Regular readers of PlayStation LifeStyle know that my feelings on the continuing announcements of last-gen games being ported up to PS4 are somewhat less than ecstatic. As an avid fan of PlayStation since the first time I played the original console in the mid ’90s, I have been expecting to get more out of this generation. I understand the reason for releasing HD remasters on the PS3, and in fact am an avid supporter of most of those titles. Let’s dig a little bit into the origins of HD remasters before I go on with expressing my distaste with the current methodology of doing ports on the PS4, and why continuing this trend is a bad idea.
The good part of HD remasters
HD remasters have been all the rage since the God of War Collection released in 2009 to resounding success. Releasing God of War and God of War II on the PS3 was a great way to build hype for the impending release of God of War III, and also introduced new players to games that they may not have had the chance to play them on the previous console. As the PS3 was a whole different beast when compared to the PS2, this was understandable. Trophy support was one of the biggest features added that was not present in the originals and gave many players a great reason to go back through these titles again. Whether you are a supporter of trophies or not, they have their place and are a major factor in many people making a purchase of HD remastered titles from the PS2 era. Many find that they just have too big of a backlog to justify the time or money spent otherwise.
There is also the matter of time between the original release and the HD re-releases of (most) games on the PS3. Final Fantasy X HD released nearly 13 years after its initial release in 2001. This meant that returning players had a whole new outlook on the game, while also bringing it to an entirely new audience that may not have even been aware of its existence more than a decade ago. Waiting this amount of time to bring a beloved series back to light is more than acceptable, not to mention the wonderful job that Square Enix has been doing with their own HD remasters.
Since 2009, if you consider each HD collection to be a single title as opposed to multiple games, there are less than 40 HD remasters on the PS3, most of those being very beloved old franchises that are being given a new life, trophy support, and introduced to a new crowd of players that may never had had the opportunity to play them on the PS2, or perhaps were not even old enough to hold a controller yet. Us old dogs can reminisce about our days playing these classic franchises, while giving the new generation of gamers the opportunity to experience them first hand. They also often prepared everyone for the latest releases in each respective series or franchise.
So why are ports such a bad thing now?
When the first HD collection released on PS3, the console was three years into its lifecycle. It had established itself, gotten a collection of games to identify by, and the majority of the HD remasters didn’t release until five or more years into the PS3’s life. The PS4 has been on the market for less than a year, and already there are more than 10 titles that are ports up of mostly recent PS3 and/or Vita games. This does not include games like Fez that were never on a Sony console but are still not new games, yet to be released HD-remastered ports like The Last of Us, or rumored PS4 HD collections like Mass Effect.
As of this writing, there are just over 50 games released on the PS4. More than half of those titles are made up of ports or multi-generational titles that span both the PS3 and PS4. The PS4 has very little in the way of self-identifying content to really convince gamers to move into the new-generation of consoles. In fact, there are some developers that aren’t even convinced that it is worthwhile to develop in the new generation of consoles yet. So while people who never picked up a PS3 may be excited that they get to play The Last of Us on PS4 only a year after its PS3 debut, they will have to watch the new Borderlands title get released on the last generation with no current plans for a new-gen version.
I don’t fault Gearbox for their thoughts that developing for the PS3 is the smarter route when it comes to making money. The PS3 has plenty of life left in it and is a very strong console. There are in excess of 80 million of them out in the world, so it makes sense to develop for that very large install base, but while the PS3 is getting brand new games like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, my brand new, powerful PS4 is stuck getting the “Definitive Edition” of the Tomb Raider game that I have been playing for the last year already. That’s not defining content. That’s cashing in on existing content that is less than a year old. Where are the risks? The huge franchises? The things to show gamers the true value of upgrading their console?
I don’t want the PS4 to be a rehashed, HD version of the PS3’s glory years, especially when a lot of those titles are no more than a couple of years old. I want the PS4 to be able to stand on its own two feet. While I’m sure The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 is going to be absolutely stunning, we should be looking forward to what the architecture of a brand new system is capable of producing, not looking back on last year’s game of the year and literally copying it over. As early adopters and supporters of the PlayStation 4, we deserve better than that.
With so many ports of last gen’s games, it could bring into question the feasibility of PlayStation Now. What is the point of a service that can stream games as a solution to lack of backwards compatibility, when we are just going to get reworked HD-ified versions of the biggest and best of these? Perhaps this trend will slow down as the PlayStation Now service becomes more prevalent, but for the time being, it feels like Sony may spreading things a little too thin, while reaching too far back instead of looking forward.
I’ll argue in favor of ports to PS4 for a moment to show that I am not completely ignorant to some of the positives of them. Yes, they do allow people who never had a PS3 to play some of these games. I understand that many people came over from owning an Xbox 360, or even skipped last generation altogether. This is a great opportunity for those players to play games like The Last of Us that they might have missed otherwise. I also understand that the games do look better in HD (or further HD than they were originally…), but what if we continued to release the games every year with new graphics? Where does it stop? Do we release it again next year with even better graphics when they unlock more power in the system? Can The Last of Us on PS4 win this year’s game of the year? Fine, I’m getting a little off track and ridiculous now, but you see my point.
Success in identical repetition is not continued success. That’s stagnancy, and the PS4 is caught in a mire of it. Building upon previous successes and paving the way forward is the only way to truly get the drive needed to generate change, advancement, and differentiation to set the PlayStation 4’s identity as a console of its own, and not simply a “PS3 successor”. In 1o years, when these recent PS3 games are classics, bring them back around in the same way that the PS3 successfully did HD remasters. Graphical overhauls will really make a difference then and there will be a vast variety of players that either want to dive back into these games or want to experience them for the first time. But for now, let’s let the PlayStation 4 be the PlayStation 4.
What do you think of HD remakes on the PS4? Feel free to continue the discussion here in our forums or in the comments below.