If you’ve never heard of Shadow of the Colossus you’re either too young or don’t play games that much. Released on the PlayStation 2 about 13 years ago, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the three important works of the Japanese video game designer Fumito Ueda, the other two being Ico and The Last Guardian.

Although it was seen as one of the best games back in 2005, Shadow of the Colossus was plagued by issues with the controls and some gameplay mechanics, which couldn’t be alleviated by the folks over at Bluepoint Games who remastered and released the HD version on PlayStation 3 in 2011.

Since Bluepoint Games did a good job with the 2011 HD remaster, Sony decided that it would also be the right studio to bring Shadow of the Colossus on the PS4 and, thus, to an even larger audience.

Stunning world

Stunning world

Shadow of the Colossus has always been a great game, but does Bluepoint Games manages to fix some of the old game’s issues while updating its visuals and gameplay mechanics? After less than 10 hours spent with the new Shadow of the Colossus game, I can say that the results are a mixed bag.

Disclaimer: Shadow of the Colossus was reviewed using final retail PS4 version provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Story

If you’ve played the original Shadow of the Colossus game, the newly remastered version doesn’t come with anything new story-wise. However, if you’re new to the game, you’ll receive little to no information on the plot, so I’m not going to spoil it for you.

I will say that you’ll be playing Wander, the main protagonist, as you adventure into the Forbidden Land in search for a miracle that would resurrect a girl named Mono.

Your faithful horse, Agro is of utmost importance for the mission since he’s the only means of transportation throughout the world built by Ueda. As your progress into the game, you’ll feel the bond between Wander and Agro strengthens, as he becomes your only ally against the colossi.

Wonder, the game's protagonist

Wonder, the game’s protagonist

Legends say that the Forbidden Land shelters the only entity that has the power to revive the dead – Dormin. The temple in the middle of the zone, Shrine of Worship is the place where you get your first assignment. This will become your base of operations where you’ll return after each successful mission.

Dormin promises you it will resurrect Mono once you kill all 16 colossi wandering Forbidden Land, which seems a pretty straightforward job for the bearer of the Ancient Sword. The latter is not just a formidable weapon against the colossi, but also the only item that can guide you to their hideouts.

The game doesn’t reveals too much of the background story until almost at the end. Actually, the last 10 minutes of the game explain everything to the player (wait until after the credits for more story bits!), so not killing all the colossi won’t give you any idea of what’s really happening.

It’s a unique storytelling concept that might not work for all players since the entire game, except for the beginning and the end, is supported by pure gameplay without any story bits.

Gameplay

It’s where Shadow of the Colossus should shine if not for the clunky controls. Although Bluepoint Games overhauled almost every part of the game, it almost didn’t touch the controls and some gameplay mechanics.

In case you’ve played the original and felt frustrated by the camera movement and almost terrible controls, you’ll feel right at home when playing the new Shadow of the Colossus. It’s true that developers have added four or five new control schemes, but that doesn’t really change how they work in the game.

Finding a colossi's hideout can be tricky sometimes

Finding a colossi’s hideout can be tricky sometimes

Shadow of the Colossus is basically a game where each fight should be treated like a boss encounter. Each of the colossi you’ll face have hidden vital points that you must hit with the Ancient Sword to defeat them. The problem is that you’re just a small David trying to kill a huge Goliath without the epic sling.

Luckily, you get hints at the beginning of each fight, so you’ll know how to defeat the colossi. However, that doesn’t mean that the battle will be easy, more so when you’re hit with such terrible controls like in Shadow of the Colossus.

Before fighting the colossi, you’ll have to find them and travel to their hideouts using Agro, your faithful horse. Here is one of the other aspects of the game that wasn’t improved at all: horse riding. I have to say that riding Agro is wonderful as long as you’re running in a straight line, but once you reach rough terrain or narrow roads things go south.

Not to mention that during fights and while riding Agro, the camera acts erratically. That becomes even less bearable in enclosed spaces, which can often lead to death if you’re fighting a colossi, so don’t let yourself ambushed in narrow places.

Graphics and audio

Since this isn’t really a new game, the visual rehashing of Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most important aspects for those who’ve played the original. The folks over at Bluepoint Games have completely rebuilt the world using modern techniques that provide players with breathtaking landscapes and highly detailed character and environment modeling.

The new visual are so gorgeous that you’ll think this is a completely different game if you’ve played the original. Not to mention that Shadow of the Colossus features support for 4K resolutions (cinematic mode), but if you treasure performance over graphics, you can play it at 60fps and less impressive visuals.

Gorgeous landscapes

Gorgeous landscapes

Saying that Shadow of the Colossus looks great would be an understatement, since Bluepoint Games have most likely pushed the PS4’s hardware to the limits to build such a stunning, yet empty landscapes.

The music, or the lack thereof, sustains the feeling of hopelessness and desolation. The only orchestral accords that you’ll hear mark the start and finish of the fights with the colossi. In this case, it really isn’t a problem as it perfectly fits the overall team of the game.


The Good

  • Visual overhaul offers gorgeous landscapes, stunning world
  • Great gameplay concept even after so many years
  • Remastered music sounds better than ever
  • Additional control schemes enable smoother experience
  • Interesting story for newcomers

The Bad

  • Clunky controls
  • Erratic camera in tight spaces
  • Riding Agro can be a pain sometimes
  • Game is rather short and no new content has been added

Conclusion

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend paying for a remaster of an older game, but I’ll make an exception this time since Bluepoint Games have done a tremendous job. The visual recreation of the game and the finesse to which is was executed makes Shadow of the Colossus a must-play title for those who played the original and newcomers to the franchise.

Unfortunately, the stunning reconstruction of the game is marred by some gameplay mechanics flaws that haven’t been updated and add another layer of difficulty. The third-person camera that acts unpredictable and somewhat tricky grip system are among the issues that you’ll be constantly facing while playing Shadow of the Colossus.

Overall, I found the new Shadow of the Colossus a pleasant journey peppered with some frustrating moments, especially when battling the colossi. If you can get passed that, Shadow of the Colossus can offer some epic moments and a beautiful world to explore.  

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