Sunday, 2 October 2011

Review: Shadow of the Colossus HD

Shadow of the Colossus starts off slow, introducing you into the vast and grand world that the developers lovingly crafted. The concept of the game is simple enough, track down and kill sixteen massive creatures with different strategies to resurrect the women you love. The little story is told in just three cutscenes; one at the beginning, one near the end and the last and most revealing one after the final colossus has been slain. But the story is not what is important, it's the journey travelled that tells the true tale. Even without current generation graphics Shadow of the Colossus manages to be a gorgeous game; though you can tell that this is a PS2 game remade for the PS3.
This is one of the bigger colossus but it shows the scale of this game.

At the beginning of the game you  start off at a nexus area from which you leave to fight each colossus in turn and are returned to after each fight. To find the next colossus you use your sword to highlight which direction to go but then some small amounts of exploration are required to find the correct path to the next fight. To aid you in your travels you have your faithful stallion, Agro, which speeds up your travel greatly. In between fights the tone is very bleak, this is conveyed through there being no music and the only sound being the whistling of the wind and character noises. To add in the oppressive atmosphere you traverse large empty lands and the ruins of long forgotten civilisations meeting no one.
Vast empty environments set the tone for the game.

All the fights follow the same structure, find how to jump aboard the colossus then find a weak point and exploit it. This may sound simple but it's because the developers have worked off this simple idea that this game works so well. You always know what you vaguely have to do but from that you have to analyse the environment and the colossus itself to work out what to do. Add to that different environment types such as lakes and deserts and you get a diverse range of possibilities. It wasn't until the fifth boss that I was truly speechless. It's a flying colossus that you have to jump on as it flies by, whilst it is still flying you have to climb over it and find it's weak points. It wasn't until the eighth boss that I felt challenged as it's electric projectiles kill you very quickly. But then the real challenge is working out how to kill each colossus not actually doing it, that's the fun part.

This game is breath taking as you walk across this flying behemoth.

The game does have a few fault which keep it from achieving perfection. My main problem was with the controls, I had to invert both the horizontal and vertical cameras for the controls to feel natural. The horse controls also annoyed me as they can be quite twitchy and send you veering sideways and that can break your momentum.Also as the game is so directionless if you get stuck you are pretty much on your own to find the solution. 
Some of the colossus designs are obviously influenced by animals.

Final Thoughts
Having never played the original I thought I would either love or hate this game and thankfully I loved it. I was surprised at the originality of each of the colossus in both appearance and strategy. Though by the end I did think that there were too many bipedal colossus and a few strategies were reused or were at least similar. Shadow of the Colossus shows how boss battles should be done, not just once but sixteen times; other developers should take note. 

For it's loving attention to detail, oppressive atmosphere and thrilling boss fights I'm giving Shadow of the Colossus:

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