2014's 2012 Game of the Year, or, The Caustic Nature of Re-Releases


Last November, the PS4 and the Xbox One hit store shelves. It was a pretty big deal. A lot of clamoring about the arrival of "true next-gen" and "the new generation" was going on, and the console war between two big systems was at a fever pitch. Never mind that, you know, this console generation had already been kicked off by Nintendo a year earlier, or that PC games already were doing the same stuff these consoles would do, and most likely do it better. But I'll admit it, I bought into the hype. I was ready for the big games, the flashy graphics, the innovative new features. I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Fast-forward to this November. You know what the most anticipated game for both these "next-gen" systems is? Grand Theft Auto IV, a game that came out last September. This is hot off the heels of next-gen releases of Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider, and The Last of Us, to name a few, not to mention upcoming releases like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Saints Row IV: Re-Elected. Remember all those games you loved the first time? Why not grab 'em again, for a full sixty bucks? Even ones that came out last year, or the year before that? Welcome to the next generation, folks... I'm already sick of it.

For one thing, these games are coming out way too soon. For perspective, Tomb Raider came out initially last March, while the definitive version hit store shelves in January. Granted, there was a next character model of Lara, and the game was absolutely gorgeous, but it was still the same experience. Just remarkably prettier. The Last of Us: Definitive Edition came out a little over a year after the first release, and Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is just packing in all the DLC, then cranking up the graphics settings to "Very High" and calling it a day.

Now, HD Collections were one thing, and even then, I was pretty weary of them after a while. Still, you usually got 2-4 games bundled into one set for a budget price, and sometimes even more than that. It was a pretty snazzy deal. That's not the case anymore, though. If you want these new editions of the same games, you'll have to shell out basically the same price you would have when you bought it a year or two ago. Barely any extra content is added, either. You're buying the same game twice, pure and simple. And that's a straight-up rip-off for people like me, who already had a PS3 or 360, or a good gaming PC for that matter.

This image is starting to ring true for me, after all these years.
I'm not saying these re-releases are all bad, of course. Like I said, they can be very pretty. They have occasional new bells and whistles. But they're still the same experience. The same plot, the same missions, the same world, the same this, the same that... I loved paying money for the game the first time around, but the second time? Nope, no thank you. Occasionally, I'll feel it's worth it. Tomb Raider at its highest settings won't run on my PC, and that was a front-runner for my 2013 Game of the Year, so sure, I'll pay the 30-40 bucks they want for it. Saints Row IV will pack in all the content I didn't get around to downloading, along with Gat Outta Hell, so yeah, maybe I'll buy that.

But how long can they keep this racket going, is what I wonder? That's only two of the numerous retreads that are coming out, and you'd think people would be sick and tired already. But no. They're lapping it up like obedient little consumers. People are legitimately excited for Grand Theft Auto V, saying things like, "oh, man, I can't wait to experience this again!" or "it's gonna be like playing it for the first time all over again!" No. No it's not. It's the same damn game with the same damn story and the same damn world with the same damn characters and the same damn missions. Okay, maybe they added new music. So what? Do you know how much money Rockstar has at their disposal? Do you really think it's that hard to license 100-200 new songs? I rest my case.

And the companies push it like some new, second coming-type deal, too. I got an email when the PS4 version of The Last of Us hit store shelves, an email from Sony. You know what the subject line was? "Games like this is why you bought your PS4." No joke. No lie. I could probably still find the email, if you don't believe me. See, it's this kind of shit that gives me trust issues. I didn't get a PS4 to play the same game I did a year ago. I got it for the same reason I got a PS3, or a 360. To play, y'know, new stuff. Stuff that wasn't possible on the old systems. And the thing is? I know these new systems are capable. I know they can render some beautiful graphics, give me huge open worlds, show me some new, complex features. I've seen it.

No, not you.
But I've seen a lot more re-treads, a lot more "let's just gussy up this old game and plop it out for full retail," than I have, say, any Wolfenstein: The New Order, or inFamous Second Son, or Alien: Isolation. And it's disheartening. We've spent a year lapping up the same stuff we spent the last 2-3 years lapping up, and to me? To me that doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem fair. Sure, next year looks like it'll be punctuated by more new releases, even stuff that (gasp!) won't be available on the PS3 or 360, but I dunno. I just feel jaded, I guess. I feel like this is what the industry has come to. Well, except for Nintendo. Somehow, they still know what they're doing. But hey, the Wii U is a failed console, right?

Actually, that's what makes me saddest. We live in a gaming landscape where people are more excited about a re-release of a pretty good Grand Theft Auto entry from last year, or some generic online-only shooter by Bungie, than they are about Bayonetta 2 or Captain Toad or any of the several, several great games coming to the Wii U.

That's pretty fucking depressing, if you ask me.

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