The odds are that if you have a conversation about the merits of video games as an art form, someone is going to bring up Shadow of the Colossus. Team ICO’s 2005 masterpiece is no stranger to re-releases, having been ported to the PlayStation 3 in an impressive package in 2011, but this time things were different. Rather than “merely” transferring the game to new hardware, developer Bluepoint Games remade the classic title using today’s technology. The end result is a version of Wander’s journey through a forbidden land that looks so much better than we could have ever imagined back when the game first launched.
This is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that the creative vision and intent of the game remains intact. It is an uncompromising vision of the original title, retaining the heart-achingly sombre title’s intent while sprucing everything up. The game's charmingly janky controls remain intact and your horse, Agro, remains... Well, not the brightest. But everything just looks so much more vivid. The game now looks like what you probably thought it looked like back in the day.
Now to be fair, Shadow of the Colossus has actually aged better than many other games from that era thanks to its incredibly focused direction. But the difference is night and day. Bluepoint created a technical marvel with this remake. The sense of scale is utterly mind-blowing, with the cavernous environments offering a little of everything. The vistas and the colossi themselves are so remarkably rendered, that even now the game left us in awe at multiple points.
Another thing about the game, is that much like 13 years ago when it first released, there just isn’t anything quite like it on the market. The wide open map is allows you to travel virtually anywhere from the outset, but it's largely devoid of life by design. The game comes together to create a hauntingly sparse but yet full-of-life experience, exacerbated by the fact that you yourself are responsible for sucking the life from the land.
The boss rush-style combat encounters is an idea that would be explored years later, but never quite in this way, and certainly not for as emotionally compelling a reason. While games were still in their relative infancy from a storytelling standpoint, Shadow of the Colossus was miles ahead of the curve delivering a title as emotionally mature as the tales we expect from our games now, let alone in 2005. The end result is that we get the best possible version of one of the greatest games of all time that both manages to be a mind-blowing experience and a wholly unique one.
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Where does Shadow of the Colossus sit on your overall Game of the Year list? Did you play this for the first time on PS4, or were you already a fan? Try not to feel too guilty in the comments section below.