Shadow of the Colossus is widely regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, so it came as no surprise that, at Sony’s E3 2017 showcase, a PS4 remake by Blue Point created more buzz than most. But at first glance it was unclear what a PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus could provide that both the original and the 2011 PS3 remaster couldn’t.
The answer, in short, is a vision and I don’t just mean just draw distance. Blue Point has rebuilt of the original from the ground up and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Wild grass sways in the breeze as tree branches wave softly from side to side. Desert environments feel arid with sand clouds that envelop your vision and ruins that have been buffeted by the elements. Dank caves drip algae-soaked water into moss-laden pools and rare oases teem with life.
This isn’t just an open space designed for you to hunt down Colossi; it now feels like an untouched living world you’re crashing into with careless abandon. You might think a graphical overhaul isn’t much of a reason to pick up a copy of Shadow of the Colossus for the third time, then, but the power it has is more than simply cosmetic.
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Rooted inside this beautiful new environment, Shadow of the Colossus’ colossi feel even more at peace with the world than they did in the previous versions of the game and, subsequently, taking on the puzzle-like beasts imparts a much greater sense of violation on your part. These are far more than simple end-of-game bosses to defeat and move on without thought; with their bodies of stone, mossy fur and earth they’re beautiful phenomena and, once you defeat them, there’s a sense of loss as they crumble to little more than a mound of earth.
Shadow of the Colossus review: More of the same, please
One thing BluePoint gets very right with its Shadow of the Colossus remake is that it’s left every other aspect of completely untouched.
The story, revolving around protagonist Wander entering the forbidden lands to revive Momo – a young woman killed as a sacrifice to the gods – hasn’t changed. BluePoint haven’t even seen fit to provide prompts to ensure people stay interested in the world and story. Everything is just as vague and open-ended as they’ve always been and now, thanks to the game’s UI being stripped back even further, everything focuses on the world you explore.
That’s no bad thing, though. Since its creation, Shadow of the Colossus has deserved every single one of its accolades and to change its gameplay to suit a more modern palate would cheapen everything that made the original such a powerful game to play.
In fact, the only addition to Shadow of the Colossus of any note – aside from the new trophies and time-trial challenges for post-game players – is Photo Mode. It isn’t as versatile as WipEout Omega Collection, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice or Uncharted 4’s but it is a welcome inclusion that means you can set up some absolutely incredible snaps.
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Shadow of the Colossus review: Verdict
Fifteen years on from its initial release, Shadow of the Colossus still stands as one of the greatest games ever made. This isn’t a better game, per se, but it’s absolutely stunning to look at and you now no longer need to use your imagination to fill in the gaps the PS2 and PS3 versions were unable to visualise.
Time hasn’t been kind to two aspects of Shadow of the Colossus, however: physics and music. Jumping feels too floaty and, while still impressive, climbing looks a touch silly when you’re gripping tightly to the back of a flailing beast. As for audio, the music is as fantastic as it’s ever been, but the transitions between tense battle and elation from having successfully mounted a colossus is jarring.
Thankfully, these problems aren’t really problems at all. The rest of Shadow of the Colossus is just so fantastic that these time-worn mechanics are but a blip on a game that still feels as fresh as the day it was first released. It’s as if Team Ico had only just announced it for the first time, instead of it being its third outing in 15 years.
It may not be the first time this tale has been told, then, nor the first time you’ll have played it, but Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 is easily its finest outing yet. 2018 may have only just started, but it’s already set off with a bang.
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