It's January 27, 2023, and this week's hottest new releases include Dead Space and GoldenEye 007. Your cynicism may incline you to ask why gaming is so obsessed with nostalgia. But these sorts of releases aren't really about nostalgia - they're about filling a void in the world of modern AAA games.
Dead Space is an exceptionally well-crafted remake of a beloved cult classic, yes, and while I like the original game, fond memories aren't why I'm so excited to dive into the new version. This is a single-player, story-driven game that's built to be played to completion in a few days rather than offering an endless stream of content.
Single-player gaming has always been alive and well, but the mode of the day is big open worlds and dozens, if not hundreds of hours worth of stuff to do. The likes of Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West are fantastic, but I don't need - or even want - every game to consume my life for weeks at a time. Something like the Dead Space remake is a throwback, yes, but it's a throwback not specifically to Dead Space itself. Instead, it's the kind of linear, limited-scope game that we just don't get as much of in 2023 from the AAA space.
Over 100 hours of discontent
Modern gaming is a frequently wonderful place, with online-connected games offering evolving worlds and endless content while indies help fill in the gaps with memorable, small-scale experiences. But while you'll never catch me saying that gaming was flat-out better in the past, there are certain types of games that have fallen by the wayside, and that's been a loss for many players.
The problem, of course, is that it's not necessarily easier making a linear game than it is making a big open world or a suite of multiplayer features. I'll try to avoid embarrassing myself with too much wildly under-informed speculation about how game development works, but given how much publishers have invested in building much larger games, it certainly seems like they believe they're going to be raking in bigger profits – and more reliably recouping ballooning development costs – from games that players can put more time into, and the financial records of live service devotees like EA and Blizzard would certainly agree.
I think this is why remakes have become such a haven for this school of gaming. The original Dead Space was not regarded as a particularly notable seller, but years of nostalgia have compounded its reputation to the point where the name still has value. Between the Dead Space remake and the Star Wars Jedi series, EA has taken a surprisingly favorable stance on single-player games in the past few years, and it's tough to imagine that would be the case without established names helping to promote them.
GoldenEye is a remaster rather than a remake, and it seems like a pretty light one at that, but it's still providing a type of co-op game we just don't get in modern shooters. It's long been accepted that GoldenEye was effectively made obsolete by Halo, but that ignores the way 007 was built around its now-dated control scheme. It's paced slowly so that you can carefully line up your shots based on the exaggerated enemy animations.
The boomer shooter, uh, boom has ensured that we've gotten plenty of modern throwbacks to classic FPS games from smaller developers, but those are all hyper-focused on lightning-fast action and twitch reflexes. GoldenEye levels are endurance challenges - checkpoint-free affairs where you've got to manage your resources against a small pool of predictable enemies.
GoldenEye's nearly survival horror-esque emphasis on resource management was certainly born in response to the limitations of an N64 controller, but that slower-paced action means it still maintains its own flavor, even today. Indie games like Neon White have proven there's life in shooters outside the post-Halo mold, and GoldenEye itself is being mined in games like Agent 64: Spies Never Die (opens in new tab) and even Screencheat (opens in new tab). What if we could these more varied types of action games out of the AAA scene, too?
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do not want Halo or Call of Duty to give up the precision of their dual-analog controls. But would it be such a bad thing if we got more shooters that were built in a different mold? Either way, GoldenEye is still here to offer a type of experience I just can't get out of current games.
Ultimately, of course, I don't really want more remakes. What I want are games that feel out of step with the current trends every now and then. And hey, we've had an excellent example of that this week with Hi-Fi Rush, a bold, creative action game that feels like a throwback to a more experimental era of development coming from Tango. But how often is a major publisher going to fund a small-scale experiment from top talent? It's certainly going to be a lot less likely from a company that's not banking on a service like Game Pass.
For now, the remake and remaster trend is largely satisfying my need for robust games that stop short of massive open-worlds and endless content, and I'm most looking forward to remakes of games that I never got to enjoy in the first place. Well, and the Resident Evil 4 remake. That's probably gonna be a banger, too.
There's a chunk of familiar titles among the new games for 2023, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.