Capcom is remaking Resident Evil. Again.
Resident Evil’s 2002 Gamecube exclusive remake of the 1996 classic is, simply put, a masterpiece. It’s a master class in atmosphere, tension, survival horror level design, puzzle progression, and slow terror. It builds on the mechanics and design of its originator and improves and extends it in every conceivable way. It is perhaps the greatest “traditional” survival horror game ever made – arguably tied with Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 2. Twelve years after release, and two console generations’ worth of tech in the interim, it’s still absolutely gorgeous to look at, too.
Now Capcom are bringing that remake to this generation, last generation, and PC.
It is a remake of a remake, somehow updated to look contemporary for modern consoles. It will boast upscaled textures, enhanced (somehow) animations, and remastered sound. We’re still a bit sparse with the details, but it seems like some work has gone into polishing everything that’s there and making it shine – but no word on any actual new content, unlike what the first remake possessed.
No matter how good it will be (it will be AMAZEBALLS), and no matter how much I will lap up every second (like a starved kitten in a dairy farm), and no matter how eager I am to triple dip (yes I already have it twice), there is something to be said about the practice of remaking and rereleasing games.
We’ve seen a lot of it lately – more than any other generation leap before it. Not just tail-end last-gen games like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed 4, but also older games are receiving copious rerelease treatment – many with nothing more than a superficial upgrade.
The Last of Us Remastered released as a visually update bundled with the DLC to date. Metro Redux will be releasing with graphical enhancements and mechanics from Last Light ported to 2033, but no “new” content. While these are just two examples off the top of my head, it’s easy to see a pattern here.
I’m not putting down the effort put into rereleases. Clearly a lot of love went into rebuilding Tomb Raider Definitive Edition’s lighting engine and placing brand new (purely aesthetic) objects into the areas. Mechanical touch-ups to Metro 2033 are sounding great too. But they’re not really new content. They’re essentially prettier, slightly more playable editions of already released games, available for new machines.
And that’s okay. I don’t mind companies rereleasing games. I’m a huge supporter of the capitalist idea of the market sorting commercial products out, and if consumers want to buy rereleases, that’s entirely their choice. It’s a relatively low-cost way for companies to stockpile funds for newer, riskier business opportunities – read, awesome new games. And it’s a great way for consumers to pick up something they might not have been able to get before due to not owning older consoles – like me buying The Last of Us Remastered for PS4, since I didn’t have a PS3.
It gets a little problematic, however, when it becomes part of an ingrained culture.
Like, for example, with Capcom.
Capcom has a long, infamous history of rereleasing games. Capcom are famous for their various rereleases and updated and extended editions and hyper super mega editions – just look at the four different versions of Street Fighter IV.
Add to that the console/PC port of Resident Evil: Revelations, Resident Evil 5 Gold, and the latest PC HD rerelease of Resident Evil 4 (with an actually playable control scheme, so I’m told) and we have a pattern emerging.
I like choice. I like that I can play the previously Nintendo exclusive Revelations on PC. I like that RE 4 is playable without mods. And I like that REmake is coming to non-Nintendo platforms for everyone to enjoy. But they’re hardly the complete systemic enhancement we saw going from Resident Evil (original) and REmake.
What we’re seeing is slight touch-ups with little meat. I want the meat. I want to see new content. I want that massive generational leap I saw between the original Resident Evil and REmake, not just prettier graffix and bundled DLC.
Because the same game rereleased with prettier graphics and cumulatively bundled DLC only encourages one thing – waiting.
What’s the incentive to buy Capcom’s games on release when, in a few months to a year, we could buy a superior version of the same product for a (sometimes slightly) lower price?
I’ve been burned before. I bought one of the Street Fighter IV versions, only to have it superseded in a few months. I bought Resident Evil 5 on release only to have the Gold edition released six months later.
And now, I’m looking at the reREmake with a cynical eye. How long will it be until they release, say, extra costume DLC? And then a bonus Mercenaries mode? Then alternate character skins? And then a definitive edition with skins and costumes? And then an upgraded definitive edition with DLC and Mercenaries and trophies and social avatars and and and… I’ll stop before I give them any ideas.
It may not be like that. It may be different. But, based on past behaviour, I can’t help but be sceptical, I can’t help but question whether I should buy it on release, or in six months, or in a year, or never.
I think Capcom’s actually been rather restrained with this latest remake. After all, they only waited six years for the first remake – this time around they’ve waited double that. And it’s losing its Nintendo/Gamecube exclusivity, meaning all you PS2/Xbox owners can experience the joy of REmake.
And a remake of REmake leaves open the possibility of a proper, complete overhaul – a-la the original REmake’s new areas and enemies – for Resident Evils 2 and 3. Which would be just grand
Long story short – remakes aren’t inherently bad, but abusing the system with constant revisions and remakes of the same content and selling them for near-full price is consumer unfriendly and ultimately damages a brand’s image.
On a more celebratory note, this, by my (pretty rubbish) maths, is my 50th Only Speaking Professionally column. So, that’s a thing.
Thanks all for putting up with my random ramblings on industry related issues for so long. It’s been a fun ride thinking critically about what I see happen in the industry on a weekly basis. I hope it’ll go on for a good while to come, and that all the readers out there will get at least half as much out of it as I do.