Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost: I hate lists. I hate multi-page lists and I hate spam lists that seem like they have a catchy headline and no content therein. However, every once in a while it seems like there’s too much to say about too many games to do individual articles, so it just makes sense to do a list. This happens to be one of those occasions.
With so many games getting HD remasters it won’t be long before ultra HD (in 4K) remasters come along. We can definitely expect a lot of rehashed, lazy ultra HD ports from seventh gen or games that launched in early eighth gen to reemerge as an ultra HD port on the Xbox Scorpio or PS4 Pro (with a tacked on PC port for good measure), but there are actually some genuinely good games from sixth and seventh gen that I would love to see in ultra HD, sporting improved graphics, high-quality shaders, top notch lighting, and higher fidelity assets and models.
Assassin’s Creed III
At the top of the list is Ubisoft’s controversial Assassin’s Creed III. This game represented the absolute bloat of AAA productions, costing millions upon millions of dollars to produce and featuring approximately 1,000 people across multiple studios to bring the title to life. Hearing about the costs used to make me sick, but after playing the game it became apparent exactly what they were spending the money on.
Assassin’s Creed III is a sprawling open-world sandbox with lots of stuff… lots and lots of stuff. The game has a lot to do, so much so that it can be overwhelming at times; that’s actually a good thing. You can tell the environment artists and the modelers put a lot of time and love into Assassin’s Creed III; it’s a dense, richly detailed game. It’s for this reason that an ultra HD remaster would serve the title well. Part of what took me out of the experience was the less-than-spectacular character models and some of the environmental effects that really highlighted the limitations of the PS3 and Xbox 360’s hardware. It may be a controversial title for some due to certain design philosophies put into play, but visually the game has the structure to be a timeless masterpiece. The costs of making all the assets in ultra HD would be astronomical, though.
After Hangar 13 Studios and 2K revived the Mafia franchise six years later with Mafia III, it became quite evident that they didn’t really know how to recapture the magic from 2K Czech’s 2010 brilliantly told mafioso drama. Mafia II was a story-heavy game that relied a lot on the atmosphere of a fictional Empire Bay, which seemed like a mix of New York and Chicago. The game is an instant classic just for the story pacing and mission designs. It’s a roller coaster of thrills and drama and it’s one of the reasons so many people are stripping away their appreciation of Mafia III by comparison.
Nevertheless, instead of trying to capture lightning in a bottle with a new game, it might be best to just redo the old game. Make no mistake about it, Mafia II looks fantastic even to be six years old. In fact, it still stands up decently compared to a lot of games made on the Xbox One and PS4. However, ultra HD’ing Mafia II would be like taking a Rolls Royce and making it gold plated. The mechanics are fine as they are and there are a lot of little details that 2K Czech executed thanks to the PhysX that would look even better in 4K, such as the snow drifting off the top of cars, the glass sprinkling on the ground during shootouts, or the way Vito flinches with debris from nearby bullets come too close to his face and shoulder. They wouldn’t have to touch a thing on the mechanics front, they would they just need to slap in some super realistic models and global illumination to really have the game take advantage of today’s technology.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I’m sure this entry on the list seems like a bit of a surprise given how good the character models looked in the original release of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Ninja Theory, working closely in collaboration with Andy Serkis, really did a fantastic job with the characterizations of Trip and Monkey in this third-person, platforming action title. The story itself was kind of generic, but the way it was told and the way the characters were portrayed is what made this particular game so endearing. A matching art-style that helped make the dystopian, ravaged world pop with a sort of idyllic beauty was obviously no easy feat by Ninja Theory’s art team.
So why would a game as gorgeous as Enslaved need an ultra HD remaster? Because sadly you could tell a lot of the art assets in this Unreal Engine 3-powered platformer had to be scaled down to meet the technical limitations of the 360 and PS3. Low-res textures splayed across buildings, scaled down LOD on character accessories and inconsistent shadowing and pre-baked lighting really took me out of the game a lot of times. In some areas it was obvious the environments weren’t even properly lit in order to compensate for things like giant moving structures or the detailed facial animations on the characters. Instead of having to compensate and scale back on the quality of their work, it would be awesome to see the art team take full adventure of the Unreal Engine 4 and go all out on the shaders, lighting, LOD and animations to give Enslaved the kind of quality outing it deserves.
GTA: Vice City
I know some of you are thinking “Why would you go with GTA: Vice City and not Shadow of the Colossus or Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time?” And my response would be… make your own list! But also, the latter three games have art-styles that still fit them quite well. Some gamers have already tried updating games like Super Mario 64 in the Unreal Engine 4 and I’m likely going to be an odd one out when I say this, but I don’t think certain games with nostalgic art-styles work well as HD remasters, they lose a lot of their soul and the core of what made them engaging when they originally released. That’s just my opinion, anyway.
As for GTA: Vice City… the reason this game needs an ultra HD remaster is because the current version is nigh unplayable. Back when the PS2 and most PCs could barely run the game above 30fps, many of us played and enjoyed Vice City for what it was, but it did not age well at all. It controls horribly without the frame-limiter and it looks terrible.
An ultra HD remaster running on the eighth gen iteration of the RAGE would be phenomenal. Euphoria support for dynamic, procedural animations and NPC interactions coupled with global illumination, screen space occlusion and that awesome Vice City beach front design brought to life for today’s generation of gamer would be fantastic. Plus we get to experience all those 1980s references, themes, visuals and that soundtrack all over again, hopefully without SME funking up the whole thing and having tracks removed like what happened when the game landed on Steam.
Out of every game on this list I have to say that Alan Wake is probably the one in most dire need of an ultra HD remaster. The story for the game is fantastic. I love the voice acting and the thematic elements were captured perfectly. This is probably one of the few games that actually felt like a real horror game. The Darkness was a seriously dreadful and foreboding presence.
Unfortunately, a lot of the game’s presentation relied on its visual themes to portray the emotion, the reactions, the fear and the dread of The Darkness… but the models and texture work didn’t quite measure up to the quality of the game’s story. The long-shots scouring the beautiful mountain ranges or the glow of the snow caps during the dark nights of Bright Falls really looked breathtaking at times, but the close-ups betrayed the game’s filmic qualities. Higher definition environmental assets with 3D scanned actors would bring Alan Wake up to par with the story Remedy was trying to tell. I think as a horror game it would go unmatched as a proper ultra HD port, assuming that proper time and care was put into it. Plus, for everyone who was taken out of the immersion of the game’s story whenever the cinematics would pop up due to the low-quality models, the remaster would definitely fix that problem.