Shadow of the Colossus

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by Imran Khan on Oct 31, 2017 at 11:00 AM
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Rating: Teen
Platform: PlayStation 4

When a Shadow of the Colossus remake showed up at Sony’s E3 event earlier this year, it made a huge but very brief splash. Since then, details have been sparse. The venerated title has been lauded since its release in 2005, but the idea of a remake is simultaneously exciting and worrying for fans who are cautious that a 2017 release can capture what was great about the original.

As a PlayStation 2 game, Shadow of the Colossus stretched that hardware as far as it could go. The massive bosses and vast, open environments forced the framerate into near-unplayable states at times. The filmic look was a visual treat, but could end up really chugging in a way that stressed the extent to which the game was coded to the metal. A lot of these issues were fixed in an HD remaster on the PlayStation 3 made by Bluepoint, the same developers working on this version, but was not the full remake fans were hoping for.

The Shadow of the Colossus remake for PlayStation 4 looks incredible, and can hold its own as a modern-looking title against others made from the ground up for the console. Every texture is new, every effect freshly crafted, the world of Shadow of the Colossus has never looked better. The new graphics even retain a level of dirt and grime that helped make said world feel bleak and lonely.

One major change is the density of small touches Bluepoint has added to the world. Moss grows between bricks with flowers popping up here and there. The path to the 13th Colossus has a small forest blocking your way, which is a pocket of lushness not seen anywhere else or in the original title. These small things start to make the world feel a little different and a little less dead when taken in aggregate. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on how the player interpreted director Fumito Ueda's vision the first time through.

That sense of vertigo when a Colossus takes up your entire screen and, unconcerned with you, flies past your view remains perfectly intact, however.

The noticeable heft and weight to Wander, the game’s protagonist, is mostly retained in the remake. He moves slightly easier and jumps with a bit less heaviness than he originally did. It is almost imperceptible, but can definitely be seen when looking for it. Agro is as stubborn as ever, sometimes coming to dead stops at small rocks in the road. While a new control method has been confirmed, it was not available in the demo.

While the game looks much better, it makes some of the original game’s more forgivable issues on the PlayStation 2 seem weird now. When Agro has collision issues and vibrates out of control, it looks significantly more jarring than it did on seven-year-old technology. When your view gets blocked by a colossus’ fin covering the entire screen, it feels more frustrating than it did when camera solutions were still being tested and debated.

Some fans might have issues with the small changes the game makes, but the far larger changes make it hard to argue that any other version of Shadow of the Colossus should be someone’s first time through the game. Those intense moments of running alongside a Colossus as sweeping music plays lives on in the remake as powerful as they have ever been, which is what I remember and love about the original.

Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 is scheduled to release on February 6.