Monday, March 27, 2006

Shadow of the Colossus....mixed feelings

Wow. The first sentence to come out of my mouth when watching the opening sequence was, "Wow, this looks like crap; this is why I don't play PS2 anymore."

And the second sentence, "This obviously would have been 10 times better on the [original] Xbox."

Before now, I've never understood the term "jaggies". After playing this game, I completely understand. The environment looks horrible, as does the main character. All the edges are jagged and the detail is low.

In a shorter phrase, "The graphics are weak sauce." Moving on.

Those of the English-tongue will be disappointed that they have to deal with subtitles. The cutscenes are low on action, and are drawn out to long to get to a simple point. With the sword + light = direction ability, the info from the cutscenes has little value.

Next up: controls. I applaud the developers on allowing customizable controls. Specifically, inversion of the camera controls is available. FPS gamers can survive this game, but must change the default controls. The default controls leave actions such as in order to look left, the player must push right. It is initially frustrating, but the options menu is excellently simple, so the problem is abated quickly.

However, this game makes a perfect example of why the Dualshock controller is dated. The analog sticks do not respond well, and they are much too floppy for precision aiming. It's frustrating. I'm considering purchasing an XBox to PS2 controller adapter because I'm so tired of it.

It's interesting that games like these lose some potential "great experiences" because the PS2 is the top-selling console with the worst abilities. A better result could have even been produced on the Gamecube. This is where PC gamers have to say something as well.

But enough bitching, not all is grim. The game actually brings a somewhat different scheme to the table. Instead of dealing with long, annoying levels, the game is based around semi-long boss fights. Consider the bosses the levels. The technique to defeat each colossus is essentially a mediocre puzzle.

When the first colossus steps onto the screen, it's flabbergasting. It's huge. Once it spots you, it attacks. Once it makes contact with the ground, it shakes, and your character loses balance and possibly takes damage if close enough. Luckily for the player, hints come after a while to help defeat the monstrosity.

Immediately noticeable, is that the colossi have the most detail. While trying to hang on, it is easy to ignore the jaggies and the weak-on-details surrounding world. Since the game revolves around the colossi, it makes the graphical failures in the environment semi-acceptable.

Although each colossus fight can be tense, the method of their destruction follows a basic pattern:
  1. Find a way to get on the colossus (via ledges or hair)

  2. Hang on for dear life and watch your grip meter

  3. Find its weakspot(s) and stab them

  4. If life gets low, get away and duck out until health recovers

  5. Repeat (if necessary)

It may sound boring, but it's actually somewhat refreshing. New approaches are always welcome, and the designers deserve recognition for breaking the stand mold.

Still, it is hard to see why this game would receive awards for anything but design. The sound it fitting, but not memorable. Graphically, it is a mess. As I said previously, recognition is deserved, but this game is far from a perfect ten.

Thankfully, if we see a sequel, it won't be on such terrible hardware. Between fights the graphics really are disturbingly bad for current technology with this generation of consoles. I recommend a rent, but definitely not a purchase. The replay value seems low after the first couple of colossi. Enjoy one run through, and move on to the next game.


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