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Homeworld Remastered review: There's no place like Home(world)

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 26, 2015
Apparently 2015 is the year the PC gets serious about the HD remake craze. Resident Evil, Grim Fandango, Homeworld--it's only February and already three of the most notorious games in history have shown up in my Steam library, spruced up and ready for prom.

New paint

So let's talk about the quality of Gearbox's remaster.

Some of the work done here is stunning. Gearbox has been kind enough to include the original Homeworld and Homeworld 2 alongside the Remastered editions, so you can boot up the old games if you'd like.

More so than Resident Evil or Grim Fandango, Homeworld Remastered looks like a modern game. There are no weird blurry textures detracting from the rest of the experience. Cutscenes appear to have been completely remade. Here's a comparison:

And the same goes for the game itself. Ships are smooth and curved now, with particle-effect exhaust trails rather than the white lines of the original game. Space is full of light and gas clouds rather than bleak emptiness. The zoomed-out tactical mode is way easier to understand. The camera glides around space, effortlessly panning around the battlefield. Oh, and you can run it in widescreen without needing to edit a settings file.

Here's an example of ships in the old game versus ships in the new:

And a taste of Homeworld 2:

On the other hand, some aspects of Homeworld Remastered are a bit odd. The original game was praised for its minimalist menus — they'd disappear unless you moused over the bottom of the screen. No such luck here. In fact, Homeworld Remastered blows out the menus to occupy all four corners of the screen.

You can make various menus disappear by hitting the Backspace key, but they actually do disappear when you do this. You can't mouse over them to bring them back or anything along those lines. You'll need to hit Backspace again until the menus come back into view.

The menus are also oversized and rather artless. The Build and Research menus particularly offend, taking up the entire right-hand side of the screen with mostly empty space. In a real-time strategy game where you're trying to simultaneously manage troops and build or research, a menu taking up half the screen is utterly infuriating.

Another small change: Unless I'm missing something, you can no longer play the Homeworld campaign as the Taiidan Empire. That's not a huge deal considering Homeworld didn't even bother changing the story if you played as the Taiidan faction, but it's noticeable when you swap back and forth between the original game and the remaster.

And unlike literally every PC game ever made, for some reason Homeworld Remastered doesn't allow you to open the pause menu with the Escape key. You have to instead mouse over the logo in the top left to access Save/Load/Settings/Quit. Good luck remembering that when you're instinctively mashing the Escape key late one night.

 

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