The Shadow of the Colossus Remake Hasn't Changed As Much As You Think

The remade graphics breathe new life into Shadow of the Colossus, but the controls are still a thing of the past.

Analysis by Matt Kim, .

Shadow of the Colossus is coming out once again on a PlayStation console. This time for the PlayStation 4 with completely remade assets. The total graphical overhaul breathes new life into the game, but you'll find that in many ways it's still very much the same game you remember playing before.

Yesterday, following the new trailer from Sony's Paris Games Week conference, I got a chance to check out Shadow of the Colossus running on the PlayStation 4 Pro. While Bluepoint Games (who developed the HD version of the game for the PS3) is once again taking the reigns on the development for the PS4 version, it's not just a simple remaster this time around.

Remaking the assets for the PS4 is a bold move that pays off incredibly here. In my memories, the yellow-green color palette iconic to Shadow of the Colossus blurred to a point where I only really remembered standout scenes with specific clarity. On the PS4 however, the whole game takes on a new meaning and certain scenes from the new demo that I completely forgot about from the original game, roared back with new clarity. There's a vividness to the whole thing that the original, and even the PS3 remaster, lacked.

I expect that if you've played Shadow of the Colossus once or twice before, the PS4 version will still surprise you. If this version is going to be your first time playing Shadow of the Colossus, it could very well be the definitive version.

One moment in particular was a scene where I was taking my horse down a forested path on the way to the 13th Colossus. I had forgotten nearly everything about this scene, but it was this (and not encountering a remastered colossus) that took my breath away.

However, this forest scene was also a reminder of what stayed the same with this remake. Namely the controls, which if you remember weren't the most elegant or easy to play. There were points where navigating through this dense forest on my horse became a challenge in and of itself thanks to the floaty feel of the controllers, inherent to Team Ico games.

A Bluepoint producer told me at the event that the controls have been tweaked a bit for the remake, but if they were changed for the demo I honestly couldn't tell. In fact, some parts of the controls were somehow worse than I remember.

A fight against the first Colossus felt like the camera was actively fighting against me while I was trying to position myself and climb up the titan's back so that I could slay it. It took some time for me to realize that not touching the camera stick at all was the best way to go about this challenge. Leaving the camera alone made it so the camera positioned itself in some cinematic angle that wasn't necessarily the best for playing a game; but made sure the camera wasn't also spinning wildly out of control during the boss fight either.

The fact that Shadow of the Colossus is a straight-up remake instead of a remaster is important. A new visual coat is one thing, but the fact that everything here was remade for the PS4 practically makes it look and feel like a new game.

Then you'll start playing and you'll immediately remember why Shadow of the Colossus—and plenty of other Ico games—have the famous caveat: It's a great game, if you can get past the controls.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for bring_on_branstons #1 bring_on_branstons 3 months ago
    The controls are STILL iffy? I was hoping this would be fixed to modern day standards.

    I just finished Last Guardian and completely LOVED it. Apart from the obtuse controls and crappy camera. (And no I'm not referencing Trico taking an age to respond to what you ask him to do - anyone who's owned a dog will find this stubborn behaviour strangely satisfying and familiar...)

    I really really don't get why Sony Worldwide Studios don't collaborate on this obvious problem with Team Ico's (or Gen Design or Japan Studio or whoever these days) games?!!?!? It beggars belief that a Naughty Dog game like Lost Legacy has fantastic controls and camera control and for another studio in the same set up to be struggling so much with it. Just send someone over from ND for a 3 month holiday to Japan (or int his instance Bluepoint) to kick their arses into gear and show them how it's done.

    Gnnnnh. Sigh.....Edited October 2017 by bring_on_branstons
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  • Avatar for camchow #2 camchow 3 months ago
    If they would have made even one or two new bosses to tackle I'd probably get it, some of the unused monsters in the concept art are amazing! Without anything new I don't see how I could justify the purchase, I mean those bosses were like puzzles, once you figure out how to beat them and get that first burst of satisfaction (and maybe dread, confusion and sadness) it just isn't the same beating them again.
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  • Avatar for moochan #3 moochan 3 months ago
    My only issue is how "clean" the assets looks. The idea is they are meant to look worn down and dull. HD makes them a bit too clean and new. Maybe I'm wrong and just quick screenshots doesn't show them in the right light. I honestly felt right with the controls last time I played it on PS3. It's a weird way to play them but I always felt that they never got that out of hand and I was able to do everything I wanted without having to overly think.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #4 The-Challenger 3 months ago
    @camchow Maybe they altered the puzzles.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #5 catymcc 3 months ago
    @moochan same. I love the sorta film grain look of classic Shadow of the Colossus. I'm worried that by making it super HD or whatever, it'll lose that quality. It sure looks that way so far at least. ):
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  • Avatar for falz3333 #6 falz3333 3 months ago
    Two things, the graphical style looks significantly different from the original, especially the behavior of the lighting engine. That said, I'm not going to write it off just yet as a downgrade. It has a different kind of appeal which I'll wait to pass judgment on until I've seen more.

    Second, I understand the criticism of the controls, but I've played the game so many times (including all the hard time-attacks) that controlling Wander at this point just feels like coming home. I know when a colossus is thrashing the exact time to let go of the grip button to jettison myself towards the next weak spot. I know when navigating with Agro when to give directions and when to let Agro do their own thing to get me where I want to go. The controls are esoteric as heck but when you know what you are doing, you can pretty much do it no questions asked.
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  • Avatar for ol\'dirty\'bus\'stop #7 ol\'dirty\'bus\'stop 3 months ago
    It's nuts that you think the controls are 'bad' just because they aren't the same as other games. The controls are the game, they are an artistic choice. You think they spend so long making these games but just half-ass the controls?
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    @bring_on_branstons This is definitely disappointing. I've played the original several times, and the PS3 version once. Each time I found the controls frustrating. I think its not that they're conceptually or mechanically difficult - its that they don't reliably interface with the game world with consistency. I was on the fence about this remake, but if it controls the same then I'm out.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #9 mouse-clicker 3 months ago
    I'm very glad they're not messing with the game's horse controls, because I think that the horse controls in Shadow of the Colossus are perfect, although not because they handle perfectly.

    Traditional horse controls in 3D games operate like Epona did in Ocarina of Time: you push in the direction you want to go and the horse moves in that direction. In those games, when your character mounts a horse, you are now controlling the horse. It works very well.

    But in Shadow of the Colossus, when Wander mounts Agro, you don't take control of Agro; you're still controlling Wander, who is in turn controlling Agro. When you push the control stick in a direction, Agro doesn't start moving in that direction. Instead, Wander pulls the reigns in that direction, and Agro responds by turning. When you want Agro to move forward, you have to have Wander dig his heels in, which spurs Agro ahead. You can then use the reigns to turn. It makes for a clumsier experience, but it really makes you feel like Agro has a mind of his own, and the two of you have to work together to get where you're going. That's why, if Agro is already walking forward, you can let go of the control stick and he will choose his own path, avoiding rocks and trees and ledges. This does a lot to build Agro as a character, whom you become very attached to, making his apparent death that much more tragic.

    I think at least the horse controls in Shadow of the Colossus are exactly how they should be, and I would be very upset if they were changed.Edited November 2017 by mouse-clicker
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