Welcome to PRESS START, probablyoliver’s weekly video game newsletter that has no rhythm and can't score above a C in Hi-Fi Rush. This week, we take a look at video game remakes and how you should always bet on nostalgia. We also see the slow, sad decline of the once great E3, lament what could've been with Titanfall Legends and ask whether Xbox's best bet for success is more out-of-the-blue shadow drops.
Back in September, a remake of 2013's The Last Of Us came to PlayStation 5, less than ten years after its initial release two generations prior on PS3. At the time, many questioned the reasoning for such a high profile remake of a game which was still considered not only playable, but phenomenal in its original state. As such, the game underperformed in its first few weeks on the market. Last week, following the premiere of HBO's incredible adaptation of the game to TV screens, gamesindustry.biz reported an incredible 238% increase in boxed sales of the remake, with new and old players alike flocking to play what was now considered to be the definitive edition of one of gaming's greatest modern classics.
Also last year, it seemed as though The Callisto Protocol, Striking Distance's debut game directed by veteran Call Of Duty producer Glen Schofield would be a sure-fire success, with the spiritual successor to Dead Space garnering more hype and interest than Dead Space's own upcoming remake. When the two games were announced as releasing just a month apart, it looked as though Dead Space could be forgotten entirely. Now, with both having released, it appears as though many had backed the wrong horse, and The Callisto Protocol underperformed both critically and commercially, whilst the Dead Space remake is already being hailed as one of the best remakes in recent years.
It's not an uncommon story, as over the last two generations, we've seen the release of multiple remakes and reimagining's, from a wide range of beloved classics. In the past five years alone we've seen remakes from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot, Resident Evil and even Final Fantasy VII, a game that's long been considered the white whale of remakes ever since its opening cutscene was used as a tech demo for the PlayStation 3. Whether critically, commercially, or both, these remakes have all seen considerable success, and all of them share one common trait, they have all been labours of love made by developers with a deep reverence for the source material. Whether these remakes have been 1:1 scale recreations of their originals (THPS, Crash Bandicoot, Shadow of the Colossus), or new reimagining's no longer limited to their original platform (Resident Evil 2 and 3, Final Fantasy VII), all of them understand what made the original versions so great, and have built upon their strong foundations to take advantage of newer hardware.
All of this is not to say there haven't been mis-steps in the remake market. In 2021, Rockstar released a 'definitive' edition of their highly revered PS2-era Grand Theft Auto trilogy, which bundled remakes of GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas in one package. At the time, it seemed too good to be true, and when it released in an almost unplayable state riddled with game-breaking bugs and glitches, the once infallible Rockstar found themselves in an unenviable position with no one but themselves to blame. The GTA remakes were considered such a disaster in fact, that Rockstar reportedly cancelled production on remakes of both Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, deciding instead to double-down on the development of future titles like GTA VI rather than risk further damaging their reputation with lacklustre re-releases of their past successes.
It has become painstakingly obvious when developers are looking for a quick cash-grab with a remake, and fans haven't been afraid to let their ire show when it comes to higher-ups messing with nostalgia. In September 2020, Ubisoft released a trailer for a remake of their much beloved 2003 classic Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was set to release just months later in January 2021. The trailer, with its poor animations and terrible sound quality, was so poorly received that Ubisoft hastily delayed the release, and almost three years later there's still no sign that the game is anywhere close to being ready.
Looking forward, there's multiple remakes on the horizon, and many more rumoured to be in development. There's Bloober Team's recreation of Konami's survival horror classic (and one of my personal all-time favourite games) Silent Hill 2, as well as CD Projekt Red's attempt to make-good on their catastrophic launch of Cyberpunk 2077 with a remake of The Witcher. In just a few weeks, horror heavyweight Resident Evil 4 gets a chance to shine with a fresh coat of blood-stained paint, and further down the line we already know there's modern recreations on the way of stealth'em-up Splinter Cell, legendary Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic, cult noir-classic Max Payne and, for reasons beyond our comprehension, Lollipop Chainsaw. No matter what you loved way back when, it's clear that you won't have to look far for a nostalgic fix in the future. Many of these games have a chance to do what some of the best remakes in recent memory have done, so long as they make them with the reverence and respect that their respective source materials demand.
Overall, as long as new, never-before-seen classics like Elden Ring, God of War or the upcoming Starfield keep pushing the industry forward, I have no problem with developers occasionally dipping into their back-catalogues to serve up healthy doses of nostalgia. The best remakes haven't just improved upon their originals, but helped to shine a light on the humble, hallowed ground video games come from, and as such have helped to show us just how far this industry has come, and for that I'm happy remakes exist.
It's been a rocky few years for E3, and it doesn't look like things are going any better after an exclusive report from IGN revealed that Sony, Xbox and Nintendo all appear to be skipping this years show at the LA Convention Centre in June. This year marks the first in-person event for E3 since before the pandemic in 2019, but whether it'll have enough to show without the three biggest names in video games today remains to be seen.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has been delayed six weeks until April 28th, as confirmed by a tweet from the official EA account. Way back in issue one of PRESS START, I spoke about how Jedi: Survivor has the opportunity to be one of the best games of the year, so long as it's able to squash some of the numerous bugs of 2019's Fallen Order. If this is what it takes to ensure a better player experience at launch, I'm all for it.
In more EA news, it appears as though a secret Titanfall game has quietly been cancelled, leaving fans devastated that they may have seen the last of the mech-based first person shooter. The game, which was codenamed Titanfall Legends, was set to be a single-player game combining elements of Apex Legends and Titanfall. This week, EA also announced they were 'sunsetting' Apex Legends Mobile in May, saying that the content had began to "fall short of that bar for quality, quantity, and cadence" that EA expected.
Following setbacks caused by Microsoft's recent round of mass-layoffs, it appears as though The Coalition has cancelled two smaller projects in order to focus on the development of the as-of-yet unannounced Gears 6. With a live-action movie and animated series courtesy of Netflix also in the works for the long-running franchise, it should come as no surprise to see Xbox doubling down on one of their most beloved franchises.
Insomniac Games are undoubtedly one of the hardest working studios in video games today. The Sony first-party developer have already released two fully-fledged games on the PlayStation 5 in the form of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales (as well as a full remaster of 2018's Spider-Man), and there's another Spider-Man game on the way and set to launch later this year. Now there are reports that they may be aiming for a 2024 launch for their next project, Marvel's Wolverine, with the game reportedly targeting a 'mature' tone and rating.
Although nothing concrete has been confirmed yet, it's been speculated that Amazon have bought the rights to the Tomb Raider franchise from Embracer Group for an eye-watering $600million. If true, this will be seen as a huge win for Embracer, who only bought the rights to Lara Croft's estate themselves a year ago for half the price. Amazon have already confirmed they'll be publishing the next game in the Tomb Raider franchise, and have also announced that Fleabag writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is set to write a TV adaptation of the long-running franchise for Prime, so plans to buy the IP outright should come as no real shock.
Lastly, in sad news, rest in peace to Annie Wersching, the actress most well known for her portrayal of Tess in 2013's The Last Of Us. Annie's performance was one of the highlights of the opening chapters of Naughty Dog's magnum opus, giving Joel and Ellie's journey purpose beyond the initial premise. Without her, The Last Of Us would absolutely have been a lesser experience. Her family have set up a gofundme which you can donate to if you're able.
Hogwarts Legacy releases on PS5, PC and Xbox systems this Friday, February 10th, and that's all I'll say on the matter.
This week's MAIL BAG question comes to us from Thrillhaus over on the probablyoliver discord (you can join that here!). If you have a question for a future MAIL BAG segment, feel free to drop me a DM on twitter @probably_oliver or in the discord, alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Hi Fi Rush shadow-dropped to great success last week, even outperforming the heavily marketed Forspoken. Do you see Xbox or other platforms releasing more games like this, and can it continue to be a success?"
There's nothing quite like a shadow drop, whether it's music, film, or video games, I've always been a fan of something releasing out of the blue. Hi-Fi Rush is a phenomenal example, and this last week has been fascinating to see people flock to a game which I feel would've got a fraction of the attention had it had the same, drawn-out marketing campaign that most games get. I've only had a chance to play through the first two levels so far (you have Dead Space to thank for that), but from what I've played, Hi-Fi Rush is a fantastic game, deserving of every bit of praise it's currently being lauded with. That being said, I think had it received a more conventional release, I feel reception would have been a little more muted. It's a game which has benefitted massively from its shock debut, and I think that's likely an exception to the rule rather than a reason for such releases to become the norm.
I do think we live in a world where games get announced far too prematurely, and I'd love to see games experiment with how they're marketed. Back in 2015, Fallout 4 was famously announced just five months prior to its release, and because of that, the post-apocalyptic RPG dominated headlines all the way up to its release. There was a sense of gravitas to its launch, and though the game itself played it pretty safe with its familiar format, its marketing campaign was unforgettable. In comparison, we've known about Bethesda's upcoming space RPG Starfield since 2018, and though I'm sure it'll be a rip-roaring success when it launches, I feel the hype cycle has somewhat stagnated with the very slow drip-feed of news we've had on it in those five years.
Last week I spoke at length about Xbox and their current identity crisis, and I think Hi-Fi Rush has been exactly the kind of victory they've needed if they're to compete with PlayStation and Nintendo going forward, but that's not to say shadow drops will work for them all the time. Looking back at similarly shadow dropped games, I think the only other major success story has been Apex Legends. Anything else has either been a game pre-established releasing on a different platform (Persona 4 Golden last year on PC, Hollow Knight on Switch in 2018) or has failed to generate any kind of significant buzz (Unravel 2). It's certainly a high-risk, high-reward form of marketing, but I think it might be a little too risky for Xbox to bet the house on in their current state. However, if they were to reign things in a little and borrow the Fallout 4 format for a few bigger titles, I think they could be on to a winner.