Shadow of the Colossus Review
Excitement washed over the gaming community when it was announced that Team Ico’s 2005 Shadow of the Colossus would be remastered for the PS4. This was particularly true since the studio tasked with the remaster had previous experience performing the task for the PS3. As it turns out, Bluepoint Games not only remained faithful to what made the original so great but also updated that which would seem aged to a modern audience.
Upon starting the game, the player is drawn into the narrative through a cutscene that establishes the protagonist, a young man and his horse. Together, they carry the body of the protagonist’s deceased lover through the mountains. It is a bleak first impression and one that is carried throughout Shadow of the Colossus. The introduction leads up to an old and ruined temple which the young man enters. Immediately, it becomes clear that Team Ico’s vision of providing a cinematic experience for the player has been replicated by Bluepoint Games.
Before long, a god commands that the protagonist seek out Colossi, one for each statue that adorns the temple. Only when they fall, the god announces, may the soul of his lover be reclaimed. From this central temple, our hero mounts his horse and seeks out a Colossus by using the light reflected off his weapon. Once the foe is found, the sword which guided you to the Colossus will also show you where it is vulnerable (and where you need to strike). This repeated frame (seek out colossus from temple, kill it) is a purposefully simple, yet powerful one. However, the guidance provided by the sword can be confusing at times, and the lack of any traditional storytelling may turn off some players.
The fights you will have against your foes thus revolve around three tools: a bow, holy sword and the ability to climb or hold onto the colossi with R2. Beyond that, encounters demand adaptation to an environment using those unchanging mechanics. Though Shadow of the Colossus may be an action game in some respect, it’s mechanics actually depict the Colossi as individual puzzles. The landscapes on which you fight them can similary be seen as pieces of such puzzles. Though initially quite simple, these grow to be increasingly difficult and require more careful observation from the player. However, the fidelity of Bluepoint Games to the original vision of Team Ico also means a return to a relatively chaotic camera. In tighter areas or when fighting within caves, the camera can become difficult to keep track of.
The landscapes remastered by Bluepoint Games are sights to behold. The minimalist UI lends itself well to it and allows the player to contemplate the expansive vistas with ease. There is a sense of wonder, and sadness, that accompanies the locales as they evolve. The game has been rebuilt from the ground up, and this shows most in its graphical fidelity; more specifically in the lighting and texture work done. Though the models have been given higher quality textures, their design and some animations sometimes appear aged.
This fidelity to the original game is also clear in the game’s score. There is a richness to it which accompanies every Colossus very well. The soundtrack grows to peaks of violin in intense moments, and resonates ominously as an unknown threat spirals beneath you in the water. The score also shines in its silences, particularly those that accompany the immediate death of a Colossus. Don’t expect a victory fanfare after such an achievement. You are rewarded with a song that communicates the tragedy of the act and the majesty of the ancient creature which has been felled. This forces player to acknowledge the seeming futility at the heart of the protagonist’s quest. All in all, the score’s melancholy is absolutely haunting.
Shadow of the Colossus also delivers when it comes to replayability, at least partially. Shadow of the Colossus may appear to lack in lasting appeal due to a relatively straightforward and short “campaign”. However, it offers Time attack boss encounters which provide the player with useful gadgets to obtain better times, a hard mode and stamina fruit to discover. The now famous crystal lizard tails are back, for the masochists of the gaming community. All of these things will make your hunting of the Colossi more enjoyable. Simultaneously, those who wish to defeat the Colossi once are free to do so and still walk away satisfied.
I would be lying if I did not admit that I loved the melancholy held within Shadow of the Colossus. The feeling of discovery and simultaneous isolation as one traverses its landscapes remains absolutely breathtaking. The storytelling in Shadow of the Colossus stands out because it relies entirely on the world that Team Ico and Bluepoint have crafted. It focuses on implicit elements of story communicated through the game’s environments. However, some Colossi impressed me more than others in terms of resolution. Bluepoint Games should be proud about the piece they’ve remastered once more. Shadow of the Colossus allows players to experience one of the most visually compelling games of all time.
- Compelling story
- Exciting boss encounters
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Expansive landscapes
- Camera can be difficult to handle
- Path to Colossi can be confusing
- Relatively short campaign
- Graphics / Sound10
- Lasting Appeal8
- Fun Factor9