It wasn’t a surprise when Rockstar announced they would be remastering one of the games in their vast, infamous, catalogue – many assumed GTA 4 would be one to benefit from a facelift. It would certainly be the easiest one to bring up to today’s standards – it’s only one console generation behind its successor and would definitely benefit from smoother animations and better vehicle controls (don’t hate me).
But when it was announced that we would be getting not one, but three remasters from the classic 3D era of GTA games, we all collectively hoped that they might actually be good. Running through the OG San Andreas sandbox as CJ, racing across the streets of Liberty City (which, incidentally, I was more familiar with back then than I was navigating through my own town), or speeding around the docks of Vice City, but with the smooth animations and graphical improvements of GTA 5. It could have been great.
And it’s not like we haven’t had some great remasters in recent years – Mass Effect Legendary Edition was well received for its improvements to the first game, and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy even won an award for Best Remake/Remaster at IGN’s 2017 awards. It could be argued that public perception of video game remasters were at an all-time high, and it wasn’t as if Rockstar didn’t have the capabilities to pull something good out of the bag.
Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to even the lowest bar people had set for it. In the weeks after the release of GTA: The Trilogy, there have been countless complaints from players, targeted at its poor optimisation, terrible graphical “improvements”, and the numerous bugs that impact play. The complaints have been so bad, in fact, that Rockstar was forced to issue a public apology, promising improvements to each game in the trilogy, and giving out the original games, for free, to those who had spent their hard-earned money on the remaster.
But despite all the issues at launch, I’m not completely against the idea of a GTA trilogy remaster. I would much prefer the games industry to head in the direction of remaking old classics, than for them to release remaster after remaster for games that only came out ten years ago and that add nothing of any real value to the experience.
I’m looking at you Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls Skyrim Anniversary Edition appears, at first, to be great value for money. But when you take a second to think about it, you realise it’s not. At all. Now bear with me with this one.
The game includes all of the creation club content that has been released so far, which does seem like a great deal at first, but then you realise that everyone that bought into the creation club when it first came out, has already got all the content that interested them. Everyone else decided that they’d rather not pay for mods they could get for free, and that was that. But then the Anniversary edition came along, bundled all that content together, and asked us to pay for the game again. It’s like when a supermarket puts things on ‘sale’ – it’s not really a sale, they just spent the last few weeks artificially inflating the prices, and now it only seems like a good deal. But here’s the thing. You weren’t going to buy it anyway, so you haven’t actually saved any money.
At least the original GTA games came out over two console generations ago – sure Rockstar could have done a far better job bringing them up to today’s standards, but at least they didn’t decide to remaster GTA 4 instead, which I believe, at this point in time, a remaster would be wasted on.
We all know that remasters and remakes aren’t going away – that’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it simply is and we, the humble consumers, can do nothing to change that. But what we can do, is influence how the games industry will tackle them in the future. Do we want an endless supply of “remasters” that marginally improve the graphics and add a one-button fishing minigame, or do we want truly great remakes, that can elevate the original, introduce new people to the game, and also offer a brand-new experience for the veterans.
I truly believe that some games are worth remastering. They offer new players the opportunity to experience great stories without having to struggle through clunky controls and graphics, and they can give long time players a chance to feel like they are experiencing the game for the first time again.
When I hear about the threats and harassment Rockstar developers have received in recent weeks, from so-called “fans”, it infuriates me. The arrogance of these people, who demand perfection from developers who constantly work overtime, don’t get paid enough, and still manage to put their all into the finished product, just for executives to rush release, is baffling to me.
Sure, Rockstar dropped the ball when they released GTA the trilogy: the Definitive Edition, it didn’t live up to expectations and it didn’t do enough to justify the £50 price tag, but that doesn’t mean the people who worked on it should be subject to harassment.
And it doesn’t change the fact that some of these classic games deserve to be remastered. We wanted these games, we asked for them. But please, don’t half-arse them.