Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Nathan Brown on COD4, Mario and staying true to your roots
My raving days are long behind me, but I was saddened nonetheless by the recent news about Fabric. I don’t actually have much of a personal affinity with the London club, which has lost its licence after a couple of drug deaths – I went on opening weekend, a story I tell to make myself feel less ready for the glue factory in a profession that tends to skew a little younger (OK, a lot younger) than me, but that’s about the extent of it. Instead it’s about what it represents. Chances are you’ve seen the list doing the rounds of all the clubs that have closed down in the past decade. Most of my old haunts – Turnmills, The End, Bagleys and so on – went years ago.
There are political and cultural reasons to lament and rail against the death of Fabric, certainly. Perhaps you see it as an attack on the young and their culture, or the work of an administration in thrall to great big piles of foreign money. But for me it just means that London is one step further removed from the place that exists in my head. I love London for its reliability: 12 years after I moved away, I can visit for a day and still get my bearings. Oxford Street is still Oxford Street; the Tube still works (mostly) as I remember it. But as the years roll by, my personal, cultural association with the place fades. Fabric going kills my last remaining connection to London nightlife – and if you’re young and live in London, that’s all London really is. These days I work in the city I grew up in, and the route I used to take into town simply doesn’t exist any more, because they built a new shopping centre and bus station on top of it. These places are still familiar, but they no longer feel like mine.
Don’t worry, I hear you. This is all very nice, Nathan, but what has any of this got to do with games? First, this is my column, and I’ll get to the point when I’m good and ready. Second: I’m ready! Despite my Edge job description insisting I have a vested interest in the future of interactive entertainment, the game I am looking forward to more than any other this year is Call Of Duty 4: Modern
Warfare Remastered. I lost hundreds of hours to COD4, think about it often, and miss it terribly, to the extent that not even Activision’s exclusive bundling of it with the pricey special edition of Infinite Warfare – £80 to you, sir – has put me off.
Then I saw the new trailer. It’s a loving visual remake, a 2016-worthy rejig of the slightly blurry game I fell in love with almost a decade ago. But my ears feel differently. Activision has changed, presumably for reasons of fidelity, the game’s sound effects. The foreboding crash of an incoming airstrike, gun sounds, even the barking of the grizzled announcers: all different. It is the game I adored, but it is also not. This is the shiny stone-and-glass shopping mall built over the childhood walk into town, the shiny silent apartments that replace a beloved club: an improvement for everyone except those who simply loved it the way it was.
I’m not alone. Devout Metal Gear Solid fans bemoaned Hideo Kojima’s decision to have Keifer Sutherland voice Solid Snake in
Ground Zeroes instead of series stalwart David Hayter. There’s a petition urging Capcom to walk back its decision to use a new voice actor for Frank West in Dead
Rising 4. It’s not that we fear change as such; it’s that we honestly just thought things were fine the way they were.
A friend’s son is coming of gaming age, and so he asked me – because I am naturally the one that gets asked about these things – what was the best way of getting hold of
Super Mario World (like any father, he is desperate for his children to love the same things he did). We ran through the options, both legal and not; 20 years on, there are dozens of ways to get your mitts on one of the greatest games of all time. But we agreed that the best course of action was to head down to his local car-boot sale and buy a SNES. Because to us it’s not just the game: it’s the clunk of the cartridge in its slot, the click of the power switch, the feel of that flat, dinky controller in hand as the title music starts up. Because these things matter: when so many of our memories are passing into history, it’s important we keep hold of the things we still control. If we can make Mario
World look, sound and feel like it did when we were kids, when so much is changing around us, we’d be fools not to. We briefly debated the merits of hunting down a good CRT telly while we were at it, but quickly wrote it off. With our old backs, we weren’t convinced we could still pick one up.
It’s the clunk of the cartridge in its slot, the click of the power switch, the feel of that flat, dinky controller