Not many games have been remade for three straight console generations. SIE Japan Studio and Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus is on its third run, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We recently sat down for some hands-on with it.
First released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005 (2006 in PAL regions), Shadow of the Colossus (SotC) was a cult hit. Gamers and critics sang its praises, but it wasn’t breaking any records as far as sales were concerned.
SotC is an action-adventure game full of boss battles. You are Wander, a young boy whose ‘friend’ Mono has recently passed away. He journeys to the Forbidden Lands with his trusty steed Agro in the hope of finding a way to resurrect her.
What he does find is a daunting, disembodied voice that goes by the name of Dormin. He sees Wander’s predicament and offers him a solution; if he can kill the 16 Colossi that roam the Forbidden Lands, Dormin will resurrect the girl.
Of course, our wandering little adventurer willingly obliges, and sets out into the wilderness with nothing but his horse for company, his sword, and a bow and arrow.
The first Colossus encounter plays out a lot like a tutorial – you are taught to ride and call Agro, shoot arrows, and even how to use your sword to light the way to the next location. That’s really the gist of it – there is very little hand-holding in the game, but working it all out is half the fun.
The most important mechanic of SotC is the grip. Unlike in other games, you’ll have to manually hold down the R2 button in order to hang off surfaces or climb walls; let go and so will Wander. It adds an extra level of skill – and focus – to a game that would otherwise feel relatively easy. While climbing, your ‘grip meter’ will elapse if you attempt to climb for too long without taking a break. It’s prudent to keep an eye on it at all times; if you’re caught unawares it can sometimes mean a catastrophic fall.
The Colossi themselves are dotted throughout the expansive – and beautiful – open world, but they’ll only appear in the order you’re meant to fight them; there’s no chance of running into one on your way to somewhere else. As a matter of fact, the Colossi are basically the only other living creatures inhabiting the Forbidden Lands, bar a few butterflies, and lizards that you can kill for extra grip meter.
As mentioned, this is the third time the game has been released, and it’s safe to say this is the best looking version yet. The PS4 Pro makes use of 4K graphics and the development team’s complete texture rework to craft a truly gorgeous world – not to mention the addition of new ‘horsetail physics’ that really give Agro the swish he deserves. The team have even added an additional control scheme – as well as the original – to assist people who may be new to the game. You can also choose between 30fps and 60fps gameplay.
Bluepoint Games aimed to take the original game and pretend that the team and the capabilities that exist now had existed back then, and build the game as they believed their predecessors would have done. It looks so good that people who played the PS2 original may not even recognise it.
The stunning landscapes range from vast plateaus and rocky cliff faces, to underwater areas – each backed by an exquisite, fast-paced score that really kicks in when the local Colossus appears. What we got to see of the world during a short play-through (we took on Colossi 1,3, and 13) was remarkably well-realised; and it was the most focused we’d been playing a game in recent memory. The idea of having to hold a button to stay attached during a climb adds an extra level of unprecedented concentration – prepare to finish your session a tad closer to your television than you were when you started.
The collision detection and physics engine used are also worth mentioning. Wander really does flop around like a ragdoll when the Colossi are particularly unhappy and wish to shake you off, and he’s definitely going to inadvertently hit an arm or tentacle on the way down.
It seems we’re unable to move past remasters and remakes even in a new year, but for timeless classics like Shadow of the Colossus that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fasten your seatbelts wanderers – you’re in for a beautiful ride.