When people rattle off their "best of PlayStation 2" lists, one title comes up pretty often – Shadow of the Colossus. Team Ico's follow-up to its original adventure Ico has been nothing short of stunning, a game that asks the question, "What good can a little hero do against enormous beasts?", but then answers with, "Well, with the right endurance, quite a bit." It's truly a remarkable game after all these years, even if it's not quite to everyone's tastes – particularly those in the mood for a Ninja Gaiden style hack and slash. I can assure you this game is not that.
And when I heard that Sony was remaking the game for PlayStation 4 from the ground up, I was curious. Bluepoint Games had done great work before on the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, so I was wondering just what kind of magic they'd muster for this game. And, upon playing through the completed product, I can honestly say that the team has gone above and beyond. They've not only stirred up memories of the original game, but they've also created new ones, thanks to the team's unmatched efforts on the presentation. Shadow of the Colossus looks even more incredible than it's ever been.
The game's story is a sweet and yet bitter one, putting you in the shoes of a young man named Wander who will stop at nothing to save the life of a girl named Mono. In order to do that, he'll have to hunt down various colossi, large creatures that stomp or fly across the countryside, and finish them off. That's no easy task, mind you, as these beasts are enormous and will put up all kinds of a fight before you can reach their weak points. But that's part of the majesty of Shadow of the Colossus – it's not so much the destination, but the journey.
And what a journey it is. Bluepoint Games really went out of their way to restructure this game. It still uses the source code of the PlayStation 2 game, so that it still looks and feels like a Colossus experience. But it really feels refreshing and new, with each texture and creature looking like they were custom built for the PS4's hardware. A simple remaster, this is not.
A Visual Triumph
The game performs astonishingly on the PlayStation 4 Pro, and you can actually make the decision whether you prefer a higher sense of detail or a faster frame rate, running around 60 frames per second. I recommend playing around with both options, because, either way, you're going to see a stupendous performance out of this game. Whether you're climbing your way up a large structure, strutting across the countryside on your loyal steed, or barely rolling out of the way of a colossus about to smash you with its club, this game is just filled with moments that will make you go "holy schnikes." The technical artistry here is absolutely divine – and levels above Bluepoint's previous remaster work on stuff like Uncharted and God of War. (That's saying something, because I was floored by Nathan Drake Collection when it came out.)
There's also a great HUD system here, so that you can get a better idea of where to track down these large beasts, since, believe it or not, they're not always visible from a distance. But don't just make this about going from point A to point B – the massive world of Shadow of the Colossus is well worth exploring. Just when you think you've found an ideal utopia in the game on your way to tackling the next creature, a new part of the stage opens up, and you get that sense of awe all over again. Seriously, the game looks that good, no matter what mode you're running it on.
I also played the game on regular PlayStation 4 hardware by comparison, and it still looks magnificent, with both its interiors and exteriors providing shining examples of Bluepoint's showmanship. I also dig the new lighting touches provided within the game, adding a new dynamic that the original PS2 release couldn't capture.
That said, there are slight issues with the camera, especially when it comes to climbing or tight spaces. I often found myself manually adjusting in certain spots, because it didn't follow the right way. But this is a very small complaint compared to the scope of the game itself – just be prepared to shift things around a little bit.prevnext
To further complement the game, there's a new photo mode, one in which you can grab pictures of your journey and share them with others. This isn't bad at all, though I would've liked a few more filter options. Perhaps they'll be added with a forthcoming patch to the game, so you can set up a photo album that shows off your prowess of being a colossus hunter.
Shadow's audio is awesome as well. The music is still fantastic, setting the stage for each encounter that you come across, and the little touches, like the very minute voicework and horse (Agro) neighs, fit in with the aesthetic. The visuals work quite wonderfully with it.
Now, the controls. For the most part, the game still feels like the classic Colossus experience, but there are mild touches that improve upon Team Ico's model. For instance, climbing is a little bit easier than before, especially jumping across ledges. I can't tell you how often I struggled with this in the past, so I like what was done here. It still has its off moments, but not nearly as often as the ones I ran across on PS2.
Also, the game has a difficulty slider, so if you find yourself struggling to bring down colossi (or get crushed in its hard setting – and you will get crushed unless you're really good), you can adjust down to easy and enjoy the thrill of the hunt with very little pressure. This is a thankful option, especially for those that may have found the original game to be a bit frustrating.prevnext
A Journey Worth Discovering (Or Rediscovering)
And while the journey eventually does come to an end, every colossus battle still feels wonderful. You'll have to adjust certain strategies with each one you come across, as they're unique and special in their own little way. And even when you think you've got it figured out, there are new strategies to uncover, but it's all worthwhile when you bring them crashing down and move onto the next one. Again, journey, not destination – and what a journey it is.
Shadow of the Colossus sets a brave new standard for remastered games as we know it. Bluepoint Games has created a game that stands just as tall in 2018 as the original did so long ago on the PS2 – and then some. The visuals are pretty much perfect, and the gameplay has improved to the point that even those that were turned off by the game before have something worth trying again. It's an essential gaming experience that's easily amongst the PlayStation 4's best – and it has me excited to see what Bluepoint will work on next.
Perhaps Ico could use a revisit. I'd totally be down to play that again.0comments
WWG's Score: 5 / 5
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.prev