Upon release, the PlayStation 2’s Shadow of the Colossus rapidly became renowned for its extraordinary graphics, innovative style, and captivating narrative. It was years ahead of its time, and prompted an overwhelmingly positive reaction from both critics and gamers, many touting it as one of the best video games ever made.
13 years on, and the masterpiece from Team Ico (the developers responsible for cult hit Ico, to which Shadow of the Colossus is known as a spiritual sequel) is making headlines again, this time on the PlayStation 4.
Players control Wander – a young man who has travelled to a mysterious and forbidden land in order to revive Mono: a lifeless girl who he has brought with him. In order to achieve salvation for his companion, he must defeat various ‘Colossi’ – enormous, armoured goliaths which are a combination of beast, rock, and earth. Each creature has a different Achilles’ heel which the player must seek and focus their attack on – usually only accessible by climbing up the titan as it strives to shake off its assailant. Upon defeat of these creatures, Wander loses consciousness, to wake at the temple where he has left Mono, before setting out to seek the next Colossus.
Don’t be mistaken – this is far from a hack and slash RPG. Each battle with the protagonist’s adversaries requires a tactical approach and patience. The monsters all have a different Achilles’ heel, which must be targeted in order to emerge triumphant. However, none of these victories evoke joy or pride from the player – as gargantuan and imposing as the enemies are, many are docile and are merely protecting their home from an intruder. It is hard to think of another title which plunges its audience into such a sense of discomfort and moral ambiguity through its gameplay.
When Sony announced this remake back in 2017, there was a mixed response. Did a game which still stood up to the test of time really need to be tweaked, especially seeing as a PS3-remastering had already been made? Was there the risk of ruining an already perfect product? Thankfully, this PS4 restoration by Bluepoint Games hardly changes a thing.
The original was beautiful enough with 2005-standard visuals, but after the addition of ultra-high definition art assets in the remake, it is now absolutely stunning. The first glimpse of one of Wander’s titanic foes is breath-taking, but equally is the wilderness players must traverse through. It is easy to accidentally spend hours just exploring the desolate setting without any narrative progression, but this is by no means a fault. A ‘Photo Mode’ has been added to allow players to screenshot specific moments in their adventures, which is an excellent way to capture moments of beauty and awe which the game is rife with.
The only criticism of the original that could possibly be made, would be its over-ambition. At times, the PlayStation 2 appeared to struggle with rendering some of the environment’s features – water and fog in particular. However, in this current-gen revival, this is a problem of the past, with modern consoles being more than capable of coping with these features.
A nice touch by Bluepoint Games is the addition of post-completion awards, which allow those who have played through the entirety of the game to attempt various challenges to unlock items, as well as a ‘Mirrored World’ which allows for mirrored gameplay of the entirety of the game. These are small embellishments, yet add further longevity and replay value.
A work of art as much as a jaw-dropping game which transcends the limits of genre, it is wonderful to see Shadow of the Colossus redefined in high definition and with extra dimensions added. There is a whole world of pointless, cash-grabbing remasters and reboots out there, but with a game that is so gripping and melancholically beautiful, this certainly isn’t one of them.