The Problem With Reboots

Are They Really Worth It?

Reboots, also called “reimaginings”, can be an amazing way to rejuvenate a series. We have seen this with the likes of Wolfenstein and DOOM in this generation. However not all reboots are a success, and some leave us with a familiar but ultimately worse experience. This could be down to companies looking to make a quick hit from a famous IP, but sometimes it’s simply down to a lack of ambition or understanding of where a series began.

The Idea

Doom 2016 in game screenshot
DOOM (2016) was a remake success for id software

The idea of reboots is perfectly fine, if they follow a few golden rules. For me these are:

  • Stay faithful to the series/game you’re rebooting. If the original was trying to send a certain message, you should be too, even if it is in a different way.
  • If a set of characters aren’t best friends in the first game but become friends as the series goes on, then they shouldn’t be friends in the first re-booted game. This would make the characters feel bland and leave them without character-arcs.
  • Finally, you need to use some of the same locations, and if you’re going to replace/add new ones then they need to be as good as the others.

Some people would definitely disagree with this. I’ve heard the argument that if a game is a reboot, then the developers have carte blanche to do whatever they want with it. With this logic you could take any popular series, make an entirely new game that’s completely unrelated to any past title, and slap the name on it just because it’s a “reboot”. It makes no sense, and could lead to a point where you’ve completely alienated your audience for no good reason.

I’m not naive enough to believe that everything in a reboot should be exactly the same as the original. Of course, elements will need to be changed so that the series can evolve. However, if you’re rebooting a series you must be loyal to the original ideas or messages trying to be sent. If a developer doesn’t do this, then there isn’t much point in a reboot. They could have started a new IP altogether.

The Execution

Some series (like the previously mentioned DOOM and Wolfenstein) are brilliant examples of perfectly executed reboots. However, some haven’t been as perfectly executed. In fact, some have been terrible. For example, take Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and Ratchet and Clank (2016). These two titles weren’t necessarily bad on their own, but branding them as a reboot of two beloved series was ultimately an awfully bad idea by both DICE and Insomniac.

Star Wars Battlefront (2015)

Star Wars Battlefront Cover Art
EA’s rebooted Star Wars Battlefront missed the mark

The original Star Wars Battlefront games released in 2004/2005 are both known for their incredible amount of content and all-round solid gameplay. The reboot that was released in 2015 was basically a “Star Wars Battlefield” with game modes tweaked to fit the universe. This game was also solely based in the original trilogy era, which made it completely lack in content compared to the original games which allowed you to play in the Clone Wars era as well. This meant that not only was there less maps and mode variety, but so many heroes and villains were now unplayable which for many is one of the main draws of a Star Wars game.

If this game had been released under a different name, I honestly would have given it a lot less criticism; I did enjoy it at times. However, this was labelled as a Battlefront game, and I really didn’t get that feeling from it at all. The 2017 sequel Star Wars Battlefront 2 would eventually fix many of these issues, but even at release the second game didn’t quite live up to the originals.

Ratchet and Clank (2016)

Game play image from the 2016 reboot
Ratchet and Clank was poorly rebooted in 2016

Unlike Battlefront (2015) which had some redeeming qualities, Ratchet and Clank (2016) is the most prime example of how to screw up a reboot. You want a story that completely ignores the message of the original game it is trying to reboot? This has it. You want a game that basically turns into the very thing the original was making fun of? This is the one. You want a game that completely ignores the grand overarching narrative of the original and the smaller, but still incredibly important, character arcs? You’re gonna love this.

Can you taste my sarcasm? The original game that this ‘reboot’ completely rips off is one of my favourites of all time. The first game had everything going for it. So when I heard that there would be a reboot that reimagined the first game, I was incredibly excited. Skip forward to its release in 2016, and I was left bitterly disappointed. All my favourite characters were there and they looked great. The levels looked even better with most of them staying really faithful to the original.

However, I got one taste of the story and I realised this wasn’t the same game I played as a kid. No longer is there this consumeristic satirical undertone sneaking its way in to every cutscene. Ratchet and Clank don’t argue constantly throughout the game anymore, and instead are just best friends from the beginning. They barely even say a word to each other throughout the game. In the original, to get to the point where Ratchet and Clank become friends, you’d have to play the entire game and see their relationship grow. It was almost like a reward for finishing the game. Whereas in this new title, they just kind of already are friends even though they’ve never met before. This game just sucks every bit of life out of the original and replaces it with a movie tie-in cash grab. Honestly, it’s just sad.

Verdict

Spyro Reignited trilogy in game screenshot
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy was a successful remaster

Reboots are not a bad thing and, when done correctly, I’ve absolutely loved them. However, I do feel that they are always a risk. For example, why make a reboot when you could simply make a new game in the series and take it in a new direction, or start fresh with a new IP.

I feel like remasters/remakes are a good way to go for a series that is still running regularly and is still beloved by fans. Take Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot as examples. They both struggled to maintain successful sequels after their original trilogies on the PlayStation 1, but following ‘from the ground up’ remasters they were back to being household names. In contrast, the Ratchet and Clank 2016 reboot really pushed the series in the wrong direction altogether.

Overall, I believe we will keep getting reboots as new technology comes out. I just hope developers can learn from the mistakes of previously mentioned titles.


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