The beauty of Shadow of the Colossus, even with this remake thirteen years after the original, is its simplicity. There are no side quests or items necessary to proceed, just a vast open world and one single mission to complete.
After a silent and peaceful cutscene we meet our protagonist, Wander. A boy accompanied in the Forbidden Lands only by his loyal horse Agro and a comatose woman. His travels lead him to a shrine and then on to a quest to slay a variety of humongous, ancient Colossi. Our hero thinks that defeating them all will restore life to the mysterious, comatose woman who has a significant level of importance to our protagonist.
Although the plot suggests a repetitive game, Shadow of the Colossus is anything but. The world is diverse and lifelike, the landscape is carved and painted by shadows and light which means that even though the colour palate of the game is mostly the same, the world feels alive and exotic; each section of the world a living a thriving ecosystem which makes the exploration of these vast plains and grassy flatland’s thoroughly enjoyable. Traversing the land is made easier with the companionship of the boy’s horse, Agro and the stunning graphics mean that galloping through the lands is effortless and relaxing. Each corner of this huge continent houses one of the sixteen colossi, while the aspect of finding them may seem daunting the boy’s sword can be used as a dowsing rod, reflecting beams of sunlight towards the direction of the nearest beast.
Each of the sixteen Colossi are varied in both appearance and weaknesses. Most of these adversary’s tower over Wanderer, their height and stature for the most part makes these ancient beats feel much tricker to defeat even if some of them are passive in nature. The key to slaying these impressive Colossi involves getting close enough to them to scale them, find their vital points and stab these ancient beasts whilst feeling slightly guilty about your murderous rampage. Ascending these towering giants is a challenge in itself and Wander will have to find ingenious ways to use the environment around him to shift the power dynamics in his favour. These giants continue fighting you off until their last breath, whether they attempt to crush you underfoot, electrocute you to protect their vital points or simply shake furiously to dislodge you. Wander only has limited stamina, a circle which slowly ticks down before he can hang on no longer meaning that clinging onto these beasts during their desperate attempts to dislodge him is often trickier than it seems, and it adds an element of increasing difficulty as you progress through the game.
The development team at Bluepoint have transformed the PS2 original into something truly stunning on the PS4. In true 4K cinematic mode on the PS4 Pro the game is flawless, each strand of hair on the colossi is defined and each blade of grass is individually distinct from the others. Even on the launch PS4 the game is completely transformed from the ageing PS2 original. Yet despite this there is a characteristic soft feel to the graphics, one which embraces the origins of the game. This mixture of fine details and a soft wash of colour means that the game is both nostalgic and current at the same time. Because of this stunning transformation to the landscape its hard to play the game without opening the newly introduced photo mode and snapping pictures continuously through your adventure. With multiple camera angles, sliders for filters, depth of field and brightness it’s easy to spend most of the game taking screenshots and marvelling at the beauty of the game from behind the screen of the camera.
Although the remake has transformed the thirteen-year-old game into something spectacular there are some issues which still need to be ironed out. The controls at crucial times can become Wanders biggest hindrance, spinning camera angles mean that a perfect chance to strike a vital spot of a Colossus is lost in an instant, replacing the screen with gangly limbs and fur rather than the target Wander has spent so long trying to locate. Although this is irritating during the first few hours of the game it becomes much easier to adapt to the controls as Wander progresses on his journey.
Overall this remake takes something brilliant and makes it outstanding. Shadow of the Colossus has proven to be a timeless classic and one which deserves to be played by nostalgic fans and first-time players alike. Although the concept appears to be repetitive, the story is powered forward by the player’s desire to slay the sixteen colossi and bring back Wander’s sleeping love. The final moral twist and the emotional conclusion to the end of the game is powerful, and memorable and it helps elevate Shadow of the Colossus to the highest standard of storytelling. This game should proudly sit on the shelf of each and every PS4 gamer.