Shadow of the Colossus (Playstation 4 Review)
In 2005, Shadow of the Colossus was released on the PS2. The spiritual successor to Ico was a revelation, both a commercial and critical success, but its legacy was what made the original release so important. Team Ico created a game that changed the way people looked at video games. For the first time, we saw a game which was considered not only as a piece of entertainment, but as art.
Fast forward to 2018, and Shadow of the Colossus returns, lovingly remastered for the PS4. The first thing that strikes you is just how stunning the game looks. For its time, Shadow of the Colossus was an amazing, if slightly choppy achievement. However, with the added oomph of current generation consoles, Shadow of the Colossus finally shows off the potential it showed back in 2005. Each Colossi is full of detail, from their sad blue/orange eyes to the individual hairs that cover their bodies.
The game’s setting, The Forbidden Lands, is certainly vast, but is also empty. There are no villages or cities, no other NPCs who help you on your journey: just you, your horse and 16 Colossi. However, just because the world isn’t filled, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. What you get is a solemn feeling as you travel through the gorgeous plains, marvelling at the mountain peaks, or seeing the sun shine through the forest. You feel as if you are part of something bigger, thanks to the game’s stellar presentation.
The game’s simple story is minimal but powerful. You are tasked with taking down 16 Colossi, who roam the land. As told by the mysterious voice of Dormin from the ceiling of the Shrine of Worship, Wander, the game’s protagonist, sets off to bring these creatures down in the hope of bringing his beloved Mono back to life. All Wander is told is that killing the Colossi may bring Mono’s soul back. You are lulled in, no questions asked, and set off to bring the Colossi down one by one.
It’s the story that the game’s claim to being a work of art comes in to play. Shadow of the Colossus’ story is about the lengths you will go for the ones you love. Nothing, no matter the task or who big it is can stop you, even if it makes you question your own morals. This is what makes Shadow of the Colossus’ story so simple, yet so engrossing and powerful. We would do anything for those we care about, blindly. We don’t think about it. Many of us would clamber up a 150ft monster’s back to stab it in the head repeatedly if it was in aid of a loved one. Even if it may be the wrong decision.
Shadow of the Colossus is boss rush game when put simply. There are no optional quests, no branching storylines, no levels. Just 16 bosses to climb, kill and move one. As you progress, you gain more stamina and health, at the expenses of Wander looking more jaded and exhausted. You are never at a disadvantage, even if it looks that way with the size of the Colossi. Stamina management is what will help you bring them down. Plus, you are assisted with your horse, Argo.
Argo is probably your most useful tool and ally in the whole game. Not only does he ferry you across The Forbidden Lands, he can also act as a distraction, often luring Colossi away giving you a chance to find a weak point. You form a bond with Argo as you ride across the plains, being there with you until the very end.
You only have two weapons in Shadow of the Colossus, a sword and a bow. The bow can help catch a Colossi’s attention and weaken themso you can make your way to its vitals. The sword is not only a great Colossi killer, but acts as a radar, pointing you in the general direction of where a Colossi lurks and where their vitals may be. However, for this to work you need to be standing in direct sunlight. If you are in a cave or a dimly lit area, the sword won’t work.
The controls have been improved since the 2005 release, the biggest change being swapping the jump button from triangle, to the more traditional X button. This took a while to get used to due to muscle memory, but if you played the original release don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to it. The slight clunky handling remains, but this doesn’t diminish the quality of the game whatsoever. The camera manages to keep up with all the action, but focusing on a Colossi makes it a bit more difficult to keep tabs on the Colossi, and your surroundings. This can make fighting in small arena more difficult than it really should be, leading to frustration.
Each of the 16 Colossi act like its own puzzle. First, you need to find it. You are given a general area thanks to the sword, but you need to find where it actually lives yourself. When you are successful in your search, you a treated to a short cut scene of the surrounding area. Next you need to find a way to its vitals. The giants are how to get on their backs, while the smaller ones include knocking armour off, or getting them to flip over. Once that’s figured out, it’s time to plunge that sword and watch the blood spray out.
If you are a first-time player, there are some genuine head scratching moments that aren’t made entirely obvious. Even after playing it all those years ago, I still sat and scratched my head, wondering how the hell I’m supposed to get on top of that thing. You are given some small hints by Dormin if you are struggling, but these are cryptic at best. Your hand isn’t held by the game, just a slight nudge in the right direction.
Shadow of the Colossus is still as breathtaking and joyous to play, one of those games that everyone must play just to experience it. This way, you will understand just why it adored by the critics and fans alike. This is not what you see is what you get. Jump in to Wander’s quest, and you’ll experience one of the most thought-provoking games you’ll ever play.
If you have played the original, it’s advised to jump straight into hard mode. Played on normal difficulty, knowing where all the Colossi are and how to defeat them, means the game can be finished in about four hours. There is a time attack mode, which gives you some items to aid you after you have completed the game, and a new game plus mode which can keep you on your toes.
Never played it? Then you are about to experience one of the most thrilling and talked about games ever created. This is a remaster done right.