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Game Review | Shadow of the Colossus

So this is one of those classic games from the PS2 whose legacy has somehow endured to this day. I was too young to play the original but I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game and so I was VERY excited to play the PS4 Remastered version.

Boy was I disappointed.

Now let’s set the record straight here: this is not a necessarily bad game by any means. I just don’t feel I enjoyed it nearly as much as I was expecting to. And by that I mean this is one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played.

Story

Let’s start off with the good. The premise of this game is that you’re a young boy trying to bring a deceased girl back from the dead, and in order to do so you seek the help of an ancient spirit/god, who commands you to slay 16 colossi in return for her life. And that’s pretty much it.

It’s not an elaborate story but it’s elegant in its simplicity. It’s surprisingly emotional at times and though the ending felt a bit out of nowhere to me,(No Spoilers) I still found it quite moving on the whole. A big part of this game’s ability to make you feel is the score and visuals.

Audio-visual Beauty

Visually this game is just stunning. Although much of the world you travel through consists of bleak wetland, mountain and desert landscapes, the game still does a surprising job of making them look beautiful. Interspersed between those large open areas you have pockets of astounding beauty where the developers do some gorgeous stuff with greenery and lighting.

Not to mention the colossi themselves. There’s some brilliant textures that really gives these massive beasts a formidable prowess that makes (almost!) every battle feel like the daunting task that it is.

The visuals, however, are small potatoes compared to the MUSIC. Team Ico, the developers of this game have succeeded in crafting a musical masterpiece where every colossus fight is an adventurous score in and of itself. Often I found myself running along the back of these massive creatures as the music swelled and few moments in gaming have felt more cinematic to me.

The game can also be quite somber at times, as you slay off the last remnants of life roaming this vast empty lands. All in all, the visuals and music perfectly capture the emotions and feelings this game is trying to get at. Unfortunately, they try to do the same with gameplay

Goddamn Gameplay…

Your character controls terribly. The movement is clunky, he can barely jump the distances you want him too sometimes, he stumbles all the time. The horse that you ride is a complete wimp she will come to grinding halt if the slightest pebble in terrain comes your way so you have to spam the triangle button to get her to move again which sucks because she takes FOREVER to accelerate. Whichever way you framed it, I found the physical act of playing this game very frustrating. Half the time, I had little idea what I was meant to be doing.

SPOILER WARNING! SKIP RED TEXT IF YOU WISH TO AVOID

Just to give an example, there’s a boss fight where you have to pick up a burning stick in order to defeat the colossus. However, the game never ONCE tells you that picking up an object is a thing you can actually do, much less tell you the control for it. It took me like half an hour of trying the most random things before I realized you could actually pick stuff up in this game. Why would it not tell you that???

I read a few reviews online and from what I could glean these features are often praised by players because it complements the character. You play as an inexperienced boy who is way in over his head, and the controls reflect that. And to be honest, as an artistic decision, I totally agree. It’s purely brilliant and fits the character perfectly. At the same time, I still had to actually play the game and knowing this fact did not make it any less frustrating for me.

Conclusion

It took me around 7 and a half hours to finish this game, but I’d say around 4 hours of that is just struggling with finicky controls and dealing with unintuitive puzzle designs and trying to get the colossi to where you need them to be. The story, soundtrack and scenery elevate this game to incredible heights but the actual gameplay brought it down considerably for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 7.

I give this a 4.5/7. Shadow of a Great Game.

Click here to see how my rating scale works.

Game Review | Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I’m starting a new “series” here where I review video games I’ve played and talk about game design and stuff. Mostly because I don’t have actual friends to talk to. These will just be games I’ve played recently and stuff, so it’s not like an update on the latest releases or whatever.


I know I’m about 11 years late on this, but Uncharted 2 is one of the greatest games ever made. Incredible spectacle, bombastic music and characters that feel more human than most video games have ever achieved. I mean just look at the opening shot of the game, where you are hanging off a TRAIN ABOUT TO FALL OFF A CLIFF.

Sony Messed up the PS3 box art - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ...

Not only is this moment a mind-blowing scene right off the bat, but also works as a tutorial for the game’s climbing mechanics and inspired the game’s legendary cover art. If you haven’t played this game yet please do yourself a favor and find a way to do so, because I promise you it is worth it.

Story

You play as treasure hunter and thief Nathan Drake, in his quest to find the lost city of Shambala, racing against other thieves as he does so (hence the title). It’s a relatively simple premise, one seen in many other franchises and characters such as Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, but Uncharted 2 brings that premise to video games in a way no other series has. 

First off, just the writing and dialogue in this game is brilliant. Drake’s wit and relatability makes him a more interesting protagonist than most films and TV shows manage to pull off. And every character is distinct, with their own flairs and idiosyncrasies. Just watch this scene below.

See how these people have more personality than anyone on Riverdale?

Not only that but once you hit Chapter 5 this game just does not stop. You go from spectacle to spectacle, jumping through rooftops in a war zone, unlocking hidden chambers, and rescuing people around you. It’s a simple enough story on the macro scale, in the sense that you are trying to find a lost city and you follow a trail of clues to reach there. But what truly distinguishes this game is the spectacle that comes in between.

Visual Spectacle

I think those screenshots speak for themselves, but even they cannot convey the intensity of the adrenaline rush you feel when actually PLAYING this. All I can say is, you have to play it to experience it. Which brings us to gameplay.

Gameplay

There are 3 main facets to the gameplay here: climbing, puzzle solving, and shooting. The climbing is incredibly cool, jumping around buildings and across cliffs and up a derailed train. There are a few interesting environmental puzzles to solve but nothing that particularly blew me away. The shooting, though, is where this game shines.

This is a classic third-person cover based shooter. You have two guns, and you crouch behind cover and pop out to shoot at enemies. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but what Naughty Dog does here makes it ridiculously fun.

The subtitle says it all…

Every fight, encounter, is set in a different environment, a different level that you’ll have to traverse. Sometimes you might have to fight enemies on rooftops, other times it’ll be in a moving train, or in a secret cave. You’ll have climbing sections interspersed with shooting, which leads to some places where you’ll have to fire at an enemy while hanging from a signpost.

Also of note here is the way your character moves. If you’ve played Mario or Minecraft or Modern Warfare, all those games share one thing in common apart from the fact they start with M: the characters move like super humans.

PS4 Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection vs PS3 Uncharted 2 ...
The movement is human-like but not clunky in any way. Naughty Dog found the perfect balance.

In those games you can jump and turn and crouch at the turn of a dime, and yes it’s incredibly satisfying to do but it’s not how any living beings move. In Uncharted 2 Drake moves like a person. Sure, he can leap incredible distances and has infinite grip strength, but his strides and jumps and and turns have weight to them. Combined with the well-written dialogue, it just adds a level of immersion to the game where you feel closer to Drake himself as a character; you can relate to him more.

Conclusion

It is not an exaggeration to say this game perhaps single-handedly turned the tide in PlayStation’s favor in the midst of the console war. The astounding variety, spectacle and unbelievably fun gameplay is why this game is revered as the bar to which cover-based shooters should be compared to.

Uncharted 2 Gameplay HD - YouTube
If it’s your first cover-based shooter, I’d recommend Normal, and if you’re an expert than Crushing difficulty is the way to go.

I’d recommend playing this game on Hard difficulty, to heighten the tension and make you really think about how you shoot and use the environment around you. There’s a slow section near the beginning and a slightly abrupt ending that just barely pull this game away from a perfect score, but in my opinion from chapter 5 to 25 you will experience one of the greatest shooting games ever made.

6.5/7

Rating: 6.5 out of 7.

See my rating scale for persepctive.