XBOUK’s Top Five of the Week
We all have them, don’t we? That list of games that we’d love to play through again, but that life and new releases just tend to get in the way of? The ones that you loved first time around for various reasons. Maybe you even still have the Xbox 360 discs kicking around – in spite of the knowledge that you’ll probably never switch your 360 on again as backward compatibility takes more and more ground from under the games on the shelf – and you keep them anyway.
Well, I’m just like you. I’ve got loads of games that I’d love to play again – except I don’t think I actually want to play them again. What I really want is a new, updated version that stands up to or even surpasses the rose-tinted version of these games that I carry in my memory. A version of these games that will look as good as I remember them looking. In this eighth console generation that is becoming synonymous with HD remasters, these are the games I’d like to see getting that treatment.
The Halo games are all seemingly in the process of being remastered. Halo: Combat Evolved was first, while Halo 2 was dramatically upgraded for its inclusion in 2014’s Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Halo 4 and Halo 5 are new enough not to need it, and no doubt Halo 3 will get the treatment in due course. Which means, to my mind, that the Halo title that probably deserves it most is still in limbo when it comes to the HD treatment.
Launched in 2010, Halo: Reach was Bungie’s swansong – the last Halo game they made before handing off the mantel to Microsoft’s own 343 Industries and diving full bore into the development of Destiny. In fact, it was playing Destiny 2 that really reminded me of just how good Halo: Reach is, as there are a lot of tonal similarities between the games. Reach always felt like Halo’s very own The Empire Strikes Back. It doesn’t end well, and Halo fans always knew it was never going to. However, the fact that the inevitability of the ending hangs over the campaign without ever diminishing it is testament to Reach’s single greatest strength – and that’s the characters who are all doomed from the moment they appear onscreen. The gameplay was up to the usual Halo standards, and the multiplayer was also exceptional.
The idea of replaying that epic campaign, but with Halo 5 standard visuals, is a really appealing one. I might get something in my eye when Jorge stays onboard that Covenant ship again, too.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Castlevania’s first foray onto the Xbox 360 nearly wasn’t a Castlevania game at all. Originally conceived under the title ‘Lords of Shadow’, the game was picked up by Konami and released in 2010 as a soft re-boot of the long-running game series. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a linear masterpiece – so linear in fact that the game featured a fixed camera. The visuals were stunning for the time, and the sweeping orchestral score by Spanish composer Oscar Araujo is one that I still listen to regularly (“Belmont’s Theme” and “Waterfalls of Agharta” being particularly standout tracks). Developer Mercury Steam oversaw a game that broke many of the existing rules of the Castlevania franchise but ended up being a compelling entry in the saga nonetheless. The game was praised at the time for its environmental puzzles and level design, but some people weren’t bowled over by the combat. The Xbox 360 version was big enough to span multiple discs, and included the voices of Patrick Stewart, Jason Isaacs and Robert Carlyle.
For my part, I loved the dark edges to the story and the sheer length of the tale it told. A sequel was released a couple of years ago – and was one of many sequels of that generation that were ruined after being forced into an open world that was never required by the game, the story, or the fans. Maybe a re-release would expose it to a whole new group of fans, especially in light of the recent new Castlevania animated series on Netflix.
Il 2 Sturmovik – Birds of Prey
There’s a real shortage of flight sim games this generation – which is something that makes me want a remaster of Il 2 Sturmovik – Birds of Prey all the more. 505 Games released this one all the way back in 2009, and it’s just begging for an HD remaster. With game modes that vary difficulty from arcade shooter almost right the way up to actual flight sim, there was plenty of variation. The real thrill though came from the revolutionary damage modelling. There were moments in that game, in where you’d be tasked with flying back to an airfield and landing at the end of a mission, after surviving huge dogfights in which tracer fire, oil, falling planes and engine parts would seemingly fill the sky. You could glance around and see the tattered remains of your Spitfire’s wings and wonder whether or not you were going to make it back alive.
The exhilaration of shooting down Messerschmitts, Ju88’s and Stukas over the White Cliffs of Dover was incredible, with the sound effects and overall sensation of the game all adding up to make the experience memorable. Later on the game visits the various other theatres of WW2, ending up in climactic battles over the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944/early 1945 – the same phase of the war that’s due to be revisited shortly in Call of Duty: WWII. A fully upgraded current gen version of this game could be a force to be reckoned with. I for one would pre-order it in a heartbeat.
I liked Fallout 4 when I played it – but for me it paled in comparison to Fallout 3. The Bethesda Game Studios game swallowed my life back in 2008, and was the first game to actually sell me on the concept of DLC, as by the time the credits rolled I was so invested in the world that I simply wasn’t ready to consider leaving it.
It was a game filled with memorable moments, from the Blood Ties questline to watching the (optional!) destruction of Megaton from the top of Tenpenny Tower. Equally memorable were the characters – Moira Brown’s endless quirky optimism was an inspiration in the early hours of the game, and some of the companions will never be forgotten. Especially Fawkes, who fell in battle and whose body I never found… lost forever along with the Fatman nuke launcher I’d stashed in his inventory.
Looking back at it now though, Fallout 3 hasn’t aged particularly well on the graphics front. The idea of having an opportunity to play through it again but with the visual fidelity of Fallout 4, or of the remastered version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is certainly attractive. “I don’t want to set the world on fire”, or so the song said. Except in the case of Fallout 3, I enjoyed doing exactly that.
Transformers: War for Cybertron
Transformers: War for Cybertron was an Xbox 360 game that I absolutely loved. I’ve been a Transformers fan since I was a kid, and I guess my love for them is something that no amount of awful Michael Bay movies can diminish. When I played the game back when it released in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as good as I hoped it would be. The action was satisfyingly chunky, the animations as your bot transformed were perfect, and the ability to transform on the fly the icing on the cake.
The one change I’d demand from an HD remaster of this one would be the art style. Don’t get me wrong – the game was pretty enough for the time it came out, with big detailed character models and massive environments. No, the request has nothing to do with what the art style was, and instead everything to do with what it wasn’t. The game and the story are great – but if it could be updated to the cel shaded art style of the later (and decidedly middle of the road) Transformers: Devastation, you’d have the absolute best homage to the 80’s cartoon that a geek like myself could ever want. And I bet I’m not alone in that either.
Actually, now I come to really think about it, one more thing would be needed. A thing that really defines the Transformers for those of us who are a… certain age. “The Touch”, by Stan Bush, in the soundtrack. This one will absolutely never happen – High Moon, the studio who made the game, are now one of the main studios working on content for Destiny 2.
So, if money or commercial reality had no say in the matter, which games would you want to see remastered and why? Hit us up in the comments below!