I recently finished my first playthrough of Resident Evil HD Remaster, tenebrous readers, and I can safely say it gave me precisely what I wanted. But what has the remastered version set the table for in the future? Especially considering this is Capcom’s endeavor, the company responsible for more re-releases than any other, what has been set in motion by this game’s release? Well, it would be one thing if the game did not sell particularly well but in point of fact it sold fantastically. It sold the best on PSN where the game broke records for the fastest selling digital release as well as the biggest day-one digital release, and I am sure it sold similarly on PC (where I bought it) and Xbox Live. And for good reason, the game remains a great exemplar of the now-anemic survival horror genre.
With few high profile examples in the field, titles like The Last of Us stand mostly alone, survival horror has been mostly disserviced or simply unserviced for a long while. Thankfully Resident Evil HD was released to act as a temporary oasis amidst glancing blows at the bulls eye like The Evil Within. RE HD‘s sound and visual style are conveyed surprisingly well to a high definition platform, getting rid of many of the GameCube’s glaring limitations while also adding new features and content to the offer. The new play control method functions more or less as a learning tool for people who have not or could not get comfortable with old tank controls. And while I think the new control scheme has more drawbacks than not over the originals, I welcome their addition as I would any other options of its kind. The puzzle designs and enemy encounters have all be left unchanged, the extra unlockables remain precisely where they were but with a few more costume options, and a couple of online leaderboard features were sprinkled on top for good measure. Having played through the GameCube version at least a dozen times, I had a great time noticing all the little details a standard definition game struggled to elucidate.
But it worries me that this game is not the guiding light it should be. As I mentioned, knowing the pedigree of the company responsible for this re-release (of a remake), I feel the lesson learned was not to make more games like this, given its success, but to re-release more games like this. Or, quite possibly, Capcom will look at these results and simply re-release more games in general from the early 2000s. Now, I am not wholly against this prospect. And given what else Capcom has been up to of late, and the treatment of anything that is not Monster Hunter, I suppose this constitutes an improvement. Worse yet would be that this success, borne mostly on the backs of buyers starved for content, will be construed by other publishers as a genuine appetite for re-releases. While the market might indicate this at first blush, it would be shortsighted to push that envelope. In time, if not nearly already, re-releases and remasters will be about as welcomed as another Minecraft clone. I admit that some old sixth generation titles do deserve to be given that fresh coat of paint, with hopefully some new extras added in, and I could probably devote a whole article to which games I think deserve the treatment. However, when we are already seeing remastered versions of games released only a year ago, I can only imagine what to expect next.
There is, however, an interesting wrinkle to be found in remastering older games for today’s market. Games like Resident Evil HD are notably focused and complete packages in comparison to modern AAA releases like Evolve. The comparison to modern gaming is almost damning of the chopped up content served today with extraneous online modes or half-assed DLC campaigns. While people might buy these things up, the numbers do not lie about RE HD‘s success, which make clear that those things are not what is driving sales. I would posit that modern games sell well despite all of the publisher’s anchors thrown around neck of the game. Much like TV commercials, these niggling addons become more and more invisible to the buyers until they do not realize that gaming was not always this way. It would be a fine comeuppance indeed if in the mindless push for more remasters of old games, consumer distaste for modern games’ monetization methods were soured. It would be very much like this industry to serve itself its own demise on a platter. While DLC and online features can be done right, they are hardly necessary and a break from them is a respite I look forward to even if it is based on false pretenses.
Have you run aground of any remasters yet, fine fellows? Do you plan to? Let me know what your thoughts are about my concerns over this as a booming trend in the comments below. Then feel free to remaster those comments in my HD re-release of this article in 2016.