Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Shadow of the Colossus
“Now how do I climb that?” is what you ask yourself as you stand at the feet of a hulking stone golem. Getting up to this ancient arena by scrambling over sheer drops and navigating crumbling ruins was challenge enough, but now you’ll have to pull yourself up onto this beast’s fur and negotiate a way to the top of gigantic head, the distance between you and the ground increasing with every move. It shakes and you hold on for dear life, trying not to lose your balance as you reach the top. Crawling on all fours as your reach your foe’s weak point, you carefully unsheathe your sword and prepare to plunge it into the enemy, when a giant hand appears as if from nowhere and plucks you from where you stand.
Admittedly from all the titles that we’ve covered so far on Make it a (Virtual) Reality, Team ICO’s masterful Shadow of the Colossus presents the most challenges. Yes, it has the potential to be a sweeping epic of a virtual reality (VR) experience, but not without some major overhauls of its foundations. We’re on the cusp of solving simulator sickness in both the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus headsets, but VR software still has to make certain design choices to help keep that sickness as bay. Somehow we feel that holding onto a huge monster as it vigorously tried to shake you off of its body would cause more than a few headaches.
But it would certainly be an issue worth tackling. We arguably haven’t seen a videogame that possesses such a mastery of place and atmosphere since the release of this 2005 PlayStation 2 gem, and the chance to combine those features with the sense of presence that a VR headset provides isn’t one that should be missed.
The main event would of course be tackling each of the 16 colossi found in the title. From the first time you lay eyes on the hulking bear giant in the campaign’s opening few minutes to any one of the memorable and ground-breaking (sometimes literally) battles that follow, VR offers the chance to bring a whole new level of spectacle. Imagine using the PlayStation Move controllers to actually have your hands grabbing hold of the monster’s fur and then peering down at the floor as you take a brief and cautious rest on its shoulders.
Motion controls could work in other areas too, in fact. The Move controller has been used for archery before, and using them to take aim and fire here would add to the immersion. The title also has a unique ‘navigation’ system of sorts in which players hold their sword up to the sky to have a beam of light guide the way. It’s not hard to image how this might work with a motion controller.
Again, more challenges present themselves. Right now VR input is addressing issues with walking. Peripherals such as the Virtuix Omni, PrioVR and Stompz all help to make our grounded actions feel more and more real. But we’re yet to see any solutions for titles that elevate the player and literally take the floor out from under their feet. It’s hard to picture feeling like you’re entirely immersed in scaling a huge monster if, in reality, you’re simply sitting in a chair with a controller in hand.
But it’s not just those iconic battles that could stand to benefit from VR. Arguably the title’s most magnificent beast is its setting. Scouring Shadow of the Colossus’ landscape, trying to find bosses and secrets is one of the most well-realised experiences in videogames. Hearing the galloping of your trusty horse, Argo, echo out across the land as you marvel as the dwarfing cliffs and stunning architecture of a lost world that tells its own story is about as immersive as standard console titles get. In VR, riding on Argo’s back and looking out across the landscape as the harsh wind beats the stone valleys? We doubt we’d ever want to take the headset off.
Unfortunately it’s not something that’s likely to ever happen. Making a perfect VR conversion of Shadow of the Colossus would admittedly be a huge undertaking, requiring more optimisation and fine-tuning than most of the experiences that we’ve talked about in this series so far. And that’s a shame, because we feel like it could definitely be done with a little determination. If there were ever a videogame to deserve that kind of love and care, Shadow of the Colossus is it.
‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.