A Look Back At: Franchise: Part II – Nostalgia VS Reboot

So, here we are again. Another series I grew up with, loved and played as I struggled through my formative years, being resurrected from the ash cloud of classics which long since fell out of favour. With a Star Wars: Battlefront reboot on the horizon, I should be shaking with anticipation but, almost to my shame, I’m struggling to summon up more than an average amount of excitement.

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The thing is, I find myself wondering who exactly this reimagining is aimed at. I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be at the gamers whom loved the series when it first stormed onto the gaming scene, but rather a ploy to make more money off of this monster of a franchise, mostly from the generations since that missed the games when they were in their heyday.

Though this may seem blasphemous, I feel as though, rather than reimagining classic games, Developers should be trying to come up with new titles, with the possibility of creating new, unique series. Let’s be honest, there is no way anyone who grew up with the previous titles will openly admit to the new games being more enjoyable than those they remember. I know how the greater proportion of people whom share this hobby of ours are; they feed on nostalgia as if they were some kind of emotional vampire. Now, that isn’t me being overly cruel, but I know how the minds of gamers work. We all have a competitive aspect that often makes us seem quite, well, ignorant.

There are some older games that I feel were never properly ended. I find it hard to support the reimagining of Star Wars Battlefront, when we all know how the story ends. The same could (and will be, before this paragraph is finished) be said with another game which dominated my childhood, TimeSplitters. I loved this series, I loved the changing time periods, I loved following the hilarious characters alongside an apocalyptic narrative reminiscent of Doctor Who, I laughed every single time Cortez said ‘It’s Time to Split’, and I choked back tears when Corporal Hart died.

But it ended, the source of the ‘Splitters was discovered, and time rewritten so that the war never happened. If the game were to be rebooted, or an extra sequel added on, it could in no way improve upon the nostalgic memory of the game I already possess. Obviously, if a new TimeSplitters were to be released, I would be first in line at the midnight launch, but i don’t feel it needs anything more.

One of the games I would like to see return is that classic third-person-shooter, Freedom Fighters, (the first game I ever saw rag-doll psychics in, actually). Taking charge of an American revolution during a Red Dawn-styled Soviet takeover, you chose where and when you would attack, you commanded your squad in a way I have yet to see improved upon and it was left open. The main antagonist figure is never found, and one of the last lines, I remember hearing during the ending sequence, was ‘They’ll be back, with bigger guns, and more soldiers’. Now, to me, that seemed like virtually a promise of a sequel but since around 2004, rumours haven’t stopped circulating about an eventual release.

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It isn’t even as if IO Interactive, the developers of this title, have their hands particularly full. They seem more than content to keep pushing out Kane & Lynch, or milking Hitman for all it’s worth, so why not, at least, give the best game they ever made a sequel? I can imagine it now, Christopher Stone is older, bearded and ‘grizzled’ (I’m starting to think this word really is an addiction when describing my ideal protagonists), and instead of fighting for the freedom of merely Manhattan, he has to lead a country-wide resistance. Exhausted by the constant warfare, he is losing hope of ever seeing a ‘free’ America again, but has been fighting for too long to just give up. I can see the bags beneath his eyes, the white scars and the grey-hairs already.

Of course, the trouble with this is the nostalgia factor. I loved the game when it came out, and loved it again when I dug out my old PS2 just to replay it, but any addition to the series will be given such publicity, such ‘over-hype’, that it wouldn’t be able to stand up beside its predecessor.

Of course, I can try to avoid it all I will, but there is one franchise that I know everyone on the internet longs to see. Half-Life 3. I get it; Half-Life was a good game, as was Half-Life 2 and the episodes which followed.  And yes, the narrative was left unfinished, with such a surprising end that I almost screamed at the TV when I finished Episode 2, that first time. But no matter how good a new Half-Life could be, it would never survive with an overall positive review. Either a new Half-Life would be too different to achieve the same levels of respect and awe the previous titles have created, or it would be too similar so that it would be treated with derision.

I mean, hell, look at what happened to Duke Nukem.

Those franchises we consider to be classics, classics that stopped for whatever reason, whether it is because they were stale and tired, because the company behind it went bust, or simply because they felt the narrative should end, they should be allowed to remain dead. I loved Freedom Fighters, Half-Life and TimeSplitters don’t get me wrong, but I would abandon all hope of a sequel if only I could stop the newer Final Fantasy’s, Dynasty Warriors and  Tomb Raider from being thrown at the gaming community.

I could be wrong here, you might all disagree with me, and I’d love to hear about it if you do, but I feel that the sense of nostalgia, which we all seem to share, is too strong to overcome what could be the mere development of a good game. I suffer from it, the same as everyone else I know. But I feel that a new Half-Life would have to reach levels as of yet undreamt of by modern developers, to even have a chance of meeting the expectations of most gamers.

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