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Rebooting The Classics: The '90s Games That Are Rocking 2012

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Release Date: 01/03/2012

In our eco-friendly times, recycling is everything. But it's not just empty soup cans and milk cartons, as great ideas are increasingly being mulched down, rebuilt and turned into something cool. Hollywood, somewhat inevitably, is ahead on this curve, increasingly plucking its summer blockbusters from the TV shows, movies and even toys that we enjoyed in the past. Now the games industry is catching on, and publishers are rummaging in their cupboards for beloved franchises that are ready for a second chance.

Syndicate - out now on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

Everything Changes

Syndicate, currently nestled in the top ten, is a prime example. First released in 1993 for the PC and Commodore Amiga, the original game was a cyberpunk strategy game in which you played as the head of a sinister international mega-corporation. Able to despatch (and then control) four-man squads of bionic agents to disrupt and destroy the competition - with little regard for public safety - the game was a subversive cult hit.

Revived last week by The Darkness developer Starbreeze, the new Syndicate flips the perspective from top-down view to first-person shooter, and casts you instead as one of the elite agents, able to augment your attacks with an array of cybernetic abilities.

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action - back on PC at GAME

Back For Good

Not all reboots opt to switch the gameplay style so dramatically though. PC cult classic Jagged Alliance also began life with a birds-eye viewpoint in 1994, but when it was revived earlier this February it had retained the distinctive turn-based strategy top-down style. Once again released for PC, the new version - Jagged Alliance: Back in Action - stays close to the original template, but injects lots of modern ideas as you train mercenaries and wage war on evil dictators across a campaign that can last 70 hours.

Have A Little Patience

Then there are the retro classics that try to have it both ways. X-COM was yet another PC strategy game from 1994, when its B-movie tale of government agents battling alien invaders was a natural fit for a world besotted with TV hit The X-Files. The series eventually fizzled out, but will return not as one reboot, but two. 2013 will bring the now hyphen-less XCOM, which re-imagines the game as a 1950s-set first-person shooter, developed by some of the team behind BioShock 2.

XCOM is x-coming to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC

Before that radical re-do arrives, however, we'll get XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which stays true to the isometric 3D tactical gameplay of old but updates it with such 2012 flourishes as destructible scenery and advanced AI. Developed by Firaxis, the company behind the mighty Civilization series, it should be a real treat. Is this the future of video game reboots? One game for the purist fans, another for the modern blockbuster audience? That remains to be seen, but it's an interesting and commendable experiment.

Medal of Honor on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC

Relight My Fire

Reboot fever isn't just restricted to cult strategy titles from the early 1990s, however. Take the Medal of Honor series, for example. The original was a sombre World War 2 shooter developed in 1999 in conjunction with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks Interactive. A new version, still developed by veterans of the same studio, now called Danger Close, hit the shelves in 2010, updating the action to modern Afghanistan but kept the same sense of duty to its real-life military subjects. It's also the first of the modern reboots to spawn its own sequel. Medal of Honor: Warfighter arrives this October.

SSX rebooted for PS3 and Xbox 360

Rule The World

The trend has even spread beyond the obvious avenues of the FPS genre. This year the decision was made to defrost the 2000 snowboarding game SSX, and the result is on the shelves now. There's not much scope to turn extreme winter sports into a first-person shooter, so instead we get a game that sticks to the style and tone of the beloved original, but beefs up the gameplay with cutting edge physics, oodles of online social features and over a decade of accumulated wisdom regarding how best to allow players to flip, grind and spin on virtual boards. It effortlessly straddles the joys of both old and new,

Is this urge to revive and remix the past a healthy one? It would seem so. The games industry has a better track record than Hollywood of improving franchises as time goes on, and few would deny that there are some amazing games and ideas in the history books, waiting to be dusted off and given new relevance. Combining the comfort of the familiar with the thrill of today's technology, what's not to love? And which would you like to see come back?

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