It’s no secret that once a franchise has reached a certain number of releases, it runs the risk of becoming stale. Developers will generally make significant changes if their franchise sees a dip in sales or consumer support. One commercial failure in a longstanding series is never a reason to shake up the formula that generated success but sometimes it takes the collective voices of the fan base to ensure that changes are made. Whether or not the changes are for the better however, is completely up to the developers. Some reboots can really revitalize a franchise while others can buy any hopes of a re-establishing a series..
3 that worked:
Resident Evil 7 (2017)
Rarely do franchises get a chance to reboot their series. It’s even rarer to reboot your franchise twice. Resident Evil is one of the few series in recent history that has significantly rebooted twice and found great success in both instances. The first came in the form of Resident Evil 4, which saw a dramatic shift from the series survival horror roots as it transitioned into an action-heavy horror game. Resident Evil 4 was a massive success and is generally considered one of the greatest games of all time. The following iterations, Resident Evil 5 and 6, were also action heavy and while they saw commercial success, fans were voicing their displeasure as the series was in danger of becoming a generic action game.
Then came Resident Evil 7.
Returning to its survival-horror roots, Resident Evil 7 was a genuinely terrifying experience that featured a relatively grounded narrative and serves as a reminder that the genre can be successful with the right type of attention and care. Switching from the third-person perspective to a first-person point-of-view ratcheted up the tension and paranoia as it required players to be fully aware of their surroundings or they would succumb to an attack from either behind or the side. The sound design of Resident Evil 7 is fantastic and I recommend playing with a headset if you want the true experience. The Baker House and its outlying structures feel alive and the lack of music really adds to the ambience. You will be uncomfortable often during your first playthrough. Especially during the intense opening hours, which acts as one of the best openings in recent memory. It evokes memories of Evil Dead and that’s just groovy, baby.
Tomb Raider (2013)
Like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider has seen its share of reboots. After the disastrous release of Angel of Darkness in 2003, series protagonist Lara Croft was in desperate need of a new direction. She was given a small boost with the releases of Tomb Raider Legend and Tomb Raider Underground and while these games were well received by fans and critics, they didn’t feel as if they were moving the Tomb Raider series in a sustainable direction. With the success of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Series, Tomb Raider needed to reinvent itself to renew interest in Lara’s adventures.
Revealed in 2011, the new Tomb Raider was an unexpected, grittier reimagining of the series and was exactly the shot in the arm that the franchise needed. While the trademark platforming and exploration from the original series returned, combat had been revamped to feel brutal and visceral. Aided by her pickaxe, Lara could perform vicious takedowns to incapacitate enemies. RPG and survival elements were introduced to fit the setting of the game. This was Lara’s reintroduction to the gaming world, no longer was she an experienced explorer, this was a naïve and ambitious Lara who had yet to become the eponymous Tomb Raider. It was a great game and launching point for the new series. It’s sequel built upon the success of the first and a third game is expected to release sometime later this year in the form of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Castlevania Lords of Shadow (2010)
Considered one of the best action-adventure series in gaming, the Castlevania series has always had trouble transitioning from 2-D to 3-D. Most of the 3-D games ranged from poor to mediocre and none stuck around long enough to resonate with fans of the franchise. That all changed with the release of Lords of Shadow. Acting as a full-on reboot of the series, players would follow Gabriel Belmont on his quest to stop the Lords of Shadow from bringing about the end of days. While the announcement of the game was met with reservation, primarily due to the failure of previous iterations, the game was being jointly developed by Kojima Productions, the creators of the legendary Metal Gear Solid series. The game reminded many of God of War, especially with its brutal melee combat, but it was far more in-depth and also featured light RPG elements in the form of upgradeable combos and abilities. Lords of Shadow featured a strong narrative with an ending that threw a massive wrench in the lore of Castlevania. While far from perfect, it was an enjoyable experience that looked to set-up a new chapter in the franchise. Unfortunately, that was never meant to be as its sequel, Lords of Shadow 2, was a massive disappointment and killed the rebooted franchise.
Damn shame, as the Lords of Shadow franchise had tons of potential.
3 that didn’t work:
Bionic Commando (2009)
Look, I’m not going to go to in-depth with this one. When the new Bionic Commander was announced, it was immediately met with ire from the gaming community. Unsurprisingly, the game isn’t good, the narrative is lazy and predictable, and the protagonist is awful. What a buzz-kill as the re-make of the side-scrolling original was really fun and there was a lot of intrigue surrounding this remake. Then it released and killed people’s dreams. Way to go Nathan “RAD” Spencer.
DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
First off, this was game was actually pretty great. Developer Ninja Theory did an excellent job with the combat as it was more in-depth than the original series. It was visually stunning and featured incredible character animations. I honestly had no issues with DmC, as I am a massive fan of Ninja Theory, who have yet to release a bad game. The only issue that the community had with DmC was the redesign for series protagonist Dante. He was always considered a cheesy character, but he was fun, the new Dante was too hipster for most people’s taste and he felt less fun as well. Upon release DmC failed to meet the sales expectations set forth by Capcom. Which isn’t all that surprising seeing how connected fans are with Dante. While I had no issues with the design choice, clearly there were fans who refused to touch this game based off Dante alone. It’s sad, as gameplay-wise it was a vast improvement over the original and Ninja Theory did an excellent job. Devil May Cry will get another reboot, hopefully this time it catches on with fans. Just don’t mess with Dante, I guess.
Alone in the Dark (2008)
There was an incredible amount of hope that the reboot of the Alone in the Dark series would be able to compete with the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. That was a lofty expectation as this game was a mess. Buggy, repetitive, and featuring little in the way of horror, Alone in the Dark acts as one of the most disappointing reboots of all time. For the unaware, Alone in the Dark is the first survival horror game to be featured in 3-D. It was revolutionary for its time and it spawned 2 sequels that were well received and a 2001 entry that was pretty good as well. Seven years later, the rebooted Alone in the Dark releases and seemingly kills the series. That is, until the abysmal Alone in the Dark Illumination. That was an online cooperative multiplayer game that has an 18% on Metacritic. If Alone in the Dark ever gets rebooted again, can a developer please show this series the proper respect? It’s been through enough and I didn’t even mention the movie adaptation.
There you have it. Let me know what your favorite/disliked reboots are.