The Modern Problem With Backwards Compatibility

Burnout Revenge

Backwards compatibility is great.

Whether it’s playing old Game Boy games on a DS Lite, PS1 games on a PS3 or Xbox 360 games on an Xbox One, you’d have to be a fool to not appreciate it. It expands libraries and allows players to experience games they missed years ago, or simply reacquaint themselves with them. And even better, there’s no need to set up additional hardware that is now broken, or a bit slow and creaky.

While playing the original Suikoden on a PS2 or Castlevania: Circle of the Moon on a DS allows you to enjoy those games in all their glory though, there’s a problem with many Xbox 360 games on Xbox One: online features. Take Burnout Revenge, for example, which was released on Xbox 360 way back in 2006. Ever since Microsoft announced Xbox One’s backwards compatibility, fans have been crying out for the game to be made playable on Xbox One. Though now it has, it’s just a shadow of what it used to be.

You can enjoy Burnout Revenge‘s single-player campaign just fine. In fact, it’s perhaps more enjoyable now than it was all those years ago thanks to the death of the arcade racer genre. And if you play it on an Xbox One X it looks better than ever, too. You can also enjoy the game’s offline multiplayer features; getting some friends around to lark about with Crash Mode is still a great deal of fun. What you can’t do, however, its take the action online, which many will surely attest, was one of the game’s high points.

You can’t really blame the game’s developer, Criterion Games, or its publisher, Electronic Arts, for its online servers being turned off; Burnout Revenge is twelve years old now, after all. But with the game now being made available on Xbox One via backwards compatibility, it would have been nice for fans to have access to all of its features. What’s more, it isn’t made overly clear when buying the game that its online features are no longer available either; instead of being at the top of the game’s description on the Xbox store, the disclaimer is tucked away at the bottom.

Burnout Revenge 2

And Burnout Revenge isn’t the only the game to have its online features crippled; buying Xbox 360 games to play on Xbox One based on fond memories of multiplayer activities is a minefield. But I’m still thankful for the feature. Only yesterday, the Silent Hill HD Collection became backwards compatible, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to play the worst version of Silent Hill 2. And I’m ever hopeful that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow will make the backwards compatible list someday. I just hope that, going forward, developers and publishers will plan ahead with regards to online features implemented into games.

Perhaps thanks to Microsoft, backwards compatibility will no doubt be one of the core features of next gen consoles. The move to PC-like architecture for both the PS4 and Xbox One has already brought mid-gen console refreshes that offer richer experiences for those with deep pockets, and it would be foolish for Sony to not follow in Microsoft’s footsteps and develop the PS5 without the ability to play PS4 games on it. To make it really worthwhile though, more thought needs to be given to the implementation of online features, and how their possible closure will affect the experience further down the line.

I was looking forward to taking down my friends in Burnout Revenge‘s online modes goddammit, and also clearing up the few achievements that I never got around to unlocking back in the day. And now, being able to do neither of those in a game I can still load up and play on a current-gen console is going to haunt me.