Retro Vs. Remake: Appreciating Old Games

 I have a horribly embarrassing confession to make: I've never played a Half-Life game. Not the original game, not its sequel, and certainly not most of its offspring, save for Portal and Team Fortress 2. I'm aware of this horrendous gap in my gaming portfolio, but I can't bring myself to rectify it. I think my biggest reason for having not played Half-Life 2, which I have not only in the 360 version of The Orange Box but also my Steam profile, is that I want to play the original Half-Life first. People tell me I don't have to play the first to enjoy the second, but I know that if I skip it before then, I'll never go back to it.

So why not just play Half-Life? I feel like I'm setting myself up for disappointment; I just don't think I can appreciate it like so many people did back in '98. Not only are the graphics dated, but it's just a different monster from the first-person shooters of today. Hearing superlatives about its storytelling and its influence on the game industry, I don't feel as though I'll be able to appreciate it as I should. Since I can't revert my mind to the state it should be in to appreciate the game to its fullest, I don't feel like playing it at all, and would rather take people's word when they say it's the greatest game ever made.

So how do we appreciate the classics of our medium? The obvious answer is "Just play it as it the developers intended and stop whining," and I realize that I sound shallow, but some games are unbearably old. This isn't usually a problem in the 2D space, since the pixelated art style has become a mainstay of the industry. But in 3D, things can get ugly. Someone once told me that The Legend of Dragoon is amazing game, and I believe them, but I can't standing looking at those horrible polygons for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

But there's perhaps a shred of hope in Black Mesa, a total conversion mod for Half-Life 2 that essentially remakes Half-Life. It'd get rid of my polygonal problem, and would allow me to enjoy the story of the game in manner that could possibly replicate the magic of the original. Unfortunately, the release date for the mod is vague at best, and waiting to play a game that came out over ten years ago is...odd. There's also the fact that technically speaking, I'm not playing Half-Life anymore, or at least not the Half-Life as Valve intended. Valve itself attempted to remake Half-Life with Half-Life: Source, but it met with middling reviews.

Using a remake as a way to enjoy a game for the first time might sound like heresy to the hardcore gamers of the world, but it's a valid avenue. I enjoyed the Gamecube remake of the first Resident Evil much more than I did the original, and it's the base of my love for the franchise. Many people believe BioShock to be a remake of System Shock 2 in a different setting, and if those people are right, then BioShock the greatest remake I've ever played, and one that may have surpassed its inspiration.

Were you to ask a movie buff about my issue, he'd clearly go with the retro route, since remakes of classic movies are generally never as good as their often black-and-white counterparts. But movies don't age as badly as games do; aside from making the grave error of avoiding a movie simply because of a lack of color, movies more or less look the same, save for a few filters. A music buff would similarly dismiss this question; covers of songs vary in quality, but most would agree that having a different artist perform a song changes it entirely.

Perhaps I should bring that reasoning into Half-Life. Black Mesa may end up being a great remake, or even a better game than the original 1998 release, but it won't be the same one. It won't be the game that changed the way first-person shooters told a story. I'll just have to buck up and enjoy those low-res bobbling heads.

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Posted by Flabbergastrate

 I have a horribly embarrassing confession to make: I've never played a Half-Life game. Not the original game, not its sequel, and certainly not most of its offspring, save for Portal and Team Fortress 2. I'm aware of this horrendous gap in my gaming portfolio, but I can't bring myself to rectify it. I think my biggest reason for having not played Half-Life 2, which I have not only in the 360 version of The Orange Box but also my Steam profile, is that I want to play the original Half-Life first. People tell me I don't have to play the first to enjoy the second, but I know that if I skip it before then, I'll never go back to it.

So why not just play Half-Life? I feel like I'm setting myself up for disappointment; I just don't think I can appreciate it like so many people did back in '98. Not only are the graphics dated, but it's just a different monster from the first-person shooters of today. Hearing superlatives about its storytelling and its influence on the game industry, I don't feel as though I'll be able to appreciate it as I should. Since I can't revert my mind to the state it should be in to appreciate the game to its fullest, I don't feel like playing it at all, and would rather take people's word when they say it's the greatest game ever made.

So how do we appreciate the classics of our medium? The obvious answer is "Just play it as it the developers intended and stop whining," and I realize that I sound shallow, but some games are unbearably old. This isn't usually a problem in the 2D space, since the pixelated art style has become a mainstay of the industry. But in 3D, things can get ugly. Someone once told me that The Legend of Dragoon is amazing game, and I believe them, but I can't standing looking at those horrible polygons for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

But there's perhaps a shred of hope in Black Mesa, a total conversion mod for Half-Life 2 that essentially remakes Half-Life. It'd get rid of my polygonal problem, and would allow me to enjoy the story of the game in manner that could possibly replicate the magic of the original. Unfortunately, the release date for the mod is vague at best, and waiting to play a game that came out over ten years ago is...odd. There's also the fact that technically speaking, I'm not playing Half-Life anymore, or at least not the Half-Life as Valve intended. Valve itself attempted to remake Half-Life with Half-Life: Source, but it met with middling reviews.

Using a remake as a way to enjoy a game for the first time might sound like heresy to the hardcore gamers of the world, but it's a valid avenue. I enjoyed the Gamecube remake of the first Resident Evil much more than I did the original, and it's the base of my love for the franchise. Many people believe BioShock to be a remake of System Shock 2 in a different setting, and if those people are right, then BioShock the greatest remake I've ever played, and one that may have surpassed its inspiration.

Were you to ask a movie buff about my issue, he'd clearly go with the retro route, since remakes of classic movies are generally never as good as their often black-and-white counterparts. But movies don't age as badly as games do; aside from making the grave error of avoiding a movie simply because of a lack of color, movies more or less look the same, save for a few filters. A music buff would similarly dismiss this question; covers of songs vary in quality, but most would agree that having a different artist perform a song changes it entirely.

Perhaps I should bring that reasoning into Half-Life. Black Mesa may end up being a great remake, or even a better game than the original 1998 release, but it won't be the same one. It won't be the game that changed the way first-person shooters told a story. I'll just have to buck up and enjoy those low-res bobbling heads.