Shadow of the Colossus is a complete remake of the original PS2 classic with updated music and colossally improved visuals. Despite looking dramatically different, this new version only highlights the amazing quality of the original. If you have always wondered why it received so much hype, this is a great time to see for yourself.
This is actually the third release of Shadow of the Colossus, and the second version created by Bluepoint Games. The original released on the PS2 in 2005 in North America and 2006 in Europe. An HD version of the game was released on the PS3 in 2011. Bluepoint Games made that version as well. The studio has worked on remakes for other Sony games, such as Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Gravity Rush: Remastered, and The God of War Collection. The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was also developed by Bluepoint Games.
For anyone unfamiliar, Shadow of the Colossus tells the story of a young man who carries the body of a dead girl he loves to a forbidden temple. He makes a deal with the entities that live there. If he will kill the 16 colossi scattered across a cursed land, they will bring her back to life.
Armed with only a sword and a bow, our hero rides his horse Agro through deserts, forests, rocky mountains, deep caverns, and towering waterfalls to each new confrontation The general direction is displayed by a shining light when you raise your sword to the sky, and you zero in on the correct path.
Finding your enemy is the easy part. He has an impossible task. Each colossus is stronger, faster, or otherwise more powerful than he can ever hope to be. Some of them dive deep into water or fly high above you in the sky. The sense of scale for some of them is incredible.
Each fight is a puzzle. You need to find and stab the vital areas on each colossus, but you must find a way onto the colossus first. They are not going to lie down and let you leisurely hop onto their backs for a little amateur acupuncture. It’s actively trying to return the existence elimination favor.
Once you are up there, your grip meter will show how long you can stay on as the colossus tries to shake you off. Raising your sword will illuminate the places you have to navigate and stab with a white rune. Depending on how hard you strike, each vital point will take a couple of hits, and a single fight can last a while.
The most obvious change to this version is the visuals. For Shadow of the Colossus, they decided to go back to the original and recreate all the art. The transformation is amazing. Everything has been redone. Even smaller things like the grass, plants, and water have depth and seem alive. Textures are vastly improved, too. The stones in the temple, shrines, and the walls of the mountain pass are stunning. The amount of dirt kicked up by Agro’s hooves as you gallop across a field, and the way your detailed tunic flows in the breeze are just some of the many little touches to appreciate.
By far, the biggest change is to the colossi themselves. The new details on each one of them is staggering. If you have climbed and stabbed your share of colossi in the past, you have to see the new fur on their bodies. The different strands move on the back, and you can see the musculature underneath the skin.
To see the scope of how much has changed, watch Sony’s PSX 2017 trailer. It shows the PS2, PS3, and PS4 Pro version side by side. (Here is a link to watch it on YouTube.) I played it on an original PS4, and I was impressed. For those of you with a PS4 Pro, you are going to see even more benefits. If nothing else, it demonstrates the value of a good art style from the beginning.
The music is also improved as part of the remake process. According to the composer, Kow Otani, not all tracks were redone, but the beginning and ending music had more instrumentation to give it a greater sense of depth. With stringed instruments and an organ, the initial sequence’s music is powerful and sets a strong mood.
That mood is persistent through the game and creates some of the themes. Otani specifically states the feeling of the sound is more of a prayer and requiem, and the best place to see this after defeating a Colossus. It’s not a Final Fantasy victory theme. It is softer and quieter. You almost feel sorry for killing the thing that just tried to flatten you with a stone sword.
The world itself fills you with a sense of loneliness and hopelessness. Although there are plants and animals, such as the lizards you can kill for more stamina, it is mostly empty of life. You feel the weight of history as you trespass in the ruins of a once great area that has fallen into neglect and decay.
These visual cues flesh out the story as you ride out to each arena to face your next challenge and when it is completed. If you have never seen the ending, there is more story in the game, but it’s only explicitly told at the beginning and the end. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but watch the entire end credits.
Outside some minor control issues with Agro and the floaty movement on foot, the only real annoyance I had was with the camera. The world is beautiful, and a colossus is astounding up close. I wanted to see everything, but the camera will not stay fixed when I moved it. It returns to a position behind your back whenever you let go of the thumbstick, and it’s a fairly sensitive control.
It is likely for the cinematic view or best view of your character when you are crawling over 1,000 tonnes of monster, where it works great without me having to do anything. It’s not huge, but it can still be fiddly to see a waterfall or orient my sword and view with a given direction.
Ever since I played the HD version on the PS3, I looked up at the enormous bridge as I galloped on Agro, and I wondered what Shadow of the Colossus would look like if someone had fully remade it. This version of the game is exactly what I hoped to see with everything that made the original so special fully intact.
If you have played this previously, the amount of work put into this game is definitely worth another look. If you have never played Shadow of the Colossus, this is the best version of one of PlayStation’s most unique and iconic titles. The fresh coat of paint only emphasizes how a good game, thoughtful art direction, unique music, and timeless themes can be just as fresh today as it was twelve years ago.
Shadow of the Colossus PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.8/10
Shadow of the Colossus is a classic. Completely remade for the PS4, everything has given a level a level of detail that would not have been possible on the PS2, and its incredible to see the transformation, while still preserving the original’s magic.
Returning fans will find plenty to enjoy in this new version, and anyone who has never played the game will be rewarded with the best incarnation of this iconic title.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.