In previous reviews I have mentioned my PlayStation bucket list, a list of games that either I missed out on by skipping the PS3 console or just regretted never getting around to play. In the last two years I have been able to catch up with titles such as the whole Uncharted series, God of War III thanks to its remaster, Journey and was able to finally enjoy The Last Guardian. Thanks to Sony and PlayStation, that bucket list is growing ever shorter thanks to remasters and re-releases and finally now, one of the top items has been crossed off. Shadow of the Colossus was more than I expected it to be with many highs but sadly also some lows.
The first 15 minutes of this game was an experience in itself that showcases everything that makes this game incredible. First the visuals hit you, and this is perhaps one of the best looking games on PlayStation 4, even without the power of the PS4 Pro this game is simply stunning to look at. Next the musical score hits you and it is beautiful and enhances the visuals perfectly and all of this is in the opening cut-scene that sees a young man riding a horse carrying something wrapped in a blanket, making their way to a structure. No words are spoken, but it is clear the young man is on a quest and this is shown all before the player has even reached the main menu. It really is a sublime method to bring players into this experience for that is what this game really became for me, an experience that was completely worth the wait.
The young man heads to a temple and places what he was carrying on an alter before revealing it to be the body of a young woman. His goal is to ask the gods of the temple to restore her to life but a task is asked of him before his wish is fulfilled, to seek out and destroy 16 Colossi creatures and only by doing that will her life be restored. He is given a magical sword that when in sunlight, can act as a compass to point the direction of where the target colossi are located. It is a simple story on the surface but what surprised me was the emotional connection I would develop for the colossi and overwhelming guilt.
It is quite something when you go after and take on the Colossi in the game, each one is unique in appearance and how you have to go about taking them down. The ride to each location reveals an incredibly created world that showcases some breathtaking environments for each residing Colossi creature which only becomes more amazing when you finally discover and meet each one and the wow factor goes up to a new level. These towering creatures are ridiculously enormous with some taking the likeness of an animal or just a giant humanoid. Each one of the sixteen Colossi you are tasked with taking down are simply staggering when you first see them, the scale in size compared to our hero at first is very overwhelming and you will be forgiven for taking a few minutes just to absorb the challenge that lies before you.
It is that challenge that brought for me, the biggest sensation of guilt I have probably felt whilst playing a video game, well at least for twelve of the 16 Colossi. For each one you must work out how to make your way onto them and to seek out their weak points in order to drive your sword into them enough times to kill them. To achieve this takes strategy and patience as devising a way to get onto the colossi is the first objective, and the design of each will make this a struggle to begin with as each will require a different strategy. Once you have then battle to find the weak spots will test you as the Colossi will fight against your presence by trying to throw you off. The tricky part is that our young hero called Wander has a severe physical limitation which makes staying on a Colossi once an encounter has begun rather problematic. Grip strength is pretty much the biggest enemy in the game, and on more then one occasion annoyed the hell out of me. The climbing system requires you to jump and then to grab on to surfaces. A dial in the corner of the screen will slowly reduce the moment you grab on to something, which when trying to spider-man your way over the fur of a Colossi to reach a weak point only to have it spend two minutes shaking you about to the point you have to let go just to rebuild the meter and start over again.
The guilt really comes in when you start to do damage to them, because the animation of having to raise the sword high above you and vibration of the controller when you stab it into them is not a pleasant one. That and the fact that the majority of the Colossi only put up a fight or become aggressive once you begin to approach them. They are literally just happy where they are and doing no harm to anything or anyone until you pick a fight with them. Some are just so beautiful that the overwhelming guilt of removing them from the world really started to add up for me and it was a rather unpleasant feeling to do so. Not to mention that once you have slain the mighty creature, a cut-scene plays showing something that resembles a shadowy cloud leaves the Colossi escapes it before seemingly penetrates Wander causing him to fall to his knees and then unconscious only to wake up back in the temple before being told the next Colossi to go after.
Epic is pretty much the best way of describing just how amazing the good parts of this game are when they come together so effortlessly. Sadly though, this is a remaster that also has a few old generation issues that kind of get in the way and spoil things just a little bit starting with the camera. This is a game that knows it is beautiful and the camera has a tendency of wanting to go full on cinematic experience to show the player how stunning the visuals are. This will often mean that when travelling by horse, the camera will decide to pan out so you can have a beauty shot to appreciate however it will do this even if you are trying to use the sword to locate the next Colossi resulting in a fight to control the camera which is frustrating. Then you have the horse itself which much like Trico in The Last Guardian can be a nightmare of an AI character to control when riding often refusing to either gallop or catching scenery making it stop.
Perhaps the biggest frustration for me with this game came the few Colossi that required interaction with the environment in order to create an opportunity to get on to them and at times the AI of the Colossi would infuriatingly refuse to do or go where I needed to lead them making what should be a ten minute encounter become almost thirty minutes with the majority of that time trying to make it move to a certain spot. Whilst yes it does add to the encounter and challenge, there are moments that this problem broke the experience for me and took me straight out of the game. The issues the game has just stop Shadow of the Colossus being a truly legendary game for me, but it is certainly one of my favourite games from the PlayStation bucket list I have come to enjoy.
Overall this remaster is beautifully crafted and bringing Shadow of the Colossus to a new generation of players and console is another success for the platform. It would have been nice if more effort had been made to fix the annoying issues that feel very last generation as instead of just being a niggle they are overly frustrating and distracting from all the great work that has been down in this game. I have avoided talking about the story, which for a game with minimal spoken word to explain what is happening until the very end, is something that has to be experienced and this game deserves to be in your collection and definitely deserves its iconic status as a PlayStation classic. I came away after finishing it in awe of what was achieved originally and for the quality of this rebuild of it for PlayStation 4 and Pro, but the annoying elements of the camera, gripping system and Colossi AI set pieces tarnish an otherwise well polished title.
There is nothing quite like Shadow of the Colossus and there probably wont be again, it stands out as a true classic that much like The Last Guardian sadly undoes some of it with old generation problems that have not translated well into current generation of gaming. But this is a must have in your collection title and it continues the PlayStation success story of bringing back its own exclusive big hitters from the past for a new generation of players.