HD makeovers bring new life to old games - TechCentral

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HD makeovers bring new life to old games

A colossal battle in Team ICO's classic

This console generation, games publishers have become as adept at mining their back catalogues for more cash as the movie studios and music companies, writes Lance Harris.

A trickle of high-definition remakes of classic games from the PS2/Xbox era is becoming a deluge, with facelifts for classic titles in franchises such as Halo, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath inbound in the next few months.

Some, like Beyond & Good Evil HD for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, are the ultimate versions of much-loved games while others like the PS3 Prince of Persia trilogy are little more than cynical cash-ins. Here’s a closer look at three collections for the PS3 that add stereoscopic 3D support, trophies and HD visuals to classic games.

The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Ever since Sony released remastered versions of God of War 1 and 2 for the PS3, fans have clamoured for HD remakes of Team ICO’s classic PS2 games. This collection brings together definitive versions of two of the greatest games ever made on a single Blu-ray disc.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus from designer Fumito Ueda are haunting, poignant and poetic adventure games that have all the dark whimsy of a Miyazaki fable. Compared to the adolescent power fantasies of most videogames, Ueda’s titles tap into a childlike sense of wonder and helplessness.

The HD conversions by Bluepoint Games — the guys that did such a great job with the God of War collection — breathe new life into the two classic games. The visuals, taking in forsaken architectures and unpeopled landscapes, are gorgeous as ever thanks to Team ICO’s imaginative art design. Shadow of the Colossus, a game that was too ambitious to run comfortably on the PS2, runs crisply on the PS3 without the choppy frame-rate of the original.

Shadow of the Colossus is a heartrending tale of young man who slays colossi that roam a desolate world in the hopes that his actions will resurrect a dead girl. It’s essentially a platform and puzzle game that tasks the player with scaling the enormous creatures to find the parts of their bodies that are vulnerable to attack.

ICO, meanwhile, is about a cursed boy and an ethereal girl trying to escape from a sinister castle. As ICO, the player needs to navigate the castle while keeping Yorda safe from attack. The game features some ingenious environmental puzzles and platforming.

It’s the emotions that the games evoke that make them so special. Slaying one of the magnificent colossi in Shadow in pursuit of an uncertain cause feels as tragic as killing an elephant or whale — the triumph tempered by melancholy. And there are few relationships in games as special as the one between the giant killer and his horse, Argo, a beast that is loyal yet has a definite mind of its own.

ICO, meanwhile, channels that preadolescent awkwardness between boys and girls in the relationship between Yorda and its main character. Babysitting non-player characters in videogames is seldom fun, but you’ll want to keep Yorda safe despite the fact that you can’t understand a word she says.

Though each of these games has its flaws — the lousy combat in ICO, the ill-behaved camera in Shadow of the Colossus — they feel just as visionary today as they did when they first come out. Even now, they are a breath of fresh air compared to most of the new titles they are competing with.  9/10

God of War Collection Volume 2
The PlayStation Portable has always seemed a bit puny to contain the mighty wrath of Kratos. The shouty Spartan’s two acclaimed portable adventures are near as epic in scope as the three home console games and benefit massively from their conversion to the PS3.

Ready at Dawn, the original developer of God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, has done a sterling job with the makeover. Not only do the two games look better on the PS3, but they play better as well.

The games haven’t merely been upscaled to HD, but have also benefitted from some extra work that Ready at Dawn has done to the artwork. Character models feature higher polygon counts, for example. The games look remarkably clean and detailed, considering their origins on a handheld console. They maintain a consistently quick frame-rate that makes gameplay more fluid and responsive.

Another improvement comes from the fact that the PS3 controller, unlike the PSP, has a second analogue stick. This makes the evade move far simpler to pull off, which immediately makes the game play more smoothly.

If you have ever played a God of War game, you’ll know what to expect from these titles. They feature the same mix of button-mashing combat, puzzles and platform traversal as their home console cousins. The games are a little shorter, a little less dense in detail and a little less grand in ambition than the PS2 and PS3 games, but they’re a bargain at the budget price.  7/10

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HD
Splinter Cell first crept into gamers’ hearts in 2003 as a Western answer to Metal Gear Solid that transplanted the bombastic Japanese franchise’s sneak-em-up gameplay into a more grounded setting. Despite the franchise’s popularity, Ubisoft has done a fairly half-hearted job on converting the first three games in the series to the PS3.

The good news is that Ubisoft has used the PC code for the HD conversions rather than basing them on the inferior PS2 versions. Even so, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and the second game Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow look dated and rough around the edges. The visuals of the third game — Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory — still hold up pretty well.

Sadly, the rigid and linear trial-and-error gameplay of the first two games has dated as badly as the visuals. They’re interesting to play merely to see how the series has evolved over the years. Chaos Theory, however, still offers the best campaign in the Splinter Cell series with its sprawling levels and optional objectives.

Many gamers will feel short-changed by the fact that the multiplayer modes have been completely cut from the HD versions.

Considering how cheap are PC versions of the game are, the collection as a whole is hard to recommend. The games are also available from the PlayStation Store as separate downloads.  5/10 (collection); 7/10 (Chaos Theory)

  • All collections available for the PS3

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