The gaming world is turning into Hollywood: it’s being populated more and more by remakes. Like any production, original or remade, the motivations behind these creations vary. Sometimes it’s merely banking off of the success of an already-established franchise, and we’ve of course all heard the accusations that game producers are running out of ideas. However, there’s another possibility: current generation game engines offer opportunities to give older games a makeover, and present them in brand new forms.
From the humble beginnings of video games, dating back to the Pong era, to our current-gen eye candy, video games have evolved greatly. While visuals might be the most notable change, the entire gameplay experience has in fact shifted greatly to become increasingly immersive. Graphics, of course, contribute to this feat, with high-resolution 1080p and 4k visuals, but it’s more than that. Most modern game engines, like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, Crytek’s Cryengine, and Unity3d’s engine, support offer a bevy of options to developers, allowing them to recreate aging titles for modern audiences.
Most of the major game engines implemented forward-thinking features to accommodate for dev trends. The past few iterations of the Unity engine, including version 5.3, included VR optimizations and tweaks. Unreal Engine 4 prominently highlights virtual reality as well, with updates for the Oculus Rift, Vive, Steam VR, Samsung Gear VR, and PlayStation VR. Crytek is also championing virtual reality, producing a strong lineup of beautiful, immersive VR titles. Cross-platform development is made easier with each new iteration of such game engines, and simple controller configuration support means developing for consoles and PCs, as well as touchscreen devices, is even easier. The fact that Unity and Unreal are offered completely free encourages developers to experiment, creating mods, demos, and community-created content aside from indie and AAA releases.
Graphically, video games are capable of presenting cinematic experiences, with life-like images. Recent releases such as Resident Evil HD Remaster, and Resident Evil 2 Remake, ushered players back into familiar territory with the creepy old mansion, looking far more menacing in HD. Similarly, the renowned Final Fantasy VII is receiving the remake treatment via Epic Games’ powerful Unreal Engine 4. A post on the Unreal blog discusses the forthcoming FFVII update, and how revamped graphics will highlight character development, and emotion. Still other updates include features like virtual reality (VR) support and native controller compatibility. Half-Life 2 can be used with select VR headsets and after 10 years Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II received a beefy update with controller support and 4k visuals.
Yet, it’s not just companies pushing out remakes and remasters. The development community at large has taken advantage of new game engines to produce a slew of neat projects. By making engines free to download, companies like Epic and Unity have thus encouraged devs to experiment, and we’re seeing loads of reboots. YouTube user CryZenX concocted a few sweet Mario and Sonic demos. Jude Wilson swooped in with a fantastic Goldeneye 64 re-imagining. ArtistArtorias whipped up a gorgeous revamped version if The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Kakariko Village level. Clearly, the desire to experience old games either once again or for the first time, in re-imagined iterations, isn’t simply being pushed onto players by game development companies. It’s a trend being perpetuated by organizations and individuals alike.
However, just like their film counterparts, it’s necessary to bring something new and innovative. For every “The Thing,” or “The Fly,” there’s a “Conan the Barbarian,” or “Total Recall.” Some remakes aren’t necessarily better than the originals. For game developers, implementing HD visuals, adding new (better) control schemes, VR support, and trophies are usually ingredients for a successful remake or remaster. Of course, certain changes, like monetization, censorship, and sex appeal might hurt a remake, as this hilarious list from Cracked explains.