Montblanc Summit Hands On Review

For such a widely-beloved, game nerd’s game, Shadow of the Colossus has had remarkably few imitators. Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, the game’s unique blend of lonely exploration and intense, puzzle-platforming battles against the eponymous Colossi has remained a treasured curio of the modern gaming canon. Even director Fumito Ueda had trouble responding to it, spending a decade on his next game, The Last Guardian, only to receive mixed reviews (and, perhaps, earn a special place as gaming’s >Chinese Democracy).

Sony remastered >Shadow >of the Colossus for the PlayStation 3 in 2011, keeping its legacy alive. Now to tide fans over until a new game truly picks up the torch, developer Bluepoint is taking a second crack at updating it with a full PlayStation 4 remake, coming next February.

We got our hands on the towering third colossus at a recent Sony event in New York, and watched someone else scale the first, to see how if the remake can summit our high expectations. We were largely pleased to find a game whose design holds up beautifully, particularly underscored by the PS4’s major graphical upgrade, though we felt less nostalgic about its PS2-era controls.

The New (Old) Colossus

In SotC, protagonist Wander and his horse Agro go on a quest to resurrect a girl named Mono, who lies dead in a crumbling, stone temple. A disembodied voice guides him to defeat a series of towering colossi, scattered around the mostly desolate world surrounding the temple, such that their spirits may be used to save Mono.

Shadow of the Colossus review>
Shadow of the Colossus review>

Shadow of the Colossus review>
Shadow of the Colossus review>

Shadow is essentially a third-person action role-playing game, but its gameplay is far more focused than what the genre typically entails. There are no towns full of NPCs hawking items, no roving packs of bandits or goblins to grind for experience, no inventory to manage — it’s just Wander and Agro, with a simple sword and bow, hunting each colossus, figuring out how to scale them and attacking their glowing weak points. Defeating the first few Colossi comes down to figuring out how to climb up their legs and stab them to death, but each subsequent battle becomes more complicated, requiring you to read the environment and time your moves. Defeating them feels more like solving a puzzle than fighting.

It’s a boss-rush style of gameplay, copied most directly in Titan Souls, but “rush” really gives the wrong idea. SotC is just as memorable for the long quiet sections of exploration surrounding its intense encounters. It’s marvelously atmospheric, and gives the game a satisfying tempo.

Out of the shadows

The most obvious and rewarding element of the remake is, as you might expect, how it looks. Far more than just an HD reskin, the graphics have been rebuilt from the ground up to meet modern standards, and it looks gorgeous. From sand kicking up behind Agro as you gallop across the desert, to the way beams of light play through the colossi’s limbs as they block out the sun overhead, the visual polish is lush and immersive.

It looks gorgeous.

More than just the quality of the PS4’s hardware, the remake’s graphics are a testament to the timeless power of good, underlying visual design. The game’s muted, brown-grey color palette was wildly overused during the mid-2000s heyday of the gritty, modern military shooter, but it feels entirely appropriate here, accentuating the almost mournful tone of taking down these magnificent behemoths.

A Crack in the rose-colored glasses

With visuals that make the game just as beautiful as we remember them, the Shadow remake’s nostalgic spell is cast, but its hold is delicate. While the game looks better than it did 12 years ago, its controls have not changed at all, leading to some minor annoyances that pulled us out of complete reverie. On several occasions, particularly while riding Agro, we struggled more with Wander than with the ostensible task at hand.

Shadow of the Colossus review>

Comparing SotC with Horizon Zero Dawn’s new DLC, which we’ve been playing as well, lays out how far controls for action games have come. The controls for Horizon — ostensibly a similar framework of third-person running, jumping, climbing, dodging, and riding — are buttery-smooth, allowing for a seamless translation between player will and Aloy’s actions, such that the challenge exists within the tactical space of the various tools at your disposal and your enemies’ capabilities.

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The controls in Colossus were hardly debilitating — we managed to find and take down our foe in a reasonable amount of time — but provided a frequent and frustrating, low level source of friction. It was a familiar form of control and camera wonkiness, reminiscent of exactly the era from which the original game came when 3D mechanics were less refined. Smoothing out the controls too much might have removed some of the essential challenge in a game largely about climbing, but we were disappointed all the same.


While we found the controls frustrating, they aren’t a dealbreaker. Shadow is still the game we played and loved the game over a decade ago as-is. Through a full playthrough, we have no doubt that we would re-acclimate to the quirks of its control scheme. As far as visual overhauls of classic games go, this is one of the best executed we have ever seen. We eagerly await a true successor to take Shadow of the Colossus’ gameplay ideas to the next level, but until then we’ll be thrilled to take one more journey through its cyclopean ruins and windswept plains when it arrives on PS4 on February 6, 2018.

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