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Shadow of the Colossus Remake [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Shadow of the Colossus is a classic title that is important to the history of video games. It is a warm memory, cherished by a vast majority of games that were around for its initial release. Unfortunately, the controls and mechanics should have been more of a vocus for the re-development of the game rather than the visualization of it.

The Pros: 

+Stunning graphics
+Awe-inspiring scale
+Beautiful soundtrack and story-telling

The Cons: 

-Extremely dated controls
-Wholly out-dated play mechanics
-No update on the world/level design to account for the new hardware Rating : 

I think if you asked the majority for their top ten of all time, most people would have Shadow of the Colossus somewhere on the list. In fact, I'm inclined to say that it'd be on mine. It was an innovative title that broke new ground in terms of what a game could be, not only in scale as the Colossi, who were something we'd not really experienced up to that point, but in story telling and over all game design.

It broke ground in terms of graphics, yes, but it was the way it told its tale and that all too-rare feeling of something completely different that won me over; as well as a fair few of you too I would wager.

It's game that feels like a no-brainer in terms of a redo.

The First Colossus

Actually, it's surprising to me it hadn't happened sooner. When it was announced for the Playstation 4 the first thought I had was: "It's about damn time!" Followed promptly with, "yeah, I should DEFINITELY replay that game again!" I mean, this is a perfect excuse to go back, especially considering the game has been optimized for the recently-released Playstation 4 Pro. Meaning not only would it be operating with the assistance of far more horsepower this time around, it'd be moving up from barely high-res to true 4k.

The good news is that the game is as gorgeous as you would hope from a two-generation leap (2.5 I guess, if you include the Pro as a half-generation console). It's absolutely stunning and from the opening cinematic of the game and I was absolutely awe-struck by how well the visual styling of the game fits with the technological innovation of the Playstation 4.

That sense, for what it's worth, does not go away.

In the Temple

From your first entrance into the temple to your first fight with a Colossi, Playstation 4's upgrade on the classic (all time favourite) title is equally, if not more, inspiring from a visual perspective as I remember feeling from the original itself. Landscapes, character models, and of course the Colossi themselves have all under gone a major graphic overhaul that brings the game not only into the current generation but lets it stand shoulder to shoulder with some of my other favourite looking games like last year's Horizon Zero Dawn.

I wish that I could continue to gush, but for my money the game's charm and thrill (this time around) is only surface level.

Perhaps the march has time has stolen the wonder and challenge of climbing the Colossi, developing strategies how to fell them, and the general gameplay from me. It could also be that we've come a long way in terms of what a game can feel like and what you can do with a controller since then. Shadow of the Colossus controls like a game that was made two generations ago and that is its biggest determent.


I'm sure there can be an argument made for keeping the game true to the spirit of the original and to their credit the game has innovated on the controls from the original (which you can switch through the options if you want to see what we dealt with on our first playthrough in Playstation 2 era). It just doesn't feel like it goes far enough to make the game feel as good as you might hope, or remember, it would.

Half the fun of the original game was the challenge of figuring out how to make your way up those creatures, and maybe it was because this was the first time we had a system like this; where you have a strength check as you proceed up the side of a beast and it tries to shake you lose to save its hide.

That's no longer the case though.

The Desert

We've had plenty of other games include climbing mechanics, with grip, and AI systems trying to shake you lose. My mind jumps immediately to the most recent iteration of the Zelda franchise.

While Zelda can definitely be frustrating at times, when you are trying to make that last few feet to the top of a summit and you're dealing with a harsh wind trying to dislodge you, it feels no where near as aggravating or disheartening as the way Shadow of the Colossus plays.

The bottom line for my experience was it just felt awful. There's a fine line between "fuck! ... next time though" and "fuck this, I'm done." Shadow of the Colossus walks that line and I'm sure many will relive that sense of challenge climbing the Colossi over and over. Personally though, after the first three Colossi I had no interest in continuing (save for the point of review).

This is a very dangerous prospect.

The Path

If you were to draw a comparison to what this game feels/looks like thanks to the outdated controls and mechanics it wouldn't be Zelda. The first thing that popped into my head was Gang Beasts. The flopping of the character as he tried to hold on to the Colossi when it shakes is downright comical. The controls for that mechanic don't feel good. Where Gang Beasts that was the point, the fun was how ridiculous it was this feels like its a determent as the point should be making your way up the beast and that sense of awe and scale.

Unforunate, to say the least, as it is a game I would easily throw on my Top 10 list, as stated at the start of the review. Based on the warm memories I had of the game, the story, and the system that introduced true scale into video games but now I'm finding myself uninterested in any of it due to a frustrating control scheme that feels wholly outdated.

Nostalgia is a dangerous weapon. It blinds us to the things we might not have liked, minor annoyances that we overwrote in our brain in favor of more pleasant thoughts. I've sat down with myself several times over the last week and tried to talk myself out of outright hating the game because I know what a classic this thing was. Perhaps that's why it feels so frustrating to dislike the way it plays.

Playstation 2

I know it was a great game. I know I played it a lot and I loved it. I can see the beauty of the thing, I can appreciate the look and the sound of it. I can still love the soundtrack and adore the visual spectacle of it. I can still feel the awe of the scope of it. However, the dated mechanics of the game and the annoying control scheme just suck the joy out of the experience as a whole now.

Important, but not fun to play.

Literally the title I wrote first for one of my sections of the review.

Shadow of the Colossus has been and will continue to be a very important title in the history of video games. It changed things permanently, it broke new ground, and it pushed the limits of both our expectations and what the hardware at the time was capable of. However, it has been succeeded. Many times over at this point, with larger scale games and more importantly games that had similar mechanics but felt more logical (and fun) in their control schemes.

On the Run

The main take away that I have from this game is that in my memory it was a game about slaying what are essentially gods. The Colossi were these massive beasts that you had to solve your way up and defeat. It was you versus the Colossi, straight up. There was no simpler a concept at the time nor anything as eloquently executed. Now though, it feels less like you vs. the Colossi than it does you vs. your controller.

Look, I don't pretend to believe anyone who played the original would get where I'm coming from. The game is a closely held, cherished memory that a lot of us have. The only consolation I can offer for those who think I'm attacking their beloved property is that I was once you as well. It's a classic, it's iconic, but it doesn't play well... and in 2018 we have become entitled to a game that doesn't only look pretty but plays well too.


Review is based on a retail version for Playstation 4, provided by the Publisher.

Shadow of the Colossus (2018)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Platforms: Playstation 4
Release Date:
February 6th, 2018
Price: $49.99 (CDN)