Shadow of the Colossus review (PS4)

The brilliant Shadow of the Colossus has once again resurfaced, this time on the Playstation 4. Does the twelve year old classic hold up to today’s standards?

We’ve often remarked on the fact that we seem to be living in an age of remasters, especially on the Playstation 4 platform. We’ve seen games redone that were originally on the Playstation 3, and recently we’ve seen quite a few PSP titles as well – including the excellent LocoRoco and Patapon. Shadow of the Colossus is a bit unique in this sense though, as it’s a complete remake of a game that was already remastered a hardware generation ago. After the HD version on the Playstation 3, this version of the game was built from the ground up – at least visually, with new assets that benefit from the Playstation 4’s additional horsepower. The game mechanics from the Playstation 2 version mostly remain intact though, with a few subtle improvements here and there.

Speaking of improvements, those who own a Playstation 4 Pro will enjoy two options that others won’t. There is a “cinematic” mode which makes the game look better, especially on 4K HDR displays, and there is a “performance” mode that aims for a constant 60 frames per second. They’re nice extras, but I can’t help but think I can already see the promise that is going to come with the next console generation – where we won’t have to pick one over the other.

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When the original Shadow of the Colossus was announced, it was mostly known as “the next game by the creators of Ico”, one of the most gorgeous titles to ever grace the Playstation 2. Upon release, Team Ico showed they weren’t a one hit wonder as Shadow of the Colossus was equally beautiful in its own way – stretching the console’s hardware to its limits, as slight framerate hiccups would demonstrate. The Playstation 3 version ‘fixed’ this while keeping the same look and feel, but the Playstation 4 remake feels a little different.

There’s a cleaner, sharper look this time around, with more color and detail. I imagine that this has to do with two things – the added power that the PS4 offers, and the limitations of the PS2 originals. That might sound like one and the same, but let me explain. Having the PS4’s horsepower available means that we get higher resolution textures with tons more detail, which makes perfect sense. That the PS4 version also shows to me is that in the PS2 version, they used a fog-like shroud to help with limitations in terms of the drawing distance that could be rendered. It wasn’t just a clever technical solution, it also gave the game an air of mystery and foreboding. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but it’s a touch of atmosphere I missed while playing the game again on a PS4.

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That’s not to say that Shadow of the Colossus isn’t brilliant again this time around. It’s technically marvelous, and can stand right up there with other AAA titles. Perhaps it’s no Horizon: Zero Dawn, but this doesn’t feel like a last-gen title, which shows the great effort that Bluepoint Games put in here. The sense of scale you feel when you approach one of the Colossi is as awesome as ever, and especially palpable when you’re climbing them.

There are also subtle changes to the gameplay, but nothing that changes the formula. It’s easier to save your game and your horse and bow don’t act as fussy as they could on the PS2 this time around. Bluepoint didn’t do anything to turn this game into something of their own, and gamers should love them for it. Shadow of the Colossus is unlike many of today’s titles in that it shows that a more thoughtful, almost philosophical, approach can work. It’s something we sometimes we see in indie productions, but Shadow of the Colossus blends it with a gorgeous style and AAA production values. Even twelve years later, it’s wonderful to play – especially for first timers who have yet to experience the sense of awe the game instills.

Score: 9/10

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