A classic comes to PS4
Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 is a masterpiece. Granted the original on PS2 was also was a masterpiece, but what this updated version adds is truly remarkable. It’s a from-the-ground-up remake offering completely rebuilt environments and colossi that are quite simply stunning to see. The breathtaking new lighting system and cinematic blur effects further bolster the game’s enchanting allure.
Taking a step back, it’s almost unfathomable to think Sony would dare remake this classic from scratch. The original title is frequently cited as one of the most memorable gaming experiences of all time. For many gamers—myself included—Shadow of the Colossus is simply art, beautiful interactive art. To attempt to recreate this artistic piece for a whole new generation of gamers is a pretty gutsy move. However, after playing the remake I’d say it turned out to be one of the best decisions Sony’s ever made.
A story about love
From inception, Shadow of the Colossus writer Fumito Ueda intended this game to be based on Japanese minimalism. As such, much of the backstory and character motivations are left for your interpretation. What we do know is the game focuses on Wander, a young man who ventures into the Forbidden Land. Like the name implies, this is a prohibited place where no human is supposed to step foot. Soon, we find out why.
At the centre of the Forbidden Land is the towering Shrine of Worship, Wander’s intended destination. His plan is to resurrect a maiden named Mono, whom he carries on the back of his horse Agro. Inside the shrine he encounters Domin, a mysterious entity that says it can bring life back to the maiden. But in order to do so Wander needs to hunt down and kill 16 colossi roaming this cursed land. Thus the adventure begins!
Going colossi hunting
During the opening moments we also discover the Wander possesses a special sword capable of channeling light. By raising the sword into direct sunlight, Wander is able to pinpoint the direction of his next colossi target. What’s interesting is that Shadow of Colossus doesn’t hold your hand and guide you around like most games out there. Instead, you’re given the cardinal direction and are tasked with finding where exactly the next colossi lies.
As you make your way to each colossi you’ll soon realize getting to their lair is a puzzle unto itself. You may need to scale mountain paths, explore underwater caverns, or venture through the remains of ancient ruins. At the same time, you begin to ask yourself: “What are these abandoned temples?” and “What are their histories?” Questions like these are again left to your interpretation. Some might argue the lack of backstory is lazy storytelling, but that’s not the point at all. Shadow of the Colossus is designed to inspire your imagination; it gives you curious visuals and asks you to decide their meaning.
Take down those colossi
If the word colossi conjures up thoughts of gargantuan, hulking creatures, then you’d be exactly right. The enemies you face are enormous, quite possibly the largest you’d ever see in a video game. What’s more impressive is all the colossi are climbable, in fact it’s the primary way to defeat them.
Similar to entering the colossi lairs, each colossus themselves is like a puzzle for you to solve. First you need to uncover to weak spots (by using your light sword), and second you need to reach them. Getting to these weak points always involves climbing or mounting these beasts, which is no easy task. You’ll need to be creative—including using environments around you—in order to discover the secret of beating each colossus.
I touched upon this earlier but just wanted to emphasize how huge the updates are in Shadow of the Colossus. The developers at Bluepoint Games have created what I would call the greatest remake in gaming history. Everything looks so beautiful and stunning, it’s a visual feast the likes of which most games can only dream of.
Most impressive is how Bluepoint was able to recapture what made the original such an artistic masterpiece. Not only recapture but build upon that foundation with all-new art assets accentuated by incredibly immersive lighting. The darkened forests feel more ominous, as if you’re the first human to step foot in them in ages. Enhanced details in the crumbling cities hint at wondrous civilizations that inhabited them in the past. There’s a tangible sense of awe and wonder no matter where you travel across this vast land.
Have fun with Photo Mode
Shadow of the Colossus is very self-aware of just how gorgeous its graphics are. New in this edition is Photo Mode, a feature we’ve previously seen in games like Horizon: Zero Dawn. At any time you can press down the D-pad to access a very robust suite of photo editing tools. These include adjusting the camera position, zooming in/out, adding filters or a vignette, and much more. For serious photo editors you can even get into RGB colour tinkering as well as adjusting saturation, contrast, and focus. There’s a pretty big rabbit hole of photo fun on offer here.
For me, Photo Mode added significantly to the overall experience. Every thunderous waterfall I spotted was another opportunity to take a stunning photo on my horse. I would take diversions for minutes at a time just to climb a steep hill for a gorgeous panoramic selfie. This game is unbelievably photogenic and by the end I had a whole photo book of incredible memories.
Perhaps most fun of all was trying to capture the colossi in all their majestic glory. As living, breathing creatures that move around it wasn’t always the easiest task. Dodging their attacks while setting up breathtaking pictures is a fun little challenge unto itself. When you do manage to snap those perfect shots it makes all the effort worthwhile. If you enjoy photo collecting or using the PS4 Share function, you’ll have a smorgasbord here.
Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 ranks as one of the best gaming experiences of all time. It’s wondrous and inspiring, a true interactive piece of art with you at the centre. Bluepoint Games went well above and beyond what we normal get with remakes delivering a polished, immaculate final product. This is the type of game that not only elevates the PS4, but the entire medium of video games.
+ Pristine visuals
+ Modernized controls
+ Awe-inspiring colossi
+ A richly emotional story
+ Sets a new bar for remakes
– Minor camera issues at times
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5