In 2005, visionary game designer Fumito Ueda along with the rest of Team Ico designed a follow-up to their critically acclaimed PS2 title Ico with a very special game titled Shadow of the Colossus. Instantly, the game became a critical darling, garnering many game of the year nominations and quickly being considered one of the best video games ever made. While the game didn’t sell a ton, it was beloved by most who played it. The problem with Shadow of the Colossus is that it seemed to be a little too ambitious for its time — barely running on the Playstation 2 hardware with severe framerate drops and inconsistent visuals. Regardless of the issues, gamers fell in love with it.
Fast forward to 2011 where an HD remastered version of Shadow of the Colossus released on the Playstation 3. Finally, gamers were able to play Shadow of the Colossus with a much higher framerate and cleaner visuals. Even though the upgrades were very much welcomed, there were still problems at hand. First off, the grip meter in the game that controls how long the protagonist can hold on to objects, seemed buggy while the game was running at 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, the somewhat polarizing controls didn’t get much improvement in this version either, with many claiming that they were actually worse.
Shadow of the Colossus was a masterpiece trapped on dated hardware. Even remastering it for the high definition era couldn’t save it from it’s flaws. In order to do the game justice, it would require a team to completely rebuild the game from scratch on modern hardware. Bluepoint, who also created the Playstation 3 port, stepped up to the plate to accept the challenge. After pouring a lot of love and dedication into the project, it’s easy to see that Bluepoint’s Shadow of the Colossus remake on the Playstation 4 delivers the true vision Ueda and his team had thirteen years ago.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with Shadow of the Colossus, let me give you a quick rundown. You play as a young man referred to as the Wanderer who brings his dead lover to a forbidden land in hopes of speaking to a higher being that’s said to possess the power to revive the dead. In order to accomplish this, this higher being tasks the Wanderer at defeating 16 deities who possess the bodies of giants, called Colossi, that are spread out within an open world. The player must find these 16 Colossi, scale their massive bodies, and kill them in order to save his love.
Booting up the game for the first time, it’s apparent that Bluepoint put a lot of effort into making this iteration of the game feel as faithful to the original as possible. In doing so, we get some much needed improvements along with some elements that are still in need of some serious tweaking. First off, the new visuals at hand are absolutely stunning. The use of HDR lighting adds a lot of realism to the world. Textures are greatly improved, foliage has been added where none existed before, and overall detail in the environments are significantly more realistic than before. Aside from some questionable animations and art design from the Wanderer himself, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best looking open worlds I’ve seen on the Playstation 4 so far.
So everything looks much better, but does it play much better? Controlling the Wanderer himself has seen some improvements. Running, jumping and climbing feels much smoother this time around and I struggled far less to scale the massive Colossi compared to the original release. However, the horse controls are still pretty terrible. Running into any rock or cliff in the environments will force you to completely stop, while turning around and correcting your path is excruciatingly slow. The feeling that I have to mash the triangle button to gain any momentum makes controlling the horse an exercise in frustration. At times I would flat out ditch the horse and run on-foot, trading the faster pace of movement for better control of my character. Aside from this, I had no issues with the camera or the Wanderer himself like I did in the original release.
Each Colossus battle is unique and requires a different approach in order to topple them. The first four are relatively simple to figure out, but once you reach the fifth Colossus and beyond, battles become much more complex. Typically, the player has to find a way to latch on to the Colossus, scale its body and plunge a sword into their weak spot repeatedly until defeated. All 16 Colossi are an individual puzzle waiting to be solved. Struggling to take down these intimidating beasts while holding on for dear life is exhilarating, combined with a brilliant musical score that gets your heart pumping. I had a blast fighting each Colossus, but the final one was, and still is, very tedious to fight. Overall, the gameplay hasn’t changed much in terms of fighting all 16 Colossi, but the visual enhancements alone is well worth fighting them all over again.
Many critics complain that Shadow of the Colossus contains a world that is barren and boring. I personally feel as if the empty, lifeless world adds a ton of mystery and creepiness to the overworld. One minute you may find yourself running through beautiful fields of grass, or a lush forest, only to end up in a field full of dark clouds and windy mountains. The locations of each Colossus feel mysterious — as if they were hidden there in order to protect themselves. I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly, but the world of Shadow of the Colossus fascinates me and fills my mind with a sense of wonder and uneasiness, making it one of the coolest worlds in video game history.
Shadow of the Colossus contains one of the most compelling and heartbreaking stories in gaming history. Nothing about that has changed here. The further you progress through the game, the more questionable your actions become. By the time it wraps up, a haunting conclusion awaits you. Thanks to the greatly enhanced presentation, the remake succeeds had making the revelation at the end of the game even more impactful than it was before. Once the credits roll, it’ll take quite some time for the game to leave your head.
No matter which PS4 console you own, Shadow of the Colossus performs very well. The framerate stays at a solid 30 frames per second on a standard PS4 at 1080p, making for a consistently smooth experience compared to the original release. On the PS4 Pro, however, you get two options to choose from — resolution or performance. Performance mode will continue to run the game at 1080p, but uses the extra horsepower to bump the framerate up to 60 frames per second.
Resolution mode runs the game at 1440p for those who own 4K televisions, but keeps the framerate at 30 frames per second. I love how Bluepoint gives players the option to trade performance for visuals here and that’s frankly how I expected every PS4 Pro release to work. No matter which framerate you choose, Shadow of the Colossus performs well on either. I personally chose the higher resolution over the higher framerate and I didn’t regret that decision once during my playthrough.
Bluepoint has crafted one of the best remakes I have seen in my 30 years of gaming. They succeeded at making the game feel exactly how you would expect without as many of the flaws from the original release. It’s a much more beautiful, better performing and smoother experience, making this remake the definitive version of the game. The horse still sucks to control and that last Colossus can still be a chore to take down, but the rest of the game is so good that all of the remaining flaws are easy to forgive.
Shadow of the Colossus has been called a masterpiece by many, and one of the best games ever created. Thanks to this remake, I can finally agree with those statements. It’s far from perfect and still contains a few glaring issues, but the experience you will gain from this adventure is like no other in gaming. It’s a beautiful, haunting and exhilarating experience that every gamer owes themselves to experience.
Shadow of the Colossus$39.99
- Amazing visuals and art design
- Each Colossi battle is unique and engaging
- Story is emotional and powerful
- Horse controls are still problematic
- Camera can be bothersome at times
- Visuals on Wanderer stand out