January 30, 2018
Both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus demonstrated that games could have the capacity to transcend the status of 'just a game' to be considered something akin to a work of art. Genuinely affecting, Shadow of the Colossus managed to elicit a whole range of emotions, from the guilt you'd feel when toppling the benign ancient stone beings that have been roaming the land for aeons, to the soaring swell of adrenaline that shoots through your body when climbing to vertiginous heights as the soundtrack reaches a heart-pounding crescendo.
Shadow of the Colossus is a stone-cold, bona fide classic, and as such, a remake can't have been approached lightly. Capturing lightning in a bottle upon its original release back in 2005, Shadow of the Colossus was unlike anything I'd played before at the time and unlike anything I've played since. A green and verdant realm inhabited by unassuming moss-covered giants, there's something quietly beautiful and otherworldly about Shadow of the Colossus' rolling hills and desert plains, and of course, the living relics that have lived there undisturbed countless centuries before your arrival.
More than eleven years ago, Colossus was already a jaw-dropping masterpiece. In Bluepoint Games' hands, it's a fresh prospect, bringing the game up to date for a new audience, even incorporating a modernised control system alongside the classic button mapping (as well as alternate remapped variations of both). This ensures that newcomers can get straight into the game without feeling alienated. Not that the game's original controls don't still work a treat, naturally, although the modern controls arguably make more sense and prove a more intuitive option.
Within the game's opening moments, I'd already scaled and felled my first colossus in less than two minutes, which is testament to how logical the default modern control layout is. What other changes the dev has implemented beyond the control tweaks are subtle enough that you won't even notice them, yet Shadow of the Colossus plays like any contemporary open-world adventure, and never compromises any singular aspect of the original game. The whole thing has been handled with due care and reverence. Bluepoint has done nothing to blot or tamper with Team ICO's sacred masterwork.
If you experienced Colossus during the PS2 era, you'll no doubt relish the opportunity to revisit it, even if you played Bluepoint's 2011 remaster on PlayStation 3. Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 is a proper remake in every sense and looks utterly glorious, whether you opt for 'performance mode' at a smooth 60 frames per second or favour 'resolution mode' for full and unadulterated 4K prettiness on PS4 Pro. Whichever you plump for, playing Team ICO's seminal adventure on PS4 is refreshing, and as enrapturing as ever. I couldn't stop messing around with the game's Photo Mode, stopping to capture stunning landscapes and sights what seemed like every three minutes.
When you're not galloping across jaw-dropping vistas on horseback, there are colossi to be slain, all sixteen of which present their own individual challenge to overcome. Some require a little lateral thinking to scale and the final boss remains a truly epic climb and one hell of a memorable showdown, even if it does highlight the slightly floaty jumping and occasionally skittish camera. Rediscovering each behemoth again is magical after several years, while working out (or in my case trying to remember) how to scamper up to their vulnerable point – as marked by a glowing sigil when you approach with your sword drawn - to inflict killer blows with the hero's blade is never anything less than intense, oily life blood hissing from the wounds in jets from each monster's weak spot as you land a strike.
Managing protagonist Wander's grip gauge as you hold on for dear life ramps up that intensity, rendering every encounter a fraught activity. Knowing when to stand on two feet and let your strength return without being cast to the ground, meaning you have to start the arduous climb all over again, is all part and parcel. No two colossi are really the same either, so part of the fun is figuring out how to bring every one of the majestic creatures down, to ultimately restore slumbering girl Mono to life.
There's the connection to Wander's horse Agro that runs throughout Colossus too. He's essentially your only friend, your vehicle to explore and traverse the sprawling landscape, and a character that you'll grow to value deeply. Armed with only a bow and arrow, and a trusty sword that also acts as a compass to point the way with a beam of light that converges on your target, Wander's quest is a lonely one, save for the company of his equine partner. Agro even becomes instrumental during certain battles, making him an indispensable friend.
For a multitude of reasons, the entirety of Colossus is an indelible thing, a profound experience that will be forever etched into your brain if you've been fortunate enough to play it. If you haven't, then the release of Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 represents a golden opportunity to enjoy one of the greatest games of all time. Unparalleled in its artistry, its capacity to constantly amaze and engender emotion, Shadow of the Colossus stands tall as a truly towering achievement, and Bluepoint's remarkable work in bringing it up to date is astonishing.
Ko Otani's soaring, transcendent soundtrack will send shivers down your spine, while the rest of the game's aural landscape is suitably subtle. Nigh-on perfect.
On PS4 (especially a Pro), Shadow of the Colossus will make your jaw hit the floor. While a 60fps option is available, we'd recommend the boost in resolution. It makes a beautiful game even more achingly gorgeous. You won't stop playing with the Photo Mode.
Whether you choose one of the modernised control schemes or the classic layout, Shadow of the Colossus remains an unmitigated joy to play. It's brilliant.
Every square-inch of Fumito Ueda's masterpiece has been handled beautifully by Bluepoint Games, proving that the studio really is the undisputed top dog when it comes to remakes and remasters. You won't want to put your DualShock down.
A bit of a rehash of the Team ICO Collection remaster list from 2011, rewarding trophies for defeating each colossus, finding the collectibles and more. Nonetheless, this is a good, solid list.
An allegory for humankind's interference with nature, Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the finest games ever conceived and an experience that demands to be enjoyed all over again. Or, if you're lucky enough, to be discovered for the first time. If you own a PlayStation 4, there's absolutely no excuse not to own Shadow of the Colossus.