It’s been 12 long years and two console generations since I last touched Shadow of the Colossus. In that time it’s had a remaster and now there’s a brand new remake coming to PS4 that pushes the PS2 classic to its very limits with options of 60fps/1080p full HD or 30fps/4K on the PS4 Pro. And there’s no denying that it looks glorious.
Coming back to the game after this long feels, in a way, like coming home – as it regularly does with a remaster. Everything is as you remember it, with nostalgia adding that extra sheen of loveliness to a great game. Mono’s temple is right bang in the middle where you left it; lifting your sword to the light to find your next Colossus still shines like a beacon of hope; and fog-shrouded woods are still as eerily beautiful. But with this PS4 remaster, it’s like you’ve turned your nostalgia dial up to 11. Shadow of the Colossus is just downright stunning.
The sun streaking through the leaves in the aforementioned forest; the way the mist drifts across the waters before you climb the platform to reach Colossus 3; or even just the dense shagginess of the monster fur that looks good enough to curl up and nap on. It’s all aesthetic gold. There’s also nothing quite as good-looking as riding your horse, Argo, across the wilds and letting the camera automatically shift to a rather lovely panoramic view of your trusty steed and its surroundings as you gallop. It’s all reassuringly familiar, but looks way better than I ever expected it would.
But it’s those familiarities that ultimately meant I came away feeling very angry indeed with Shadow of the Colossus on PS4. Our hero, Wanda, has always been a little on the clumsy side when it comes to movement and it’s very much the same for this PS4 remaster. Trying to scale the cliff to reach the first colossus and there’s that familiar awkwardness, those fumbles and stumbles of old. That inability to reach the next handhold without a hard smashing of buttons and a sliver of frustration. You have to grab with R2 and jump with X, and although that might sound simple, in practice it can provide extreme frustration with a side helping of rage – especially when it comes to actually trying to defeat the colossal beasts.
Colossus one was fine aside from it taking me a little too long to realise you have to press square twice if you actually want to deal a sword blow to the creature’s skull and not just sit there poised to strike. But when it came to Colossus three, it was very much a different story. If you’ve played the original you’ll know you have to force it to land a sword smash on the metal plate in the middle in order to shatter its armour and clear a path up its furry body. That’s easy enough. But the actual climbing is another matter entirely. Leaping from giant stone sword to arm was tricky enough, but then trying to clamber up the grey fuzz in one smooth climb was a near impossible task. Falling off was a regular occurrence and even the thought of trying to repeat the climb almost put me in rage quit territory – and it’s not like I haven’t played this all before.
The same can be said for Colossus 13 too – I got to play one, three and 13 – in that actually making everything come together with your bow, Argo and the winged beast is ridiculously quirky, again with the mashing of buttons. Actually pulling it off, on the other hand, made me want to leap in the air with joy, much to the surprise of the other gamers playing around me.
But that doesn’t detract from the fact everything just feels laboured and awkward. Like it did back then, of course, but on the PS4 it suddenly makes Shadow of Colossus feel very much a game of its time. If it wasn’t for the graphics, it’s very much still a PS2 game. The control scheme has been modernised somewhat, but having to press R2 to constantly grip, and keeping the movement so awkward, makes it feel like the DualShock 4 is actively working against you.
And it’s hard to know who this game is for. I can’t imagine anyone who played it back in the day wanting to repeat the story, and anyone coming at it afresh will find it awkward and ancient – and not in an awesome retro, way. It’s definitely photo mode fodder with its incredibly handsome looks, but I won’t be repeating my 2005 journey again because I fear there’d be a controller embedded in the centre of my screen by the end of it.
You might want to check out our pick of the best PS4 games instead.