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Monday, June 05, 2023
The "Shadow of the Colossus" remake for PS4 is now available. 

The "Shadow of the Colossus" remake for PS4 is now available. 

‘Shadow of the Colossus’ for PlayStation 4 is the definitive version of a classic

“Shadow of the Colossus” is the best kind of miserable — it paints a painful picture of a cold and empty world that just doesn’t care anymore. It’s a beautiful world, but any attempt of building something here fell into decay long ago. What little semi-intelligent life you do come across must be killed in the name of a “rescue the damsel” quest that is evil and doomed from the beginning.

Every single one of gaming’s oldest fantasies is fulfilled in the least satisfying way here. The main character is a valiant knight who sets out upon his steed to rescue the princess in the castle, except he starts in the castle and the “princess” is already dead. “Shadow” gives you the power fantasy of slaying giant monsters, only to have the monsters die and corrupt your body with their last breaths. Actions taken here are not done in the name of Arthurian values, but as the direct instructions of a dark god.

“Shadow” is remarkable because, with barely any dialogue, it makes sure that you know you are not in the right. It also asks you to justify where you stand morally. Is the main character — and more significantly, the player — justified in taking up this murderous quest to rescue a dead girl? What if his victims are only animals? How intelligent do those animals have to be before the quest becomes questionable? Was he in the wrong from the start, or are those who would stop him from even attempting the quest the ones who are mistaken?

These are questions “Shadow” posed back in 2005, when most 3D games had the narrative and visual content of cardboard boxes stuck together with gum and twine. The game had a unique aesthetic that put it graphically above most of its peers. Even to this day, the original looks all right if you can get past some of its grainy textures and models.

To keep the game a relevant and accessible classic to the growing user bases of each new console generation, it has been significantly updated. As one of their first big projects, a little studio called Bluepoint Games took on the challenge of making the first remaster of “Shadow” for the PlayStation 3 era. They cleaned up the game’s textures while adding HD support and graphical features to help the old game look new. It was the same game — a faithful recreation of what came before — but with all the old limitations ripped out. The project was highly acclaimed.

Several years later, and with many more projects under their belt, Bluepoint undertook something a lot more drastic: Remake the game from scratch for the PlayStation 4. This meant remodeling, retexturing and re-coding the entire game without losing any of its original grandeur. As of Feb. 6, this project is now out in the world.

Did they succeed? Not entirely, but they didn’t have to. The new “Shadow of the Colossus” has its own sense of grandeur. The overblown, overexposed, dusty and mysterious world of the original is replaced with a world of sharp contrast. Whereas the PS2 version was beautiful in its emptiness, the game is now more scenic. Entire landmarks have been patched into the remake’s environments, trading this feeling of emptiness with a feeling of smallness. But more often than not, the added detail is a unanimous plus.

The colossi in particular feel more present and human in ways that better support the original’s thesis. Even though the world is rendered in crisp detail, its mysteries remain mysteries. In fact, while the remake largely sticks to the structural points of its model, it adds a quest with hidden collectibles as well as several easter eggs. Bluepoint did their best to be faithful, but they weren’t walking away from this edition without leaving their mark on it.

Unfortunately, the mark of a modern gaming company comes with the obligatory achievement system. After a 20 minute fight where you finally bring down your colossal foe and watch them fall as sad orchestral music swells, the last thing anyone needs is a loud *ding* indicating they have just been awarded a virtual trophy for a job well done. Every time, these five second pop-ups rip hours’ worth of atmosphere building and immersion to shreds. The solution? Turn off trophy notifications for an uninterrupted playthrough.

Scourges of the modern gaming world aside, Bluepoint has crafted as loving an update as anyone could hope for. The controls are more intuitive, the graphical update is gorgeous and the additional content they have put in — however small — is delightful. It’s hard to call the remake anything other than the definitive way to experience “Shadow of the Colossus” and its world. If you get a chance, go take a look at the old-and-gold version, too — its shadow hangs high over this one.

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