Shadow of the Colossus Review
Described by many as one of the greatest games ever upon release back in the golden age of the PS2 and subsequently ‘remastered’ years later for the PS3, Shadow of the Colossus returns to the latest generation of consoles thanks to the incredible development team at Bluepoint. For those unfamiliar with Bluepoint, they are effectively the gold standard in remasters with previous credits including Uncharted:The Nathan Drake Collection and Gravity Rush Remastered, as well as being the team that did the original Ico & Shadow of the Colossus upgrades on the PS3. In short, they have some great form in this area and with this new PS4 release they have perhaps surpassed any of their previous work. Potentially then we have a bit of a dream collaboration on our hands with Shadow of the Colossus. Given the 2005 game's popularity saw it appearing frequently in top 10 lists the world over, pairing it up with a remaster specialist for the latest generation of consoles is a match made in heaven. This release isn't just haunting and exhilarating, but it now looks amazing too.
Rooted in simplicity but simultaneously ahead of its time, Shadow of the Colossus is the tale of a young man named Wander who enters the forbidden lands with a view to restoring life to a young girl named Mono. To achieve this, Wander must search the forbidden lands for sixteen Colossi — giant beings — and defeat them. There is no open world RPG gameplay to speak of, no side quests (other than some optional collectibles added to this version), no central hub, no other characters to interact with other than your trusty horse and there is nothing else in the entire world of the forbidden lands. On the face of it such cyclical gameplay — find monster, defeat monster, go again — may seem dull and uneventful, yet it is in this simplicity that Shadow of the Colossus excels.
As you embark on your adventure you quickly realise that half the work is using your sword to help guide you in the general direction of where the next Colossus might be, and as you progress through the game finding them becomes quite time consuming. Once found, however, is where Shadow of the Colossus changed game development for a generation. Each Colossus is gigantic, dwarfing your pitiful character and your toothpick-sized sword — there is only one way to defeat them, and this is where the majority of the magic happens. Scaling screen-filling beasts is a brilliant experience, whether you are playing the original or even more so in this beautiful upgrade which looks sensational on a PS4 Pro with a 4K HDR TV. The sheer size and scale of the encounters is a sight to behold and, for any gamer that looks at this one a little daunted, not particularly difficult. Surveying one of these giant’s movements, spotting a weakness and creating an opportunity to climb up on them is a delight for the majority of the encounters (though some can be a bit fiddly). Once on board, the heart-pounding race to both hold on and reach the glowing area to take a chunk of health off, all with a limit of stamina, is frequently exhilarating.
Playing the game as a newcomer you would be forgiven for thinking that it controls rather awkwardly; this is quite frankly because it does — more often than not you will lose time when tackling a Colossus simply because you fell off due to the twitchy nature of the core controls. It’s even worse than riding Agro, your trusty steed, as you have to wrestle his speed while simultaneously trying to get a sense if you are going in the right direction to your next target. It is here that you can arguably find any sense of real criticism when it comes to this release. Bluepoint, for all their stellar work here, haven’t changed the game itself; minute to minute it’s very much identical, and that includes the controls which altogether feel like they were released back on the PS2 alongside Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. The camera is potentially the biggest offender, matched with the old-school controls it will feel a little odd and twitchy to new players. These moments are so rare, however that they are unlikely to hinder your enjoyment; the controls are just not inline with the games of today and how they feel with a pad in hand.
If that could be construed as a negative, the visuals and sound brought to life in this new version wash away any ill feeling. Without a doubt for years to come, this release of Shadow of the Colossus will be held as the gold standard for remakes and remasters. Stunning environments are a joy to traverse even with the retro controls, with the team taking advantage of the additional power found in the PS4 and more again in the Pro to completely upgrade every visual aspect of the game. If back in the day you spent a little time with this one on an old CRT TV with a PS2 attached, when you boot this one up on a 55” TV with HDR you will be gobsmacked.The game also goes so far as to offer those with a PS4 Pro two modes for gamers with differing tastes. Cinematic mode enables 4K resolution with a solid frame rate of 30fps, as well as performance mode which gives you a little less visually but cranks up the frame rate to 60fps. The cinematic mode is likely to be the best option for anyone with a TV that can support it as it looks and runs beautifully.
In addition to the enhanced visuals, the original soundtrack has also been remastered. Equally haunting and bombastic, the soundtrack is a masterclass in video game audio and rightfully stands up as a soundtrack you’d happily listen to on Spotify or whatever your music service of choice is. This combination of celebrated audio and stunning visuals make Shadow of the Colossus a real bargain in today's marketplace.
If you’ve never played Shadow of the Colossus, make it your mission to go out and buy it now. If you have played it, enjoyed it the first time around and own a PS4 or PS4 Pro, it’s an absolute steal at its reduced price point. A simple yet stunning adventure with a haunting world and a soundtrack that rises and falls perfectly in tune with the action, Shadow of the Colossus is an ageless game which can now be enjoyed by a whole new generation.