Review – Shadow of the Colossus PS4 Remake
It’s rare that a game that ticks all the genre boxes, has universal acclaim, yet manages to bypass me, and despite all of that, that is exactly what the 2005/6 release of Shadow of the Colossus did when it launched on the PS2 all those moons ago. The opportunity again passed me by when a remaster launched on the PS3 several years ago, leaving me to wonder if the stars would align in such a way that would enable me to experience this long adored piece of gaming history. In 2018 my doubts have finally been put to rest with the release of a full, from the ground remake of Shadow of the Colossus courtesy of the remaster/port maestros at BluePoint Interactive; but now that the time has finally arrived – does the game stack up?
Despite years of praise heaped upon it, I had considered myself quite fortunate to have not stumbled into nasty spoiler territory, though as it turns out, the majority of the story plays out in the opening and closing 10 minutes with largely uninterrupted gameplay filling the approximately 10-12 hour duration. You play as Wander, and along with your equine companion Agro, you journey into a long forbidden land with the goal of resurrecting a girl named Mono – all we learn of the situation is that Mono was a sacrifice because it was believed that she had a cursed destiny. As you arrive in the forbidden land and place Mono down on an altar in the Shrine of Worship, an imposing, disembodied voice attached to a spirit named Dormin reaches out to you and offers to revive Mono should Wander destroy the 16 Colossi that roam the forbidden lands. From this point onwards, you’re steered from one Colossus to another, gradually defeating them until the game’s climax, where all actions come to ahead in a gripping conclusion that left me in deep thought about my every action to that point.
As I’ve already alluded to, the majority of the Shadow of the Colossus experience is gameplay, and while the widely-criticised controls have been improved from the original to the remake (the original control scheme is a playable option), they’re still far from perfect, perhaps even still quite flawed, and when coupled with movement that can still be a bit clunky, and you’ve got an improved but still imperfect playing experience. Your moment-to-moment gameplay will see you traversing the huge open environment on foot, or Agro’s back, weaving your way through the terrain, as you navigate your way to your assigned Colossi. Though you’ll be provided only a vague ballpark direction to head in, by standing in the light you can use Wander’s sword to identify the direction you must head in, and as you get closer, to triangulate the location where you must be to uncover the wandering Colossus.
Climbing and Stamina are major components to combat. Each Colossus has vulnerable points and these need to be exploited, and in most cases, you’ll be required to climb up the limbs of one of these monstrosities to access those weak spots. This task is not so simple as it’s simply not that easy to fell a several hundred-meter-tall Colossus, in some cases you need to weaken a leg so that it sinks enough for you to jump on, in others you’ll need to leap from Agro, and some Colossi fly and require a whole other strategy entirely. As you climb you expend stamina, and if you’re unable to find a flat surface to climb onto then you’re likely to exhaust that stamina and find yourself shaken from the beast you were once climbing, so careful management of your stamina is a must. Once you reach one of the weak spots, a few charged stabs from your sword will see it return to the ground in a cloud of smoky haze. While the combat loop remains the same throughout, each Colossi throws up subtle differences that ensure you’ll be scratching your scalp for a few moments before making the discovery that leads to victory.
Now if you’ve already performed the math you’ll have recognised that Shadow of the Colossus will be celebrating its 12th anniversary this year, but unlike many scenarios where a game has been revived in the form of a remaster, Shadow has been gifted the remake treatment, and every pixel catches the eye because of it. While the game is beat for beat the same as it was before, and certain locations or Colossi are exactly as you may remember them to be, every asset has been re-created leading to some astonishing results. On several occasions I caught myself calling out to my wife to come and look at a beautiful vista, the cascading water off a nearby waterfall or of course, one of the enormous Colossi. Things get a little rougher when you look at the character models however, but not to a point that you’d consider them ugly, just a little lesser in quality; expression is rarely visible and the animation of the face has a very wooden look about it.
I’d recommend playing Shadow of the Colossus with either a headset or surround sound, not because there is a grand sweeping soundtrack, because in fact, it’s largely absent outside of when you’re in combat, but the experience of walking through the fields has the power to pacify even the most agitated of souls. You’ll hear the swirling breeze, the groan of the trees and feel like life is all around you, despite being very alone, it’s an awe-inspiring feeling and something that I’m thrilled BluePoint was able to capture with this remake.
Whenever I heard about Shadow of the Colossus I heard about the feel of the wild, the imposing nature of the Colossi and the jubilation that comes with success. I’m glad to report that this remake captures all of those feels and makes them shine in glorious, high definition. I’d also heard a great deal about the way the game handles and whilst improvement is obvious, there’s still some improvement required to make for a more fluid playing experience. Aside from that one gripe however, Shadow of the Colossus is a must-play game, one that anyone unfortunate enough to have missed this title back in its day needs to play immediately. Just make sure you look out for that endgame – it’s a doozy!