Shadow of the Colossus is almost universally recognized as one of the greatest games of all time. Team Ico’s adventurer took players to a mystical world and tasked them with taking on sixteen different Colossi, each offering a unique and massive boss battle. Fans loved it on PS2, though the hardware limitations were certainly severe. These were lifted for the PS3 remastering, but there’s only so much improvement upping the resolution can bring.
Now, for this new PS4 release, we have a true remake, rebuilding the classic from the ground up. This is risky, with the chance that the new developers miss some key details that made the original so great. Thankfully the developers at Bluepoint have once again shown that they are some of the best around, delivering Shadow of the Colossus in all its glory, only improved for the modern age.
Shadow of the Colossus PS4 Review
The original Shadow of the Colossus was a revelation in part because of its minimalism. Aside from the sixteen Colossi, there are no enemies to fight. Unless you’re engaged in a boss fight, you are essentially in no danger and are free to explore the massive open world at your leisure. And despite this lack of enemies to fight, you’ll want to explore this world, because it is gorgeous, mysterious, and intriguing. Around every corner you’ll find some new environment, a beautiful vista, or just some lizards to collect. You set the tone and pace of your adventure, which was revelatory on PS2, and is still distinct from most games today.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games of all time and it has now received a truly worthy remake
The significance of the original release of Shadow of the Colossus may be tough to understand today, as its innovations have mostly been copied and repeated throughout contemporary adventure games. But back in 2005 there were simply no other games that delivered so well on the promise of the genre. Jumping on the back of Agro, exploring the countryside, stumbling across your colossal target, figuring out how to bring them down, then executing the plan works so well that the cycle repeats sixteen times in this one game, and fans are still clamoring for more.
On this epic and revolutionary base Bluepoint has built a more stable and visually pleasing game, without infringing on the things that made it so great in the first place. In the hands of lesser developers Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 could have turned out as a disaster. They could have missed the point of the cumbersome control scheme, or the slow pace, and ended up crafting a samey action title that just featured sixteen epic boss battles and nothing else.
Instead they seem to have taken great care to maintain the feel of the original, offering the same control scheme on top of their own reworkings, and keeping things just as frantic and uncontrollable as the original. Yes, you will still flail about on the back of a shuttering Colossus, and yes, that is an important part of the game. It might frustrate you, it might drive you crazy, especially as your stamina meter drops to zero, but everything here serves a greater purpose, and Shadow of the Colossus on PS4 delivers it once again, only better than before.
The visuals have been massively improved here, with the game rivaling wholly modern titles, while still remaining as evocative and unique as the original. The hair on the various Colossi is the most striking to me, with each strand moving in the breeze and reacting to your touch. Exploring the world is also improved, with highly detailed foliage and rock faces that are truly impressive. And it all holds at a steady framerate, either 30 or 60 depending on if you are on PS4 or PS4 Pro. Purists might find ways to complain, such as minor changes in cutscenes, or lower fog levels, but these are extremely small when compared to the huge improvements offered here. And thanks to a set of graphical filters, you can always play the game more similar to how you remember it, if you so wish.
Along with the visual upgrades and new control schemes, these filters and the Photo Mode that uses them most, are the biggest additions to Shadow of the Colossus on PS4. Gamers have really loved Photo Modes in more recent titles, and it was a great idea to add it here. The huge boss battles, open landscapes, and beautiful environments make for perfect fodder for this feature. Already, with just the select group of reviewers trying it out and sharing, we’ve seen some gorgeous images coming out, and the plethora of customization options means we’ll see tons more once this is in the hands of thousands of gamers.
Aside from this, the experience of Shadow of the Colossus is gleefully preserved in the transition to PS4. Bluepoint has upgraded where necessary, and maintained where the status quo is required. This also means that if you weren’t a fan of the original release, that is unlikely to change here. The action in Shadow of the Colossus is not fluid, and features an intentional level of wonkiness. Controlling your horse feels like managing a semi-wild animal. Climbing the Colossi is slow and methodical. In just a split second you can lose your balance and fall to the ground, wasting tens of minutes of work. But this is part of the magic of Shadow of the Colossus, and it has thankfully held true here.
However, it’s still certainly true that more could have been done to improve upon the game. Some of the old issues could have been touched up a bit better. Wander will still glitch out on occasion, jumping from one surface to another with little reason why. These instances are rare though, and for longtime fans they are more likely to elicit a chuckle, rather than true frustration. And this really would have become something big if Bluepoint had included the cut Colossi that were crafted for the original release, though it’s understandable why they would avoid such a massive change.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games of all time and it has now received a truly worthy remake on PS4. There aren’t any major shifts in the gameplay or content additions, but the game needed neither. Instead Bluepoint has taken the original classic, upgraded the visuals, and only touched what needed to be touched. The improved, stable framerate is enough for longtime fans, but the gorgeous graphics allow the game to stand alongside more modern releases as well. Fans will want to have this on day one, and if you’ve never experienced the magic of Shadow of the Colossus before, this is the way to do it.
Shadow of the Colossus
- Available On: PS4
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: Bluepoint Games, SIE Japan Studio
- Genre: Action Adventure
- US Release Date: February 6th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games of all time and it has now received a truly worthy remake on PS4. There aren't any major shifts in the gameplay or content additions, but the game needed neither. Instead Bluepoint has taken the original classic, upgraded the visuals, and only touched what needed to be touched. Fans will want to have this on day one, and if you've never experienced the magic of Shadow of the Colossus before, this is the way to do it."