Shadow of the Colossus was a PlayStation 2 game released in 2005. It became an instant classic and won numerous accolades for its art direction, graphics, and the scale of the environments. The original game was released in 512 x 448 (SD) resolution and in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

In 2011 the game was remastered for PS3, bringing with it 1280x720 resolution (1080p HD when upscaled). However, there was little improvement in terms of the original artwork. Now, we have a full remake of Shadow of the Colossus , where all the assets are new, remade from the ground up to allow for a maximum native resolution of 2560 x 1440/30p (which is upscaled to 4K) plus HDR. Let’s see how the remake holds up in today’s game landscape.

The majority of this review was written by our "ghost reviewer" Datsm. While he wishes to remain anonymous, I want to give credit where it's due—it's his review. Datsm put the time into playing Shadow of the Colossus on a reference system that includes a PlayStation 4 Pro as well as a 65" Samsung Q9F TV plus a Dolby Atmos sound system featuring KEF R-series speakers and a Marantz AV7704  pre/pro.



Platform: Playstation 4 Pro, Playstation 4
Developers: Bluepoint Games and Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure
ESRB Rating: T (Teen) for blood & violence
Resolution: UHD with HDR
Audio Format: Surround-sound
Release Date: February 6, 2018



Synopsis (Taken from the Sony PlayStation website):

Rebuilt from the ground up by Bluepoint Games and Japan Studio, Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 system introduces the awe of its unforgettable world and towering creatures to a new generation of gamers, while allowing longtime fans to revisit the beloved masterpiece with unparalleled visual fidelity and improved performance.



AUDIO/VIDEO QUALITY

REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65



Audio: 92

Dynamics: 92

Low Frequency Extension: 95

Positional/Environmental Cues: 95

Detail/Realism: 90

Dialogue/Mix Quality: 90



Datsm's Take

The sound design in this game was fantastic. All the Colossi felt like they had their own weight (a good subwoofer helps) and the sound design in the environments was great. When you are in the woods, near water, or under a temple, everything in the soundfield had distinct characteristics.

The immersive effect of the realistic sound brings you closer to the action. For example, it was easy to follow audio clues, and while there's not much of a world to explore in the game, every environment within the landscape felt fresh thanks to the sound effects.



Video: 90 (HDR)*

Resolution/Clarity: 92

Black Levels: 89

Color Reproduction: 90

Compression: 89



Datsm's Take

When it comes to visuals, this has been one of the most disappointing 4K HDR gaming experiences I have had* (please see editor's note below). First the good: Many of the environments looked good, and HDR lighting at certain moments looked incredible.

When you first are first introduced to a colossus, you get treated to a mini cut-scene and these look great, showing off the scale of the creatures and environments. Furthermore, foliage and water are on par with today's standards, but nothing more. And that is fine, it looks convincingly good.

However, I found the quality of the graphics to be a huge problem in several key areas. The design of Agro (your horse) was horrible. There was no definition, he looked like a horse-shaped black hole in HDR, even if you tweak the shadows in settings.

The HDR rendition of deep shadow areas was not the best. At times it was very hard to tell what was happening when battling a colossus. When I would hold on to one, I couldn’t tell where I was half of the time ,and there were moments that the muddled lighting would cause a loss of definition. The environment would seem out of focus a lot of the time, and then as you move it would adjust.

Turning off HDR fixed some issues, namely the muddy and indistinct shadows as well as the lack of definition on Agro. But it also deprived the game of a number of "wow" moments that are made possible be HDR lighting and colors. Besides, having seen what great 4k HDR can look like, it's a shame that Shadow of the Colossus is inconsistent in this regard.

Then there's the question of whether to play in 1080/60p or 1440/30p, which is a choice in the game's settings. On the 65" Samsung Q9F used in this review, the upscaled 1080p looked significantly fuzzier than the 1440p version and while higher frame rates are nice, I found the game was playable at 30p so I opted for the higher quality graphics.

Editor's Note

When I received this review from Datsm, I had already played it for a number of hours and was in full agreement regarding the assessment of the HDR graphics. I saw exactly what he saw and I thought the numerical ratings were fair. Those scores are here:

Video: 79
Resolution / Clarity:80
Black Levels: 75
Color Reproduction: 80
Compression: 80

As you can see there is a significant disparity between the perceived graphics quality on the Q9F QLED versus G7 OLED. It's not totally clear what the source of the issue is, but it's nice to see that the game's graphics are indeed top notch when HDR is working properly. Having said that, I still found some scenes that take place in the shadows to be overly dim on the G7, but in this case it may have been an artistic judgment made by the game's designers.



Final Thoughts

I was looking forward to Shadow of Colossus since it was an actual remake and not just a remaster. As long as HDR is working properly, the graphics are gorgeous and state-of-the-art. Granted, it can be a bit challenging to get all the components in an AV system on the same page when it comes to HDR, but it's worth it.

Shadow of the Colossus remains fun to play, as evidenced by the extremely positive reviews it has received. And there's no question that the game has never looked or sounded this good.



Reference Review System:

2017 Samsung 65" Q9F QLED 4K HDR TV
Sony PlayStation Pro 4 gaming console
Microsoft Xbox One X gaming console
KEF R700, R600, R800ds, R50 speakers, R400b subwoofer
Marantz 7704 preamp/processor
Emotiva XPA 5 and XPA 2 amplifiers