This latest generation of consoles is quickly becoming recognised for the constant influx of previously released titles that are receiving re-releases on them, these offer varying levels of additional work being carried out on them in order to keep them attractive for gamers interested in seeing their new hardware given more of a strenuous workout. With the next crop of big new releases falling further and further away from us (Remedy’s Quantum Break being the latest victim, falling back to next year), this glut of rehashes doesn’t look like it’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon, so, with that in mind, I look at some of the best games yet to receive this treatment, and explain why I think they should be propping up the dilapidated 2015 release schedule.
- Fallout 3
With Bethesda seemingly set to announce the latest entry in the Fallout series at this year’s E3, it’s still more than likely that we’ll have to wait until sometime in late 2016 to actually get our hands on the finished product, which seems like an awful long time to go without any kind of Wasteland fix (unless Mad Max can fill the void). To correct this rather grievous error, Bethesda could just knock together a “re-mastered” version of the game that we all know and love by converting the PC version to PS4 and Xbox One, packaging it together all of the downloadable content, such as the outlandishly good Point Lookout. This, surely, would help to tide gamers over in the meantime, and besides, who wouldn’t want to return to the ruins of Washington once again?
The desolate, haunting surroundings and burnt out shells of recognisable structures made the world of Fallout 3 an instantly recognisable and gripping setting, and the array of fantastical weapons and devious creatures provided many hours of hugely enjoyable, first person, action RPG gameplay. Besides, it also had Liam Neeson in it, and how awesome is that?!
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise then to know that there are many fans out there that consider this to be the greatest game of all time, and quite frankly, if that isn’t reason enough to get this behemoth brought out on our shiny new consoles, I don’t know what is.
- Shadow Complex
ChAIR Entertainment, more recently famed for their work on the iOS smash hit series, Infinity Blade, created two games for the Xbox Live Arcade between 2007 and 2009, starting with the ultimately disappointing Undertow, before developing an utterly brilliant, Metroidvania style platformer. In it, a man becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate the President of the United States, in order to prevent this happening he must take advantage of some seriously advanced military hardware which he picks up in dribs and drabs, allowing him to backtrack and access areas that were previously unreachable. The resulting game is one of the very best downloadable titles ever released, arguably setting the standard for all others to follow when it surfaced; the graphics were stunning, the gunplay was thrilling and the pacing was superb. To put it simply, Shadow Complex was nothing short of a revelation.
The downside though, was that the game was expected to be just the first in a series of releases for the Xbox 360, yet after the developer was purchased by Epic Games, no further iterations ever saw the light of day. So, to make up for their inconspicuous absence, an enhanced version of this Xbox Live Arcade classic would not only come as a welcome treat, but it would at least partially compensate us for the years that we’ve spent waiting on a sequel. Do it!
- Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol is a definite underrated gem, developed by the rather ropey Obsidian (though there’s no denying just how good The Stick of Truth was), this action RPG is an outstanding combination of James Bond and Mass Effect that, like some form of fungi, eventually manages to grow on you over time. Starting off with an agent that has no discernible skills is an entirely frustrating experience, yet as you progress through the game, earning skill points to assign to such vital abilities as being able to shoot a target smaller than a house, the game slowly begins to come together.
Much like Bioware’s incredible Mass Effect, players have moral choices to make that can affect the way that the diverse cast of characters react to, and interact with, the player. Additionally, there are also romance options to explore, numerous skills to unlock, new weapons to find and upgrade, and naturally, there’s also a planet to save. Ultimately then, Alpha Protocol somehow managed to end up as being one the most enjoyable releases of the last generation in my opinion, though it certainly could have been better (it was graphically poor for a start). However, there was undoubtedly enough about it to warrant a sequel to refine to formula and smooth out the rough edges, so there’s definitely more than an ample amount of qualities here to merit a re-release on our latest generation of consoles. Sega, make it happen, please.
Irrational Games’ Bioshock may have had a fairly poor ending, and the less said about its two sequels the better as far as I’m concerned, but there can simply be no denying that the first release was a brilliant, defining moment in the evolution of the medium. Combining stunning, Unreal Engine 3 powered visuals with superb gunplay and a variety of inventive plasmids (even though half of them were pretty much useless), the result was an absolutely spectacular first person shooter that truly ranks among the very best that the genre has to offer.
Arriving in the underwater utopia of Rapture, to the accompaniment of the Django Reinhardt version of Beyond the Sea no less (well, when you board the bathysphere anyway), the tone for the game is established instantaneously, and the player is drawn in just as quickly. It is a game of wonder that both reflects the time period in which it is set, yet creates an entirely new world of its own, and it is one that can instil a sense of awe within us as we creep further into the darkness below and discover what exactly when wrong in the city under the sea. There are so few first-person shooters that even attempt to tell a story, yet Bioshock truly succeeds where others have failed, and whilst the ending was a tad disappointing, it is entirely impossible to come away from it feeling anything less than overwhelmingly impressed.
The 2K Marin developed sequel was more than a tad weak by comparison to this opening foray, yet gamers everywhere were simply eager to return to Rapture again, and so it is that after such a lengthy absence, this famed city again calls us back to its once prosperous shores.
- Viking: Battle for Asgard
Developed by The Creative Assembly – the team famous for the Total War series – Viking: Battle for Asgard was a tremendously flawed hack and slash title that was filled to the brim with potential. Based on Norse mythology, Viking placed players into the role of Skarin – Freya’s champion – a mortal deigned to lead the Viking forces in a battle against the marauding armies of Hel, restoring hope to a land consumed by darkness. Reason enough already for a remake, right?
Well, the world of Viking consisted of three expansive islands that could be explored at the player’s leisure, during this adventure groups of Vikings could be discovered and saved, which would then be added to the total force that Skarin has at his disposal when engaging in larger scale battles against his enemy. There were also RPG elements that allowed the protagonist to be upgraded, giving access to a wider range of powerful attacks and combos that were essential in surviving one blitzkrieg after another. Battles could swell to become massive affairs with literally hundreds of characters combatting one another, and to top it off there were also strategic elements incorporated, such as the ability to weaken enemy forces by firstly targeting their shaman (they have the ability to summon other troops).
Of course, not all was perfect about the game. Graphically, Viking was quite weak, and the frame rate was even worse, there were audio glitches and it could be a tad repetitive, yet it is still something of an overlooked gem. A re-mastered version could surely correct a great deal of these issues and introduce Viking: Battle for Asgard to the audience that it truly deserves.
- Lost Odyssey
After parting ways with Square-Enix, the legendary game designer Hironobu Sakaguchi went on to form a new team with financial assistance from Microsoft, what this ultimately secured them – before they parted ways – was two exclusive JRPG titles for the Xbox 360 that the publisher hoped would help win over the Japanese gaming market. They didn’t. However, there is no denying the obvious quality of both of these games, the second, and most mature of these, Lost Odyssey, not only ranks as arguably the finest RPG of its generation, but one of the greatest ever created.
Whilst its Unreal Engine 3 powered visuals are an obvious draw, as is the spectacular Nobuo Uematsu score, it’s in the story telling department that this incredible game really raises the bar far beyond the reach of any of its competitors. Whereas Final Fantasy features a host of uninspiring, faceless and generally rather moody teens for its protagonists, the characters of Lost Odyssey had a depth that could put most films to shame. These creations were fully realised, fallible and vulnerable beings, dealing with themes of love and loss amid a backstory of political manoeuvring and an intriguing play on the industrial revolution.
It is undoubtedly one of Microsoft’s greatest secret weapons (nobody bought it after all), but sadly it could also be a tad glitchy and the frame rate was also somewhat inconsistent, so seeing it shining in 1080p and running at a rock solid 60 fps would be something that only the most wondrous of dreams are made of.
- Rez HD
Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his talented team at United Game Artists created a truly ground-breaking masterpiece on the Dreamcast when they developed Rez, an on-rails shooter with a cerebral twist. Yet, despite creating one of gaming’s greatest moments, there were a couple of features that simply weren’t possible to implement at the time, and so, when the opportunity arose to the re-master the game for Xbox Live Arcade, Mizuguchi pounced, allowing a high-resolution version (light years ahead of the Dreamcast’s 480p original) to be produced, with a stunning 5.1 soundtrack incorporated to perfectly compliment the beautiful, highly stylised visuals.
In truth, there’s not a heck of a lot that could be done to polish an already impeccable version of a perfect game, though it would be worth the price of entry simply to hear the stunning audio rendered at a slightly higher resolution, though this would be even more meaningful if both Microsoft and Sony hadn’t limited their consoles to handling just 48kHz/24-bit PCM and DTS. For consoles that are supposed to be the “all in one” entertainment systems, their inability to properly output the most common bluray audio codecs is something of a glaring oversight. Still, I love Rez more than almost everything else on this planet of ours, so I’d happily pay for it yet again, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in saying that.
- Crysis Trilogy
There are a few things that everyone that knows me can say with some degree of certainty; I have an unhealthy Blade Runner obsession, and I absolutely adore Crytek, the CryEngine and yes, Crysis. It’s therefore a given that I am desperate to see this great trilogy of titles re-released on both Xbox One and PS4 with some glossy new visuals, as if they weren’t already stunning enough though. If the Xbox One launch title Ryse did anything – though personally, I rather liked it – it was to highlight the power of the new CryEngine and merely hint at what it was possible to achieve with the Xbox One hardware, immediately then, I wanted to see something new, but more than that, I wanted to see Crysis.
Whilst the series certainly has its critics, nobody could possibly deny what incredible results the developer managed to crank out of the ageing Xbox 360 and PS3 hardware when they released all three games on the platforms, yet ultimately, there was still a world of difference between these and the high-end PC versions. Thusly, now that the opportunity is available, why not give console gamers the chance to see for themselves just how mesmerizingly beautiful these games can look by re-releasing them, I may have already bought them all twice now, but a third purchase isn’t stretching it too much, is it?
- Mass Effect
The original Mass Effect game was one of those demonstrated at E3 2006 to show off the gargantuan leap forward that the Xbox 360 represented over the one that had preceded it, and it worked beautifully. In the demo, a slightly different looking Commander Shepard interrogated a Salarian bartender on the Citadel to bring to life the new conversation wheel, and the insanely detailed character models, the likes of which had never been seen before. It would be well over a year before the finished game finally arrived in stores (November 2007), but was it worth the wait? Of course it was!
Its developer, BioWare, were already an RPG developer of some repute, yet the scope and vision of Mass Effect was jaw dropping to say the least, whilst the series would go on to become something of a pop culture smash hit, the games lost a great deal in the process. The original release was a much deeper affair, though certainly not without its faults, it was a game that constantly bombarded the player with new weapons and upgrades, it promoted inventory management and it also encouraged the exploration of distant planets both on foot and in vehicles. The sense of wonder that the game instilled was incredible, for what seemed like the first time ever, the player become a pioneer embarking upon a great quest to explore the final frontier, whilst the epic, universe saving storyline certainly helped a bit too.
Whilst the combat was a tad ropey, and some took offence to the repetitive nature of the structures that one encounters scattered throughout the star systems (evidently negating the fact that human outposts would invariably rely upon pre-fabricated units), the game was truly sensational, and despite the many times that I have finished it across multiple platforms, it still manages to send shivers down my spine each and every time that I do. Now, how many other games could I possibly say that about?
- Alan Wake
When David Lynch and Mark Frost created Twin Peaks, they didn’t simply craft the most forward thinking and ground-breaking television show in the history of the medium, they fashioned a truly breath-taking pop culture smash that is still as jaw dropping today as it was all those years ago. The series has obviously left an indelible mark upon the creative industries, yet out of everything that either owes a great deal to the show, or merely tips its hat in its direction, Alan Wake is undeniably the one concept that is truly brave enough to take on its mantle. And much like Twin Peaks before it, this cult classic – despite its underwhelming sales figures – is beginning to display its influence over the entire field of interactive entertainment.
The new Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark games, along with Osome Studios’ White Night all display a light and dark mechanic that harks back to this Remedy Games classic, though without copying it exactly. Utilising light to burn away an impenetrable shield of darkness, before sending the host careering into Hell with one of a variety of useable weapons is really only scratching the surface of what makes Alan Wake so good though, its protagonist also happens to be one of the finest video game creations to date; he drinks, has a probable painkiller addiction, suffers from writer’s block and his marriage is falling apart around him as a direct result. The world around him is just as detailed though, being a stunning recreation of the American Mid-West, the foliage, lighting and particle systems that enable this are still just as impressive today as they were then, and let’s not forget Alan Wake’s version of The Twilight Zone, Night Springs, which is a work of absolute genius.
I already own this on both Xbox 360 and PC, but I’d happily buy, and play it through a few more times on the Xbox One, now wouldn’t you?
Are there any other games that you’d like to see ported across to the Xbox One and PS4 that we haven’t mentioned? Well then, don’t forget to let us know in the comments and join our Facebook page for more!
James Paton @theblackpage81