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The Best and Worst Reboots in Gaming

G4Staff
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Posted February 15, 2012 - By G4 Staff


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Twisted Metal: Eat Sleep Play Talks About Their Upcoming Game

Syndicate, SSX, and Twisted Metal... and those are just the reboots you can look forward to in February, or be soul-crushingly anxious of. Since time immemorial, we’ve seen those write the cheques respond to the flashing red lights of falling sales and dwindling interest by drawing deep on their knowledge of the dark arts to cast the blackest of magic: the reboot. Sometimes this is a resurrection of a franchise so old you also have to reboot its pills, while other times it’s the most exhaustive of makeovers: painful face lifts, gruesome surgery, and endless hours of liposuction to suck out all those nasty preconceptions.

We’ve seen it happen time and time again in gaming: those names we grew to love when we were young are suddenly brought back into a sick new existence that throws up on our cherished memories of them. This generation has been no different. With gaming now at its most popular publishers have seen fit to reboot every name imaginable in the hopes of dancing that fragile foxtrot between winning new fans and old. This year alone we’ll see Tomb Raider roughen it up and Devil May Cry bring out the eyeliner, and who knows what other names will look unrecognizable to us at this year’s E3. Should we be quaking at the thought of more nightmares that haunt what we hold sacred in our gaming souls?

Maybe it’s not all bad news. I’ve selected four of gaming’s worst reboots from this generation to remind us to be cautious, but it wasn’t hard at all to select four of this generation’s reboots that actually hit the right (new) notes and whetted our appetites for more. Here are my picks for the four worst and four best gaming reboots of this generation of consoles, and here’s hoping this month’s reboots and those coming up in the rest of year hit closer to the latter.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider

WORST: Golden Axe: Beast Rider

Was anyone kneeling each night to pray that this franchise be brought back? Not that the Golden Axe games weren’t good because they offered some of the best side-scrolling hack-and-slash a quarter could buy, as well as one of the best Mega Drive covers; have you ever seen so much rippling tanned muscle on a woman, a man, and a dwarf? But we were done Golden Axe, we’d all moved on.

Then, 15 years after Golden Axe III, Beast Rider stumbled into our lives. It was at best a below-average spin on Heavenly Sword, except with fewer clothes with some awkward beasties to try and wrangle along a straight line. At its worst it was the most crappily presented game of this generation.

Cut scenes transition into play like a jet fighter transitions into a parking space. The screen tears more than a bank manager with an inbox full of loan applications. It looked pants, didn’t play much better, and worst of all the final cut scene ends mid-dialogue. They couldn’t even be arsed to finish it. If only they couldn’t have been arsed to release it.

‘Fallout 3: Broken Steel’ Impressions

BEST: Fallout 3

Who’d have thought after Interplay’s bankruptcy in 2004 and the subsequent selling of the Fallout rights to Bethesda that four years later we’d be treated to not just one of the best gaming reboots of all time but one of the most significant and enjoyable games of this generation?

What a revelation Fallout 3 was, refining the rough edges of the open-world exploration of Oblivion with an post-apocalyptic wasteland that felt genuine and fresh – you know, before everyone else set their games in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Such cool weaponry, a seemingly endless selection of thought-provoking missions, and of course one of the defining moments in modern gaming; blowing up all those sycophantic bastards in Megaton. Stepping out of Vault 101 was pretty cool too.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Worst: Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

When you’re talking about the lowest point in a series renowned for diving into deep doo-doo in its long years then there’s no point beating around the bush; Sonic the Hedgehog was a disaster. Sure, we all accept that when travelling at speed it’s easy to veer out of control, but trying to keep a hold of the blue speed freak in this game was about as worthwhile as a Sony PR campaign. The camera was nothing short of embarrassing, the controls drunken, the presentation stutteringly ugly, and all in all it’s still amazing the game found its way to retail shelves in such a haggard state.

Sonic fans kick and moan too much at the best of times but when they say there was potential in this horrible, awful game, they aren’t wrong. Sonic Unleashed (sans were-hog) and Generations have shown that, with steady refinement, Sonic in 3D can work. And it only took Sonic Team 17 years to get there.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

BEST: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Lords of Shadow isn’t as good as the other reboots in the Best list, but it deserves recognition for just how sharp a change of direction it was for the series, especially given its history. Openly called a reboot by Konami, it was quite brave of Lords of Shadow to plunge back into 3D vampire slaying given the disparity between the series’ 2D roots and its later years in 3D contrasted about as heavily as Sonic’s. Lords of Shadow went once more into the breach and this time came up smelling of blood red roses.

The game has its issues – a bipolar camera and hack-and-slash play that falters into the obviously familiar towards its end – but all in all, it’s still very enjoyable. Each location is beautifully designed, the set pieces - especially those that echo Shadow of the Colossus - are an absolute treat, and also there’s copious Jean-Luc Picard – and all the best games have copious Jean-Luc Picard.

Duke Nukem Forever Is Real And Playable At PAX, Coming From 2K Games And Gearbox Software

WORST: Duke Nukem Forever

Do we really need to go into this game and how appalling it is? It’s difficult to find a single commendable thing to say about it beyond it being the best way of experiencing the timeline of the game’s horribly troubled development history – you can actually see it evolve as you play - oh so slowly, mind.

What’s so horrible about this reboot – and that’s what it became because of that awful, protracted development history – is that the franchise has not even changed. If anything, in Forever the King goes backwards. The humour has lost its subversive, winking charm. The shooting seems even more archaic than that of Duke Nukem 3D. It even manages to offend like the series never did before.

Super Street Fighter IV Officially Revealed

BEST: Street Fighter IV

I remember seeing the first screenshots and videos of this game, with those chunky, excessively detailed muscles, incredibly sharp contours, and that strange transition from 2D to 3D, and being very worried about the return of one of the names that defined me as a childhood gamer. I needn’t have worried.

For me, and I expect many of you reading, Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV were the primary reasons for my failing to complete my plans of world domination between 2009 and 2010. I got lost into perfecting that perfectly timed release of an ultra, or a bluffed ultra, or a super move. I spent so many hours online against strangers from all over the world. I recreated the musk, sweat and tears of the 90s arcades in my sitting room – until my girlfriend told me to stop playing and take a shower. And by the time I got back she’d be mashing buttons and screaming at Seth for cheating. Which he did.

Is it an overstatement to say that Street Fighter IV wasn’t just a reboot for the series but for the fighting game genre? Would we have seen the successful Mortal Kombat resurrection without it? Maybe this is overblowing it, but one can’t deny that Capcom utterly triumphed with this much-welcomed reboot.

Bomberman: Act Zero

WORST: Bomberman: Act Zero

For my final spot, I considered leaving this one out because it was such a one-off screw-up. I considered going with 2008’s Prince of Persia, a contentious choice liked by most, but a game I found as challenging as a single-player go of Snakes and Ladders. I considered Alone in the Dark, the 1992 survival horror scaring the beejezus out of me on my mum’s shiny new laptop, and the 2008 section-skipping reboot making me wish Atari could just admit they’d trampled over my childhood.

Keeping Act Zero off this list would be as wrong as trying to reboot cutesy lovable Bomberman as a rock-grinding, metal-thrashing, gut-busting, fireball-dropping, super—ultra-hardcore Bay-a-thon.

Without local multiplayer.

Rayman Origins

BEST: Rayman Origins

Is it really a reboot? That was the first question plaguing my selection here; the name doesn’t really seem to suggest a reboot, more of a restore. Of course, the Rayman series has plunged so many games into its Rabbids line – whatever your thoughts may be about those games – that it means it’s been so many years without a true Rayman game, and that’s why it feels like a reboot.

Also on my mind were the other contenders for the last spot, games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution which did admirably given the tough act it followed, and there was another potentially contentious choice in Kirby’s Epic Yarn – is it a reboot or a one-off diversion?

But given how long it’s been since we had a proper old-school platformer to savour, and more significantly the poor sales so far, I think this game needs all the encouragement it deserves. It’s as charming as a British maid on a pony, as vibrant as a gay pride parade in the Caribbean, and most importantly of all it is seriously good fun. If any of the reboots coming out this year are half as good as it then we’re in for a real nostalgic treat.

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