Remasters and remakes have become a staple of the gaming industry over the past decade, but they tend to range in quality. I am one who likes revisiting old games that are near and dear to me, but rarely in those replay sessions do I feel the same emotions that I did when I originally experienced a game. That’s not the case with the new PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus.
Nearly thirteen years after its original release on PS2, Bluepoint Games has somehow found a way to make Shadow of the Colossus feel like an entirely new and fresh experience. In my return to the gorgeous, colossi-filled world that Shadow of the Colossus presents, I felt like it was the first time that I had truly played the game as it was always meant to be experienced.
What makes Shadow of the Colossus so staggering on PS4 is, as you might have guessed, the vastly improved visuals that it boasts. While the remaster of the game that Bluepoint did for PS3 was impressive in its own right, the total overhaul that has been done for the PS4 version of the game is one of the most incredible feats of game design I have seen in some time. From top to bottom, every square inch of Shadow of Colossus’ world has been touched up and brought into the modern age of 4K gaming.
The two biggest advancements that drew my attention the most dealt with lighting and texturing. Entering the iconic forest area in Shadow of the Colossus and seeing light cracking through every opening in the lush canopy was breathtaking, as was seeing the individual strands of hair move on each colossus. Details like this are what makes Shadow of the Colossus a true remake rather than just a remaster that enhances the game’s resolution. I cannot imagine the amount of time it took for Bluepoint to add all of this, but the work definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
The enhanced graphical qualities of Shadow of the Colossus haven’t just simply made the game more pretty to look at, they’ve also added an even greater sense of scale to a game that relies heavily on size and scope. Each colossus that you battle feels ten times larger than you remember it being, which adds to that feeling of freshness that I mentioned before. Even if it isn’t harder than in the past to defeat each of these beasts, their added scale makes the fights feel more daunting than ever before while simultaneously making you feel more guilty upon their fall.
There’s also a much more cinematic feeling in this version of Shadow of the Colossus compared to others. The HUD has been slightly cleaned up which allows the world and colossi to take center stage more than before. Two unique cinematic modes allow you to experience Shadow of the Colossus in very different ways, as well. Performance mode will prioritize resolution over FPS and will hold at 30 FPS, while the latter called cinematic mode will allow you to play at 60 FPS with the resolution scaling down a bit. Personally, I preferred performance mode as I found the improved resolution to make for a better game experience, but it’s great that other players who might prefer framerate have the option to choose cinematic mode instead.
I want to specifically praise the HDR in Shadow of the Colossus because the color palette on display was staggering. I find that HDR can be hit or miss in the games that include it, but the depth on display in Shadow of the Colossus stood out to me in a way that I have never noticed before in other games. These deeper colors really proved to me the power that fantastic HDR can have on a gaming experience. It’s crazy to me that a remake of an old game is now the benchmark for me in terms of HDR, but that’s exactly where I’m at right now.
One of the only minor issues that I found from a visuals standpoint with Shadow of the Colossus was in regards to texture pop-in. When riding on your horse through vast fields, it’s a bit obvious to see the line where shrubs, grass, and other objects begin to load in. It’s always hard to hide this in any game that contains a vast open world, but I found it to be far more obvious to spot in Shadow of the Colossus than any other game I’ve played in quite some time.
Overall, visuals are so vastly improved in Shadow of the Colossus that it has become one of the first games where I would highly suggest you play it on a PS4 Pro, if possible. If you haven’t made the jump into the world of 4K gaming yet, then I don’t blame you, as the monetary investment is still quite high. In the few months that I have been an adopter of a 4K TV and PS4 Pro, I really do think that Shadow of the Colossus is near the top of the most impressive games I have seen thus far. The improved visual fidelity is the main reason to check out this remake, so I encourage you to play it in the best way possible if you can.
Controls are historically one of the most divisive aspects of Shadow of the Colossus and, as such, the button layouts have been overhauled. The PS4 version of Shadow of the Colossus boasts four different control options to choose from with two being more akin to modern gaming controls and the latter two being variants of the original control scheme. This new modern layout will surely be much appreciated by most fans, but if for some reason if you love to jump with triangle, then go right ahead and switch to the previous scheme.
Unfortunately, the controlling of both your main character Wander and his trusty steed Agro continues to feel stiff and clunky at times. Agro specifically feels just as cumbersome to control as he always did, which is a bit disappointing. The movement and platforming of your character in Shadow of the Colossus is easily the most outdated part of the game. While Bluepoint did fantastic work improving every single aspect of Shadow of the Colossus in this remake, this seems to be the one area that will always feel stuck in the PS2 generation.
Photo mode is one of the most notable new additions to this Shadow of the Colossus remake outside of the apparent visual enhancements and for the most part, it is similar to other ones that you’ve probably seen in other first-party Sony games. It features your typical slew of filters, film grains, and other framing enhancements we’ve come to expect from photo modes. Still, if you’ve become obsessed with taking pics like I have over the past year, then you’ll surely be pausing the game incessantly to find a cool new shot.
There aren’t a ton of other new additions to the package found in this edition of Shadow of the Colossus, but small add-ons like visual filters help pad out the content a bit. A couple of new items have also been included that I’m sure hardcore collectors will appreciate. I also found one new easter egg that ties into another Japan Studio game that you might be familiar with. I’m unsure if it’s the only easter egg that has been included in the Shadow of the Colossus remake, but I’m eager to sleuth around The Forbidden Lands and see if Bluepoint hid anything else.
Despite everything that has been updated and added to this remake of Shadow of the Colossus, I think what I came away most impressed by was just how well the game holds up. Personally, I think that most games from the PS2 era of gaming haven’t aged very well in recent years — but I feel the opposite with Shadow of the Colossus. The simplicity of its gameplay loop has really allowed the game to still feel like a concrete experience that doesn’t get in the way of the player from experiencing its story. This, in conjunction with a narrative that I still believe is one of the best that the video game medium has ever seen, has allowed Shadow of the Colossus to age incredibly well.
I’ve often told others that Shadow of the Colossus would be on a short list of games that I would recommend everyone must play before they die and that rings truer than ever before after experiencing this remake. Bluepoint has always been held in high regard for the quality of their work on past remakes and remasters, but Shadow of the Colossus is now easily the biggest achievement that the studio has ever had and stands as arguably the greatest video game remake of all time. The legacy of Shadow of the Colossus has never been in question, but this PS4 edition has just further solidified its place amongst gaming’s masterpieces.