Hypothetical HD Remasters: EA Edition

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While I was thinking about the other big Japanese publishers in this discussion I suddenly realized how seldom Electronic Arts has done HD remasters. It’s released basically two: Medal of Honor Frontline HD, and the PS3 version of Dead Space Extraction. There are at least several more that either I or enough other people would probably find worth buying.

Maybe EA just doesn’t believe in the idea of HD remasters. I’m kind of surprised a company like EA isn’t at least trying to pump them out to bilk more cash from consumers. Let’s say they actually did try to do this though. There’s certainly no shortage of games and franchises they could re-release, improved by modern hardware.

Mass Effect

The most obvious choice. A lot of people seem to already believe EA will bring out some kind of Mass Effect HD trilogy thing to the PS4 and Xbox One before the next game comes out. It just makes too much sense. An EA employee on NeoGAF already talked about his own ideal aspects of such a collection, which go in-line with what most other people would expect: all three games in 1080p at 60 frames per second, all DLC included since the current trilogy pack includes none, higher-resolution textures, and all three games wrapped into one seamless story.

I personally would ask for a little bit more, but just a little bit. First would be one little thing almost no one has mentioned — some freaking anti-aliasing. None of the Mass Effect games has it on consoles and if I recall the first two don’t have it by default on PC either. This is why I’d want not only “definitive” editions for the new consoles but PC as well. Give us PC versions with better textures, AA, and controller support for those who want it. Including all DLC on PC would mean even more than for console buyers because Mass Effect DLC on PC has never dropped in price — it’s still locked to BioWare points.

Some people talk about going back into the first Mass Effect and giving it combat more like its sequels but I personally hate that idea. I prefer the first game’s attempt at a space RPG, flawed as it was, to the third person shooters we got for the sequels, but that’s another discussion. What I would like to see BioWare do however is tighten up the first game’s menu interface. It was horrible on Xbox and Demiurge Studios made it slightly less horrible in the PC port, but it’s still bad there. They should take this as one last chance to make Mass Effect have an actual good RPG interface.

Dead Space needs some new textures.

There’s actually not a whole lot I’d like to see done to a hypothetical Dead Space collection for the new consoles outside the obvious 1080p and possible 60fps improvements. All three games are pretty tightly put-together as-is (except Dead Space 3’s crafting and microtransactions). The games don’t really feel like they could use a lot more content.

However, if you played Dead Space on PC at any resolution higher than 720p you know its textures simply don’t hold up. I usually don’t download texture mods but Dead Space is one game for which I’d make an exception if somebody made one. From this and basically everything else Visceral declined to do with the PC ports of all three games (like fix the mouse controls and vsync) you can tell they didn’t mean for Dead Space to be played anywhere above 720p and 30 frames per second. HD remasters would change this.

Medal of Honor

Since Warfighter, the Medal of Honor franchise has sort of been dead, or at least in limbo. When they moved mainline Battlefield games to consoles and EA decided it needed a military shooter to go toe-to-toe with Call of Duty, MoH became redundant. Some could say the franchise became redundant as soon as the team that used to work on it formed Infinity Ward and created COD. I say step one of finding a new place, if MoH ever does find one, would be reminding consumers and the developers what the franchise was.

EA already remastered one MoH game but I’m thinking about something a bit more comprehensive. I’m sure there are far too many games in the series to bring them all into one big remastered collection but I’m sure they could determine what the favorites are. The franchise turned 15 this year, and collections already exist to look back to.

Ultima (Underworld)

EA technically still owns publishing rights to all the Ultima games and already makes them available on Good Old Games and Origin. However, for how influential the Ultima series is — RPGs both western and Japanese wouldn’t exist the way they do today without it, it’s almost never spoken of today, especially in the realm of consoles. What I’m thinking of is some kind of Enhanced Edition series similar to what Bemadog has been doing with Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. I just don’t know to what extent this would be plausible.

Enhancing the games on PC would be one thing, but making the games playable on controllers (their original PC editions that is, not the old console ports) is a whole other challenge. Maybe it might make sense if they came up with a new graphics engine on which to graft the first eight games and then work from there. Eventually they could work out something similar to what Square Enix has done with the classic Final Fantasy games and is currently doing with Dragon Quest.

I’m most interested however in Ultima Underworld not only due to how influential it is to today’s first person games, but also the ways in which it still holds up. UU and its sequel have gameplay features and design that basically haven’t been repeated or surpassed in the 22 years since they came out (some of which are impossible without a keyboard). Playing it for the first time not too long ago I still intend to go back and give the original another shot, so I know it’s worth playing today. I just keep thinking of how great it would be to be able to play it with modern controls and at modern rendering resolutions. It might be the one PC game for which I which I most want to see a source port.

SSX

We’re getting out of the realm of plausibility here simply from the fact that EA’s extreme sports games licensed lots of music they’d never be able to re-license. EA tried to bring SSX back but the most recent PS3 and Xbox 360 entry has pretty much been forgotten. I think an HD remaster collection would remind both them and other people what the franchise used to be about.

Really though, I’d be fine with just a remaster of SSX 3. Looking back, that game still holds up really well in terms of its gameplay and especially the amount of content packed in it. When the 2012 SSX came out I remember thinking SSX 3 still felt like a superior game, and that I would have bought a remaster of that over the new game. This is part of the reason I like remasters — sometimes a developer just can’t top a great classic, even many years later, and sometimes it’s just better to keep that classic available on modern hardware than wasting effort making new games that end up being worse. It’s why SOCOM fans just want an HD version of SOCOM 2 at this point instead of any new games. It’s why people still play Counter-Strike 1.6 after 11 years. For EA, I think SSX 3 is one such game. HD remasters are really just an answer to the problem of the conservation of console gaming’s history.

EA’s other extreme sports games

Music licensing holds back games like Def Jam and NBA Street just as much as SSX, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the first two Def Jam and NBA Street games still tower over their sequels. They are games that I still contemplate buying PS2 copies of if I ever come across them.

Def Jam: Fight For NY was almost the the last gasp of AKI — the company that made everybody’s favorite wrestling games and everybody wishes would return to wrestling games. NBA Street Vol. 2 is probably one of the best arcade basketball games ever due to its gameplay and soundtrack. I guess the best options for playing these heavily-licensed classics in high resolution on today’s hardware is emulation.

Then however you’ve got franchises like Road Rash and Mutant League. People have clamored for a new Road Rash for ages, even suggesting Burnout and Need For Speed developer Criterion Games for the job. EA should at least bring back the old games in the series in some kind of collection on GOG, Origin, PSN, and Xbox Live. Same goes for Mutant League.

Crysis

Okay EA doesn’t actually own Crysis — Crytek would have the last word on this (and would probably develop the collection), but EA would almost certainly publish it. The reason for Crysis is simple: the three games never got the console versions they deserved. Simply put, none of the Crysis games were ever meant to run on PS3 and Xbox 360. The console versions of those games are the palest imitations of the PC originals. The graphics in the  console versions of Crysis 3 are actually worse than the lowest settings of the PC version. The PS4 and Xbox One could quite simply give these games the representation they should have had on consoles. Such remasters probably still wouldn’t match the PC versions at maximum settings but they’d be a lot closer. The real prize however would be the original Crysis and Crysis Warhead.

When Crytek ported the first game to PS3 and 360 it actually ported the game to CryEngine 3 — a much more reasonable and smooth-running engine than what it was originally built on. They just never brought that CryEngine 3 version to PC. A PC CE3 version of the first Crysis would be the ultimate version of the game. It would look better and run better than the original version. We would also want Warhead ported to the latest version of CryEngine.

TimeSplitters

This is really just me and a bunch of other fans yelling for this, and the same rules as Crysis would apply — Crytek would actually decide to do it but EA would probably publish. For years we’ve begged for a new TimeSplitters or at least freshened-up versions of the old games, and every time FreeRadical/Crytek UK goes through financial trouble our hopes are further dashed.

Why do we still want these old games? Mainly the multiplayer. It’s the closest thing that exists to GoldenEye’s multiplayer outside the Xbox 360 port of Perfect Dark in terms of the overall feel of the maps, weapons, and rules. If re-released today it would still have a unique feel. If you didn’t have an Xbox and thus access to Halo during the PS2 era, TimeSplitters was one of the best multiplayer shooters you could play. Then you have that map editor, which games today just don’t do anymore outside Far Cry.

Crytek did give its blessing to this one guy who’s doing some kind of PC mod-based effort but we have no idea what that’ll amount to.

To reiterate, I’m sure EA will push out some kind of Mass Effect remastered collection within the next few years but not much else. There’s a lot else in the company’s history that would have value however and is well within the realm of technological reason.

BULLETS:

  • If you don’t have Red Faction Guerrilla, get it now because it’s $3 on Steam. If you do have it on PC, it’s time to reinstall it because they just removed GFWL from the game. Oh, and when you beat the game, please try out the “super sledge” cheat.
  • Nine minutes of new gameplay for else heartbreak. http://t.co/UZcG35hylz
  • Amazing new Skyrim total conversion. http://t.co/oT2HF1S0L7
  • A while ago I hoped bigger unfortunate events outside the world of gaming at the start of this holiday season wouldn’t color the whole thing. Looks like that was too much to hope for.
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