Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) Review

On the shoulders of giants.

“This looks really nice but, does it need a remake?”

That was the thought that crossed my mind when I saw the announcement trailer for the Shadow of the Colossus remake for the PS4.

After all, it hadn’t been that long since I thoroughly enjoyed my second playthrough of the HD remaster on the PS3 and based on the trailer, it wasn’t clear that any new content of significance would be added.

So, time passed without much anticipation for the remake as the eminent releases of Monster Hunter World and DragonBall FighterZ dominated my waking thoughts.

However, it just happened that Shadow of the Colossus would land in my inbox, and despite my hesitation, I went in hoping for the best- hoping that my experience would lay to rest that initial question that plagued my mind.

Bluepoint Games are often referred to as the masters of the remaster. Titles like Uncharted- the Nathan Drake Collection, God of War Collection, Metal Gear Solid Collection and Gravity Rush Remastered are all exceptionally crafted, improving on the originals in many different ways that make them the clear definitive ways to best enjoy those games to date.

I’m sure there are some out there that claim remastering a game is a simple process but one look at titles like the Silent Hill HD Collection and it becomes abundantly clear that there is no shortage of things that could go wrong, as you could ultimately end up with an effort that makes a mockery of the original games.

However, as undeniably talented at crafting remasters the good folks at Bluepoint Games are, to develop a game from the ground up as a remake is something they’ve never done before. Add to that this was not just any game but Shadow of the Colossus, a title with prestige that is often considered not just one of the best games on the PS2 but one of the best of all time.

It’s a tall- or rather a colossal order (sorry, not sorry), and even from the first moment after booting up the game, I realized that they’ve more than stepped up to the challenge.

The visual upgrades are much more than mere “upgrades” as they are of another caliber entirely.

Just speaking from a visual standpoint, the remake is a thing of beauty, bringing the world to life with strikingly vivid detail. Every single texture felt as though it was designed by a master artisan and even on close inspection, I could not spot any flaws worth noting. The new lighting effects set the mood just right, as the colors danced and illuminated the sky in ways that I felt compelled to stop from time to time just to admire the scenery.

It’s lucky that one of the new added elements is a photography mode that allowed me to take pictures while messing around with a whole slew of filters, going as far as to allow me to change the field of vision to try and snap that perfect shot.

For this particular playthrough, I wanted to try out the modern control scheme which mapped jump to the X button (for those who couldn’t grasp the concept of pressing triangle to jump for whatever reason) and the grip to the R2 which ended up feeling pretty natural after a little while. With four different control styles to choose from, I would highly recommend those that found the button mapping a bit odd try them all to see which one suits their taste the best.

Despite the new control scheme, Wander still felt the same to control as his heavy, deliberate movement remained intact. Holding the jump button and letting it go while climbing to jump took a bit of time to get used to but once I got the hang of it, it felt natural and I was toppling colossi left and right with ease.

It was at this point that I realized the intent of Bluepoint Games as a remake can often just as well be a reimagining, but in the case for Shadow of the Colossus, they wanted to keep the experience of the original game intact as much as they could. This means that those who feared that the remake would taint the memory of the original have nothing to worry about, and for those that wondered if this would be a reimagining of a game that they will perhaps enjoy now having disliked the original- that is unlikely to be case.

The feel of the game remains mostly the same.

That is not to say that the game feels completely identical to the PS2 original or even the PS3 remaster as playing on the performance mode on the PS4 allowed me to run the game at a full 60FPS, resulting in a buttery smooth experience. For those that desire the highest resolution could have the option to enjoy the game at 4k 30FPS while those on the standard PS4 will enjoy a rock solid locked 30FPS, just like the remaster.

The improvements go beyond just the technical side of things as there were numerous quality of life updates as well. The UI has been changed significantly to look a lot cleaner, especially without a huge pink circle covering a corner of the screen. I could also fiddle around with the HUD myself to change things around, but I thought the newly updated default looked just fine and left it as is.

Controlling Wander felt slightly easier now with improved movement speed under water and less instances where he would seemingly stumble for no reason. Mounting Agro was a quick and painless process, and aiming properly while riding Agro no longer required a third thumb.

Auto-saves were implemented rendering the various shrines around the world as glorified heal stations.

During my battles against the colossi, I found myself struggling with the camera frequently trying to keep it in the right place as I came up with a plan of attack, and the few colossi that were fought indoors or near buildings posed more of a challenge due to the camera getting stuck in the environment at times. As I remember this same issue from the original, it’s unclear to me how much it has been improved but at the same time, it’s an issue that persists in the remake.

The story remained intact just the way I remembered it, but they added some new dialogue exclusive to the remake. Luckily, I never found them to be overly long, and while I’m sure there are purists out there that will be offended by the notion of having a slight clarification of what’s going on, it did not bother me at all.

It’s good to take a moment and remember what you’re fighting for.

After completing the game, time trials for defeating the colossi was unlocked and I was able to bring my progress to a new game+ regardless of what difficulty I played in. Given it’s going to take several playthroughs worth of scrumptious lizard tails to have enough stamina to climb to the elusive sanctuary, this was a welcome change.

There were also a brand new collectible to find in the world in the form of golden coins, but as I managed to collect only two or so in my playthrough, it’s unclear to me what collecting all of them unlocks. In fact, the internet as a whole has no idea what happens for finding them all as no one has been able to collect them all. It certainly is a mystery, and one I’ll be sure to keep an eye on. Who knows, maybe it will unlock a 17th colossus to discover or something equally wild.

Despite my reservations about whether or not Shadow of the Colossus needed a remake, I came to a realization during the course of my playthrough that I was simply asking the wrong question. As I toppled one colossus after another, I often found myself stopping in my tracks, awe-stricken by what was on display. I felt the rush- the exhilaration that came in those moments where I was clinging desperately to the colossus and as the sweeping melody washed over me like a wave, I knew that if I could have an experience like this on my fourth playthrough of a game, this was a masterpiece that did not need but rather, deserved a remake as expertly and loving crafted as this one.

Fun Tidbit – Yes, the soundtrack is as every good as you remember it, if not better and has not been remixed or anything of the sort.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good
  • Several notable quality of life changes
  • Vastly improved visuals and performance
  • It’s still Shadow of the Colossus at its core
Bad
  • Camera can be difficult to work with at times
9.5
Excellent
Jae Lee
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.

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