I am repeatedly running into this issue lately when it comes to reviews of games that are remakes: They fail to take into consideration the original game and the extent of what work was done to the new product in their review and subsequently their score, creating a disconnect between what they are reviewing and their conclusion.
Source is Key
Perhaps one of the most varied remakes out of their currently when it comes to reception and scores is Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (FFT0). For those who don’t know, FFT0 is originally an end-of-life PSP game that was only released in Japan. In Square Enix’s effort to spread its wings with some of its other franchises in the west, they decided to give it an HD treatment and bring it to home consoles to better meet western tastes. Its reception was mixed to say the least, taking a quick look at a Metacritic and you can see the varying opinions on the game ranging from it being trash to new and innovative. Many of those on the lower side of the spectrum seem to forget of where the game was originally derived from and that’s important.
As I said, FFT0 was originally a PSP game. Now, thinking back to the PSP, you need to realize (as a reviewer) that games were not only made a “certain way” for this system, but also had limitations specific to this system. One of those limitations was space; games were quite limited by size restrictions, so many assets would get reused or changed slightly for additional content. Now, the HD version made by Square Enix was exactly that, a prettied up version of a PSP game; it is still going to be bound by that restriction. Holding this against the HD version of the game in a review is unfair as it’s simply not something it ever advertised or sought out to do.
Another restriction brought on by being originally a PSP game is multiple load screens. Simply put, the PSP did not have enough memory to load much into a single section. The obvious solution to this was to break sections up behind loading screens, allowing the PSP to load the sections in smaller chunks. Holding the the HD version of the game accountable due to its original source restrictions is a failure on the reviewers part for not recognizing what they are actually playing and where it’s coming from.
Remakes are Partially their Own Game
Another issue I see consistently when it comes to any type of remade game is the remake vs the original issue. Does one review the remake as just a remake without considering the original game; do you review it as a whole with the original being taken into consideration but as an independent work by current standards; or is it some weird grey area in between? Well, the correct answer is that they are both. A remake is both its own entity and the source of where it is derived from. If the source game of a remaster is bad, then the remaster will also (likely) be bad as a game even though the remaster effort could be amazing (this has yet to happen).
The point here is that when reviewing something as a remaster, you need two conclusions, one concerning the remake effort and one considering the product as a whole. This prevents games like Dishonored:The Definitive Edition from receiving only a good review due to the great game it is but also a poor review for the next to no effort put in the definitive edition. Consumers can then use this to decide what is better for them and if its worth spending any money on the definitive edition or just buying the original for cheaper.
The last thing, and this goes for all reviews, is to finally consider the price of what you are reviewing. Price is one of the most important factors in any purchase; reviewing any product requires price as part of its consideration. Many reviews generally (but remakes especially) typically don’t factor in price as a consideration. God of War III: Remastered didn’t exactly bring a lot to the table, but it also didn’t demand a full price tag of $60; it only asked for $40 initially. This (personally) still made it a bad remaster as one only needs to look at the offering of Gears of War: Ultimate, which was at the same price point and was a far greater endeavor and improvement than God of War III: Remastered to see why that is, but the point still stands. Less of a remaster effort for less of a price seems fine to me.
The takeaway from this all (like most of the time when it comes from reviews) is to do your own research. If it’s a remake, find out where it came from, understand what kind of remake it is, and adjust your expectations accordingly. If you expect a remaster to change fundamentals of the game you’re in for rude awakening and if you are a reviewing a game expecting such a thing, you’re just doing everyone a disservice.