visual performance and optimization are at record heights given the current technology available to developers.

For well over a year now, rumors and speculations have sprung up surrounding the next generation of hardware from both Sony and Microsoft, with the latter being more open about its technological aspirations. Despite withholding true hardware specifications, Microsoft does not shy away from igniting conversations around its next systems (yes plural). Sony, on the other hand, has been extremely tight lipped on the topic, only hinting at the PlayStation 5 during a discussion on the success of the PS4.

Until now, consumers were left to speculate on the possibilities of what the PlayStation 5 will contain. To the surprise of many, however, Sony has unexpectedly opened up about the final specifications that will be found within the upcoming hardware. Lead architect on Sony’s next console Mark Cerny detailed how important this generational leap is for the company and what consumers can expect from its beefy machine. While confirming some rumors, and debunking others, Cerny expressed Sony’s desire for the new generation to allow “for fundamental changes in what a game could be.” As a bold statement by Cerny, this ideology will help Sony fall in line with the trajectory that other studios, such as Xbox, have had during the eighth generation of consoles.

For those who are unaware, the PS4 launched in 2013 to wide success, re-establishing Sony’s brand at the forefront of console gaming. Although the console became a household and media juggernaut, many tech-savvy individuals were quick to point out the flaws within its hardware. For example, much of the specifications that the PS4 touted were, in fact, already outdated at release when compared to high-end PC rigs. Despite the obvious limitations of console gaming, the choice of hardware found within the PS4 proved puzzling, as it was being marketed as a giant leap forward for the industry. Sony would later attempt to mitigate the ongoing damage caused by underperforming hardware with the mid-generation iteration of the PS4 Pro, though this attempt only served to extend the console lifecycle by another few years.

From the outset, Sony knew its largest issue was underperforming hardware, and, thanks to the information detailed by Mark Cerny, the community finally has some insight on how that will be addressed. For starters, the CPU found within the PS5’s hardware will use the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line which is a massive leap over the PS4’s Jaguar chip. Although I am not much for technical jargon within the PC economy, I do understand how much the Jaguar chip held back performance within the eighth generation, and I welcome the Ryzen with open arms. My only hope is that this upgrade will be enough to sustain the PlayStation 5 throughout the years and maintain its presence as a PC competitor.

Additionally, the custom AMD Navi GPU that will be present in the PS5 will support ray-tracing, a feature that only a few games fully utilize on PC, but nonetheless will provide a more realistic experience. Although this specific feature is a welcome addition to the console ecosystem, I honestly never expected it to be a priority. While having real-time accurate reflections within the environment will definitely increase immersion, I would personally desire a more optimized experience that will never falter during play. We will have to wait until more is revealed on the PS5’s ray-tracing technology, but I can only hope that it will not take priority over performance.

Building upon the implementation of ray-tracing with the PS5, Cerny noted that, for him, the audio technology present within the PS4 did not achieve the standards of a generational leap from the PS3. According to Cerny, the PS5 will implement 3D Audio, dramatically changing how gamers perceive sound within a video game. The inclusion of 3D Audio sounds like a well-deserved feature for PlayStation veterans. However, I feel as though this addition will only benefit those who have an entertainment setup that supports it. Unfortunately, individuals who resort to stereo speakers could potentially see no difference in how the audio is delivered from PS5 titles compared to those on PS4.

The interview also provided information surrounding the type of storage available in the PS5. As a much-needed addition, the PlayStation 5 will contain a solid state drive (SSD), which will allow for faster load times and experiences. As many PlayStation users know, the PS4 can provide some appalling load times, leading this issue to be a constant topic of discussion throughout the entire generation. The possibility of a game having long load times was so great that it often made headlines in video game’s media, pleading for action to be taken (Bloodborne anyone?).

Thankfully, information on the PS5’s hard drive capabilities does not require too much speculation, as Cerny provided an example of how fast it will be. According to him, Marvel’s Spider-Man, which has an average of a 15 second load time on a PS4 Pro, will have just 0.8 second load times on a PS5. No indication is yet forthcoming as to how consistent this technological feat will be across different titles, and I urge consumers to temper their expectations on the speed of the PS5 because only time will tell how efficient it can be. Regardless of my concerns surrounding inconsistencies, the PS5 will feature the fastest load times of any console before it, eliminating one of the greatest issues of the PS4’s hardware.

Bloodborne gameplay 1

In addition to the announcement that PlayStation 5 will have an SSD, Cerny confirmed a much-desired feature in backwards compatibility. Although this feature will not reach as far back as the competition, the PS5 will be compatible with PS4 titles, both digital and physical. This was to be expected—seeing as both consoles will run off the same architecture—but the silence from Sony proved worrisome for some fans, myself included. While I am disappointed that PS3 titles will not be compatible with the PS5, I understand that the cell processor of that earlier device would take more effort than it is worth to make games from the platform compatible. Regardless, PlayStation fans can rejoice in this news, as it further validates any investment into the PS4’s ecosystem.

Where I draw most of my criticism from Mark Cerny’s report on the specifications of the PS5 is within the idea that Sony’s next hardware will support 8K resolution. To be clear, I am not stating that such an achievement is impossible; rather I question the necessity of it. Given everything that we know about the PS5, one can assume that the system will cost around USD $500. With 4K televisions slowly becoming a household norm, is it worthwhile for a company to be devoting resources into a feature that will likely not be consumer friendly for years to come? I understand that Sony is at a disadvantage right now with the Xbox One X outputting at native 4K, but seeking to outdo the competition to this extent seems financially unobtainable for most consumers.

My concerns develop from individuals who hear the news of PS5 and 8K resolution and assume it to be the Second Coming. It is unfeasible to have a $500 to $600 console run at a native 8K resolution. Anyone who believes this will happen need look no further than PlayStation’s competition with the Xbox One X. At its launch, Microsoft was selling the Xbox One X at a loss, solely to prevent the console from exceeding the $500 mark and turning away consumers. Microsoft’s current machine is capable of outputting at a native 4K resolution, whereas the PS4 Pro can only achieve the same through upscaled checkerboarding. The PS5 will surely be able to output at a native 4K resolution, but to expect anything more with the current state of consumer technology is wishful thinking. I urge consumers to understand that if the PS5 has an 8K setting, it will likely be only achieved in the future and through a checkerboarded solution.

Spider-Man PS4

Given the rumors that the next generation of hardware will be the last, Sony may be trying to future proof the PS5 so that it can remain on the market for as long as possible. Given the information provided by Mark Cerny, Sony may be intending to utilize every feature of the PS5 to its entirety before considering what could come after. By future proofing the PlayStation 5, Sony can anticipate where the industry is heading, ultimately eliminating the need for a mid-generation upgrade with a PS5 Pro.

I have been a PlayStation fan for as long as I can remember, but have recently branched out with the Xbox One X and PC gaming to experience what those ecosystems have to offer. By broadening my horizons, I maintain an outside perspective on how Sony is upholding its promise to gamers and how the competition tackles similar issues created by an ever-growing industry. With the eighth generation nearing its completion, I look forward to discussions such as this one as it generates hope and excitement for the future of the brand.

While the PlayStation 4’s colossal success this generation will provide a jump-start in sales for the company’s new hardware, the beginning of a new generation only reinvigorates the console wars. As a firm believer in what both Sony and Microsoft will do to shape the future of the industry, I am reminded that competition breeds excellence. Furthermore, when competition is present between both parties to win over public appeal, in the end, consumers emerge victorious.

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