Shadow of the Colossus Looks Great But Still Has Significant Gameplay Issues [Hands-on Preview]

The Shadow of the Colossus remake was a strange announcement from Sony at E3 2017, as it is being completely remade from the ground up for PS4 instead of simply porting over the PS3 remaster. I had a chance to sit down with Shadow of the Colossus at PSX this year and, while beautiful to look at, it seems like little has changed otherwise.

Don’t let the remake moniker fool you — this is the exact same game you remember with the only real changes being some of the controls and visuals. No new features like a new colossus or areas have been added, so it does feel like a missed opportunity in that regard. Visually, though, it is rather impressive. The environments and colossi look wonderful in 4K, reminding me of how distinct and unique I thought it looked back on PS2 when it first came out in 2005.

The breadth of display options are neat and welcome. Digging into the menus, I found that you can apply filters to Shadow of the Colossus like black-and-white or vintage to make it fit your preference — a colossi Instagram, if you will.. In addition, you can switch between the cinematic and performance modes, which are by far the biggest changes.

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Cinematic mode renders Shadow of the Colossus in true 4K resolution on PS4 Pro at the cost of 30 frames-per-second. Conversely, performance mode sacrifices the resolution in favor of 60 fps. While the developer previewing the game with me made it seem like this was a major feature, I found that there was little noticeable differences between the two settings in terms of visuals.

Shadow of the Colossus PS4

This is both good and bad for Shadow of the Colossus. The positive is that no matter which you choose, there is very little deviation in graphical quality; the game still looks great either way. On the other hand, 60 fps does almost nothing to help alleviate the slow and sometimes unresponsive gameplay.

There have been key changes to the control scheme like switching the jump button to X and mapping the dodge roll to circle, instead of having to hold R1 and press triangle. This certainly simplifies those aspects, but climbing and holding onto a colossus with R2 can still be a frustrating experience.

It doesn’t help that the platforming is as buggy as ever. There were several times while climbing that Wander wouldn’t respond to my input and climb up. Another time, I jumped across a gap and clearly missed, but as he fell the game glitched and he suddenly appeared holding onto the edge of the platform.

In this preview, I had the opportunity to fight the first, third, and 13th colossi. While fighting the third one in particular, there were a lot of strange bugs that occurred. Sometimes when it would slam down its sword-like arm, it wouldn’t affect Wander at all despite him being directly beneath it, while other times he appeared too far away from it to be within its range, but would up hurt regardless.

Shadow of the Colossus PS4

Thankfully, these bugs and issues never resulted in death or hindering my experience too much. Fighting against a colossus is still the same colossal challenge as ever (forgive the pun) and the graphical upgrades help it to feel more like you’re actually playing a complex set-piece in a big budget film.

Shadow of the Colossus’ visuals also gave me the desire to actually explore the world instead of just going to fight each colossus. Whether it was galloping through a forest on my horse or running alongside a cliff, I enjoyed just panning the camera around me and admiring the beautiful world that made me feel so small. If the bugs can be fixed, this could be the definitive way to experience Shadow of the Colossus when it releases February 6th, 2018.