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The GoodOnce the introduction to "Shadow of the Colossus" is through playing and option to start a new game appears the audience knows that they are about to embark on an interactive journey like nothing else they have ever played. Like all good story telling the introduction tells the audience what they are in for. The camera set-up is following a bird soaring through a canyon, and beyond it is a great big beautiful world where you will live for the near future. There is orchestral music playing but the audience only hears a few solitary instruments - there are moments of quiet and stillness that give the audience time to think and remark. There is a man on a horse traversing difficult terrain and they work together to jump to higher ground; there is comfort and friendship between horse and rider. What the audience is left with is a feeling, not exposition - and that's what this title is about: feeling.
Drama aside there is a plethora of other "good stuff" to talk about. First the camera. There has been some criticism made about the camera system - I think they are misdiagnosed and reviewers fail to acknowledge how successful the designers were to create a camera that even worked for something this ambitious. And the camera does more than get the job done. - it feels purposeful and always reacting to the dynamics of the title.
The camera follows the controls very closely. But the camera has to deal with three different types of control: character, character on horse, and character interacting with the colossi. Normal player controls feel allot like "Ico"; that is a good thing. Character on horse controls are simply awesome. You the player feel like you are actually riding a horse, an animal that has a mind an instincts of its own, instead of directly controlling every movement of the horse. There are many points in the game where you the player can put down the controller and the A.I. of the horse will navigate the world successfully. Finally there is character interacting with the colossi control. They are very intuitive and fit the purpose perfectly. Clambering up and down giants that are always moving, scrambling to hang on for dear life when they attempt to throw you off their bodies, and making your attacks on them are executed wonderfully, and more importantly, simply.
The visuals of the game are, of course, beautiful. The distance that the player can see is limited only by the horizon. Distant mountains are hazy and close rivers are a torrent. The character models are dazzling and the colossi are truly a thing to behold. In conjunction with the visuals are the movements in the game. The models are not just beautiful to look at they are beautiful to see in motion. When your character is fleeing on the ground from a lumbering colossi the look is familiar and surreal. When the character mounts his horse, either to ride to a colossus or from a colossus, is either some of the best key-framing or best motion capture ever done for a videogame.
And finally, the music is what binds this adventure together. It takes the experience beyond a meager television screen and showers the audience with magic. It catapults the events on the screen into your mind and gives them a voice of their own.
The BadThe game is so much fun that the audience might feel guilty identifying some of "Shadow of the Colossus's" weaker points. There are some instances of a drop in frame rate. But to the developer's credit the pace of the game does not slow with the frame rate, so the action continues at the same rate. This is evidence that the developers knew they were encountering limitations in the PS2 technology but sought to overcome it the best way they could.