When Shadow of the Colossus made its memorable debut back in 2005, it managed something refreshingly different in modern games at the time – it changed the narrative. During an era where visual fidelity was going through a seismic shift on PlayStation 2, this title kept its story minimalistic and its gameplay pure: hunt the looming colossi one-by-one.
But when it was announced at E3 2017 that Bluepoint Games and JAPAN Studio were remaking the game for PlayStation 4, the excitement was tangible. Because even though Shadow of the Colossus thrives on minimalism, the power of PS4 Pro makes a suitably colossal difference to just how affecting this already emotional game is.
1. It’s big on detail
You’ve likely already seen the beautiful new opening cut scene – but it’s something else to witness the in-game visuals when Shadow of the Colossus starts. At Paris Games Week I was given the chance to track down and battle three colossi to get a good idea of how some of the different environments look. From battered ruins, to a barren sea shore, to a dusky desert, each location is rich with detail.
Pebbles crumble under Wander’s hands as he clambers up fragile rock faces. His faithful steed Agro leaves footprints in the sand which eventually disappear in the wind. Blue butterflies dance between the leaves of a sun-dappled woodland. All the while you gallop through to the target: a magnificent, intimidating colossus that (for the most part) wants nothing more to be left alone.
2. The colossi pack an almighty punch
And if you thought each colossus was impressive on the PS3 re-release, then wait until you see these magnificent beasts on PS4 Pro. Their fur rustles in the wind and deforms as Wander does his best to cling to it, while each movement is slickly animated to further convey the sheer size and power bearing down on you.
Smart use of lighting, motion blur and depth of field effects only help to completely throw you into the desperate and frightening battles you’re in.
3. Streamlined controls make it easier to play
Bluepoint Games hasn’t just settled on a visual make over, either. The controls have cleverly tweaked to improve the gameplay experience.
The PS4’s touch pad handily lets you bring up a map, while jump has been moved to the X button instead of the triangle button. The dodge roll is also now mapped to the circle button, making it easier to deploy than the previous R1 + triangle combo.
4. But you can still play with classic controls
Although purists still have the option to go back to the classic controls, these changes show the developer’s willingness to make the game as accessible as possible, while retaining familiar quirks for veterans.
And as such, it all feels natural and intuitive. Crucially, although moved, Wander’s grab button (which you’ll be using a lot – no, seriously) is still located on the Dualshock 4’s shoulder (R2), meaning clinging to a colossus for dear life is still as terrifyingly intense as it always has been.
5. It’s every bit as beautiful as you remember
Which is all to say, the restrained core of Shadow of the Colossus remains, but the considered controls and restructured visuals have underlined the unforgettable beauty of it. When Wander and Agro tenderly look at each other in a brief respite when you leave the Dualshock 4 controller alone for moment, it’s hard not to just let them linger a bit longer in peace. And as each colossus falls and those emotive strings strike up, it’s all the more haunting.
If you’ve played Shadow of the Colossus before, the power of the unaltered original story will still make sure you feel the gut-wrenching remorse of every act of violence… but now it’s even more heightened on PS4. After our battle with the 13th colossus, staring at Wander’s dirt-stained clothes and haggard demeanour, I was instantly brought back to the feelings that made the original so memorable.
Shadow of the Colossus has found a perfect partner in Bluepoint Games, where the title’s elegance has only been elevated by a stunning visual overhaul. The only real question is whether your soul can handle the emotions of what awaits on 7th February 2018 when the game releases on PS4.