Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) Review

Shadow of the Colossus was regarded as an instant classic when it released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2006.  Originally developed by Team Ico, the game was simplistic in nature but ginormous in scale.  The game has now seen a full remake in the form of Shadow of the Colossus on PS4.  This remake puts a new coat of paint on the decidedly aging PS2 graphics, tweaks controls, and adds some extra flavor.  Are the new visuals enough to warrant a purchase, or is this just another remake in the ever-growing library of remakes.  Let’s see how Shadow of the Colossus performs on PS4.

Shadow of the Colossus Title

Wander and Mono

Players take control of Wander, a young boy looking to revive his fallen friend, Mono.  Traveling to the Forbidden Lands and wielding a sword of ancient power, Wander must pull off an impossible feat.  Scattered around the Forbidden Lands are 16 colossi, who instill fear and intimidation.  Guided by the light glimmering off his sword, Wander navigates the expansive environments searching for the beasts.

Shadow of the Colossus MonoThe story in Shadow of the Colossus is appropriately light.  Beyond the initial set up, a lot of Shadow of the Colossus‘s story is personal; the moments you have along your journey will be the ones that stick out.  There’s still a tangible story here, one that gets infinitely better as the credits reach their end.  However, Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t waste much screen time on its characters, instead putting the focus on the titular colossi.

Shadow of the Colossus cutscene

Scouring the Land

Shadow of the Colossus puts an emphasis on finding each colossi before you get to fight them.  By pressing the R2 button when standing in a patch of sunlight, a beam of light reflects off your sword.  Following this beam across the massive landscape is common, and will take up a good chunk of your time in the game.  Finding these beasts is half the battle; some are tucked away in hard to reach sections of the world.

Shadow of the Colossus Light

Your travels will take you to a good variety of environments, each detailed and impressive.  The land is awe-inspiring, with excellent lighting effects to set the tone.  The impressive draw distance always reminds you just how big the world is.  At its worst, the game’s map can feel empty at times, but always beautiful.

Shadow of the Colossus map

As I explored the Forbidden Lands, one thing stood out to me the most; the attention to detail.  When fighting colossi, crumbling rocks fall from the beasts.  This is accompanied by a plume of dust and dirt, creating some insanely good looking particle effects.  In terms of landscape, the attention to detail only heightens the experience.  Water and sand are both equally well done.  Jumping into a lake causes realistic air bubbles at impact, and swimming along sends ripples across the water.  Running across sandy dunes is also visually arresting, more so if you’re riding your trusty horse, Agro.  Sand kicks up behind the horse’s legs, and the hoof prints left behind are oddly impressive.  When matched against the huge scale of the colossi, it was interesting to me that the environmental effects stuck out the most.

Shadow of the Colossus shrine16 Beasts

Shadow of the Colossus often plays more like a puzzle game than anything else.  Wander only has a bow and sword, and swinging blindly at the colossi will do you no good.  Each colossi is different, and only two of them look even remotely similar.  Most are incredibly massive, but none are repetitive.  After searching far and wide, finding and approaching a colossi is a stressful event.  The scale of these beasts makes the power struggle that much more apparent.

Shadow of the Colossus 3Before damaging a colossus, you first have to scale it.  Figuring out how and when to make your approach is half the battle.  Damaging these beasts feel more like a reward than anything else.  Each colossus battle is unique, and your method for getting on top of one will surely not work on any of the others.

Once you’re on top, you’ll have to grip onto their hairy bodies, expending stamina.  You can get a breather by standing on pieces of their armor, but this is a precarious situation, as Wander can stumble and fall at any point.  Eventually, you’ll find a glowing weak spot, where you simply stab them with as much power as possible.

My biggest issue with the game is an old one; the controls.  Since its release on PlayStation 2, players had complained (or praised) the game’s somewhat clunky controls.  This may be by design, intended to remove some predictability in favor for stressful moments.  When the controls acted up, I was more frustrated than anything else.  In a game where one wrong move can spell your death, having tight controls is an absolute must.  For me, it weakens the overall experience.  In comparison to the original, the controls feel a bit tighter, but still lackluster.

Shadow of the Colossus StabThe Bottom Line on Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)

At a mid-tier price, Shadow of the Colossus is an affordable and effective remake.  The updated visuals make colossi magnificent to behold, and the surrounding landscape just as remarkable.  The sweeping orchestral score adds weight to fights and punctuates your successes.  Each beast you slay feels immensely rewarding, and figuring out the strategy behind each colossus is fun.  The updated controls help a bit, but controlling Wander can still feel clunky at times.  At worst, you can count on an accidental death or two due to the controls.

Your mileage with Shadow of the Colossus will vary, depending on if you’ve played the game before and how well you remember it.  Like they said on G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle”, and that sentiment rings true for fighting giant colossi.  For me, it was a brief but enjoyable experience, ending in just under 3 hours and 45 minutes.  New players can expect to take at least 6 to 10 hours on their first run through the game.  Extras come in the form of Time Attack, Mirrored World Mode, and a few others, but this is mainly a visual overhaul.  Beyond the new photo mode, don’t expect any hugely new content.

Shadow of the Colossus is often a slow game, letting you relax a bit while you ride your horse through the wilds.  It juxtaposes that with intense battles that require thought rather than brute force.  If you like atmosphere, gorgeous visuals, and strategic combat, then Shadow of the Colossus will be right up your alley.  If you’re expecting something like Bloodborne or Monster Hunter, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  For fans of the original PS2 game, this remake is a must-buy.  For newcomers to the game, I recommend looking at some gameplay before diving in head first.

Rating: 9/10

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