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Everyone has very different tastes, my particular poison is that of games with wide open spaces in which to live, explore and grow. Shadow of the Colossus has come highly recommended to me so I approached it with an open mind, finding an emotional connection with the game like I never have felt before. But on my terms, after the impressive initial experience the game fails to deliver the perpetual gaming world I long to see in all games.
So here I am plugging in a creaking PS2 and sticking in the disc that for some has delivered almost a life changing game experience. I obediently watch the pre-game cinematics which are nicely in-engine. They don't give much away in terms of a story but give me a warm feeling about how nice their environments are. And then there I stand in front of a sleeping woman on a stone table.
Reading briefly some of the on screen tips I ride off on my convincingly animated steed to find a Colossus. As I travel, beneath my feet and all around are what look like perfect Colossus killing arenas, beautifully stony, cool green and obviously water aged - a work of art. But no Colossus - in fact not much of anything really - Shadow is renowned for its spacious environments and wide open locations. You get the odd flock of birds flying through the mist and haze, greatly adding to the feeling of massiveness and height that is required when fighting creatures noted for their size. I can understand why sparseness is an essential element in this game, it means when you actually meet a colossus it truly is all about you and him - no distractions.
It was about this time that I realised I was being watched by my 6 year old boy, who'd quietly crept down stairs; eyes wide with wonder.
I eventually work out by trial and error and some cryptic on screen tips that I can use my sword to direct me to the next monster. After thirty minutes of directionless exploring, I finally meet my first beast. As promised the awesomeness of the occasion is crafted perfectly in the cut scene that sees the beast lumber past, achieving a great sense of massiveness and altitude up where his glowing eyes stare down through the mist.
The game play of actually hurting the beast seems to be a matter of climbing, stabbing and seeing what works, as well as the hints via mysterious voices which in the air - should you take your time in working out where to start. The wonderful part with the first encounter is that as you climb and haul yourself up it tries to shake you off as you are swung around in the air clinging onto its furry leg for dear life. As you hang on you make your first incision, you get your fist taste of colossus blood which fountains out of its leg dramatically. It stumbles and slowly hauls itself back to its feet, and then you see and feel for the first time that this monster is mortal just like you, no more of a god than yourself.
It was about this time that I realised I was being watched by my 6 year old boy, who'd quietly crept down stairs; eyes wide with wonder. Together we worked out the best route through jumps and clambers up the thick haired back of the beast towards it glowing head. There you can stand and survey your surroundings just enough before you lose your balance and need to administer the final blows - three or four deep brain stabs seemed to do the trick.
You actually feel an emotional connection to the Colossus who has just fallen, something so huge yet so humanly frail, destroyed by your own hand.
The colossus falls with great might and weight pounding onto the earth in an awesome display of hugeness. It's at this moment that Shadow captures you. As epic and dramatic music plays you see the giant lying motionless before you in all its vastness. It's here that you realise what all the hype is about. You actually feel an emotional connection to the Colossus who has just fallen, something so huge yet so humanly frail, destroyed by your own hand. In a way it makes you realise that the colossus could be any one of us in our own little lives. Shadow pulls off an amazing feat - a video game that connects you to it in a deep and emotional way like I've never seen before.
The next day I go on to defeat my second beast. A mammoth dog like creature with the ongoing theme of fury legs and glowing eyes. After a nice ride and adventure down to a much deepened area of the world, the goliath erupted out of the rock itself. After some in game hints and more trial and error I managed to bring him down on his knees by shooting under his hooves, then climbed up the usefully placed fur, these being the only bits of him you can scale. It was a satisfying killing and a mighty crash when he fell. This time however I felt much more numb to the whole experience. I did not have that emotional rush and connection I was so enraptured with at the time of my first slaying.
There are a few things I put this down to. Firstly I have slowly become rather fed up with the control system which is a real pain to get to grips with, rather than the intuitively designed control systems I have been spoilt with in other games - I frequently found myself facing completely the wrong direction in the heat of battle as I tried to grapple with impossible camera controls. I also am feeling that in this world my freedom is more limited than I would like. By this I mean I would like to be able to climb the Colossus on any part of it - not only the shaggy coat bits. I would also like a few more weapons to play with and a shed load more cleaver moves. I am feeling limited by the game itself; doing as the game wishes rather that what I wish. But then this is the life of a perpetual gamer like myself, so picky about freedom and expansivity being integral to a game.
I am feeling limited by the game itself; doing as the game wishes rather that what I wish.
This game runs in a linear fashion from one Colossus to the next with some beautiful world design and well ahead of its time in terms of graphical atmospherics. Asking the PS2 so achieve this without glitching and reducing frame rate is very impressive - it squeezes the ps2 hardware to its limits and gets away with it.
Shadow for me is a game I missed in its time which I honestly wish I had not. I firmly believe I would have embraced it more fully had my senses not be spoilt by the hardware hungry, slick next-gen games of today. Having said this Shadow does miss out on being a perpetual experience for me. Its linear game play and singular theme did not feed me enough to drag me back to the game again and again. It was not a place to grow, explore and develop. Rather it is a place to appreciate as art and a creative masterpiece for the purer gamers out there. I wanted this game to draw me in deep. Instead I continue to look to the future to find a perpetual game to live in and to live in me - even to Reign Over Me.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: