Looking Backwards: Five Franchises Renewed
2011 is shaping up to be a huge year for videogames, with plenty of sequels and new franchises being announced. One particular trend which is revealing itself, however, is the revisiting of old franchises. Games from many years ago which haven't been seen or heard from since are suddenly getting sequels or reboots.
This is a pattern already seen in Hollywood: the writers strike in 2008 meant new ideas were a rarity (or an unnecessary expense), leading to a slew of remakes, reboots and adaptations (one could argue that this isn't a particularly new phenomenon: Hollywood is an incredibly conservative industry). And so the pattern is being mirrored in the videogame industry. Is it a lack of ideas? Or the fact that videogames are innately retro? It could well be that, because of videogames reliance on technology, combined with the speed that it is advancing, old franchises can greatly benefit and offer something fairly new from a touch up.
This phenomenon may be becoming more common, but it's definitely not new. Bethesda brought the assumed-dead Fallout 3 back to life with overwhelmingly positive results. In 2009, Volition resurrected their Red Faction series for the first time since 2001 with Red Faction: Guerrilla. Whether the results are positive or negative, the next few years will see plenty of reinterpretations, and sequels, based on old games. Here's a list of just five.
Duke Nukem Forever
Look up Vaporware in the dictionary (metaphorically) and you'll find Duke Nukem Forever. In development since 1997, the game has suffered development changes, studio downsizings and legal difficulties. Somehow, through all of that, Gearbox software have stepped in and brought everything together enough for a full game to actually get released.
This isn't so much a revisited franchise as it is just an incredibly long development process, though surely it would have been far easier just to build a new game based on a new IP rather than navigate the minefield that is copyright law. At the end of the day, the Duke has a massive fanbase, and everything is pointing towards Duke Nukem Forever actually being good.
The ultimate alien invasion simulator, the X-COM games let you take control of the worlds defense from extraterrestrial invaders. You control everything from secret agents to the army, as well as making sure everything comes in under budget. Aside from being a completely unique way to tackle the alien invasion scenario, X-COM offered pure atmosphere.
Now, 2K Marin are converting the franchise into a first-person shooter, completely removing that element that made the game unique. Instead, you'll find an interesting approach to the FPS: you play as an FBI agent, and you must investigate reports of alien activity. These investigations will probably turn up intelligence and technology, which will work towards upgrading your department and providing you with new weapons. It's an interesting prospect, and, even better, is set during the '50's, the height of UFO fascination and possibility.
Dungeon Siege 3
The original Dungeon Siege was released in 2002, with a sequel in 2005. The series sits comfortably in the fantasy action RPG genre, requiring you to create a hero and save the world of Aranna from evil monsters. The game focuses on combat more than roleplaying, with a fairly simple quest system requiring you to clear areas of monsters. The game had a neat progressions system, where your character gained skills based on what weapons or magic you used, rather than just choosing skills to upgrade.
Both the original and its sequel were developed by Gas Powered Games, though Dungeon Siege 3 is being developed by Obsidian Entertainment, rapidly gaining a reputation as the go to studio for making sequels. Very little is known about the game, but presumably it has been resurrected to make the most of the action RPG resurgence, thanks to Torchlight and Diablo 3.
Driver: San Francisco
It hasn't been a huge amount of time since the last Driver game, but it has been a while (2006, to be exact). Driver: San Francisco will take the series back to its roots, removing the ability to get out of your car to run around, simultaneously removing the gameplay elements that made the last few games, well, not that great. While walking is gone, there's a new twist: the whole game takes place in a coma. Therefore, you gain a slightly spiritual ability where you “shift” from one persons body to another, therefore controlling their car. Simple.
There'll also be multiplayer races, where players will also be able to “shift” into other traffic to rejoin the race if they crash, or to take a better car. Driver: San Francisco is an unnecessary game at first glance, but the shift mechanic should keep things very fresh.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
To call the original Deus Ex iconic is an understatement. The game is frequently referred to as a modern classic, offering huge complexity in an accessible way, and excellent customisability. The sequel, in 2003, was considered dumbed down in comparison, though was still relatively well received.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has very large shoes to fill. It'll act is a prequel to the first game, and looks to offer a fantastic mix of first-person gunplay and role-playing. Even better, the developers claim it's possible, through stealth and/or conversation, to complete the game without a single kill. Many games offer the freedom to approach missions in your own way, but hopefully Deus Ex: Human Revolution will actually deliver on that promise.
Should developers leave well enough alone? Should they be focusing on new ideas? Should they bring more classics back to life? Let us know in the comments.