Maybe We Don’t Need These Expensive Video Game Remakes

Maybe We Don’t Need These Expensive Video Game Remakes
Image: Max Payne 2

As video games get more expensive to make, and publishers grow ever more adverse to taking risks with that expenditure, the last few years have seen a growing trend of old video games being made new once more.

I’m not talking about a quick port to let people play an old game on a new system. We’re all used to that, that’s fine. I’m talking about blockbuster, lavish recreations of classic games, rebuilt from the ground up to essentially look and play like modern releases. Think Final Fantasy VII, or Resident Evil. Or even Max Payne, whose announcement today contained the following line tucked away in its press release:

The game’s development budget will be financed by Rockstar Games, the size of which will be in line with a typical Remedy AAA-game production.

My first thought on reading that was: wow, that’s a lot of money to remake a couple of games that weren’t that popular, and which are still available and playable today. My second thought was: maybe that money and time could have been spent making a new Max Payne game instead? Or even a new video game entirely?

You don’t need to tell me why this is happening. I know why. Publishers want to sell video games but don’t want to take risks, so remakes of classics with trusted brand names are a safer bet. What’s more, if you want to test the waters with a potential new audience, see how an older property can resonate with a younger crowd, this is a good way to do it.

But I’m not here to talk about the way things are. I want to talk about a way things could be better! This obsession with the past sucks! These games have been made and released already, for a time, for an audience, for a platform. People played those games, those experiences became a part of the time, leading to sequels, then Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Control. None of that took place in a vacuum. It happened on a timeline, at which we’re now at the part marked “2022″.

Max Payne is a game released in 2001. Max Payne 2 is a game released in 2003. That’s where they came from and, from their design to their writing to their messages, maybe that’s where they belong. Hell, for all its other flaws 2012’s Max Payne 3 is built around an acknowledgement of this, that ten years later Max was an older, sadder man, a slower relic of a former time.

I’m not saying that a new take on old Max Payne games will suck, or be a “bad” release that you won’t enjoy playing and that you shouldn’t buy. I’m just saying — bear with me — that life on this planet is finite, as are its resources and our time on it, and I can’t help but think in weird zero-sum terms that every time one of these big remakes is announced that a publisher’s time and money could be better spent on doing something new instead.

While there’s always some comfort to be found in revisiting old favourites, video games to me are a medium at it’s best when it’s pushing the boundaries, using advancing technology and design principles to craft new and exciting experiences. Not, in this and an increasing number of other cases, giving old games a glow up.

There’s not even an argument here that these games give players a chance to play something they couldn’t otherwise experience on modern hardware (an angle which I never buy in these cases anyway, since that’s a consequence of the industry’s utter negligence towards true game preservation). The Max Payne series was born on PC, and both 1 & 2 are still available on Steam. Or at least they are in some places; late last year both games were delisted in many regions around the world, in a move eerily similar to that pulled by Rockstar before they yanked the older versions of Grand Theft Auto games and replaced them with the upsold, deeply busted remastered trilogy.

I know there are holes in my argument, mostly from publishing standpoints, because I am just a guy who enjoys video games, not someone paid to make or sell them. I’m not here to present a bullet-proof vision of the future, or a water-tight criticism of current business plans. I’m just a guy who enjoys video games, who sometimes wishes, in that weird zero-sum way, that the money being spent on rehashing old releases could be spent on making more new stuff — like Max Payne was back in 2001 — instead.

Comments

  • Remakes are really no different to someone releasing yet another sequel, like another Call of Duty, or one more sports game that barely has any changes but the number in the title.

    And yet this drivel framed as some highbrow philosophical take about how, “Time and resources on Earth are finite, so maybe we don’t need Call of Duty 36…” strangely never seems to come up. Strange that.

    I’m not generally a fan of remakes/remasters/reboots almost purely because they’re usually done so piss poorly it turns out to be a disappointing waste. But people can enjoy what they want long as it doesn’t harm others, so take the gatekeeping shit elsewhere.

    Especially when your gatekeeping is almost entirely based on a personal opinion of, “I don’t think X thing was very popular.” Because straight up, if they were as unpopular as you apparently believe they wouldn’t be getting remakes. Hell, the series wouldn’t have even gotten a third game.

    • The “not really that popular” line was weird to me too. I remember, especially the first game, being a huge deal at the time with massive hype. And the second game, with it’s increased polish and better writing, I thought was pretty widely accepted as one of the real classics at this point…

      Also amusing considering Luke keeps publishing 2042 articles for both of the people still playing it…

      • “for both the the people still playing it…” literally lol’d at this. nice one.

        side note: haven’t touched 2042 in months, but as a tank main luke’s gonna be reeeal unhappy with the new balance changes (one fewer per team, and the bolte’s moved from transport to armoured vehicle…bliss)

  • Nah glad to see them get a revamp. Max Payne is a deadset classic – mild spoiler: the bit where he gets drugged is especially good, blew my mind when I first played it – bit long in the tooth for sure but yeah, great game. Second one wasn’t as good but still stylistically excellent. I even loved the third one, despite the move away from the noir setting and the comicbook narrative sections from the previous games. Maybe they’re testing the waters too? If there’s sufficient interest maybe we’ll one day get to see a full on noir detective prequel, or maybe ‘Max Payne 4: Drunk in the Caribbean’ (or is it ‘A Drunk in the Caribbean’? idk, either/or works lol)

    Plus a whole new generation of people getting to hear “IT’S PAYYYNE” over and over again – huge win. It’s up there with “JAAAAYSON” as one of my most memorable repetitive gaming lines.

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