Just when you think you know someone near and dear, they go and surprise you all over again. It's been some 12 years since Shadow of the Colossus' original release, and one remaster and a fresh new remake later it's lost absolutely none of its ability to awe. This is a game whose power hasn't diminished one iota in all that time, and in Bluepoint's exquisite remake it's a game with the capacity to spring a surprise or two, no matter how familiar you are with the original.
Not that anything has changed, per se, with the PlayStation 4 remake proving resolutely faithful to the 2005 original. It's been built from the ground up, but everything's just as you remembered it, and everything's just where you'd expect to find it. Guide protagonist Wanda up the cliffs as you make your way to the first colossus and there's that same clumsiness in his animations as he stumbles and fumbles for grip. Mount your horse Agro and there's that same slight unease in your motion, and there's that same eerie emptiness to be found out in the wilds beyond Mono's tomb.
And yet, when you encounter that first colossus - surely one of the most iconic gaming moments of the 21st century - it's like experiencing it all anew. That fur is denser and more detailed as it glistens in the light cast by Shadow of the Colossus' downbeat sun, and it all feels a little more alive in 4K and HDR enabled by a PlayStation 4 Pro. It's all enough to make you wince that little bit more when you plunge the blade into its skull having climbed the beast's back.
I don't think anyone's ever doubted that Shadow of the Colossus is one of the all-time greats, but this remake makes sure this is now an open-and-shut case. What's remarkable, returning to Team Ico's game, is how its open world remains singularly brilliant and utterly refreshing when taken in a modern context. It's pointedly free of objective markers, NPCs and distractions. You've nothing but its own beauty to keep you occupied.
And what beauty it is. Moss sitting atop dark lakes, mournfully quiet meadows and a blanket of thin cloud overhead, forests which are thick with ferns. Shadow of the Colossus was always a striking looking game, but this is something else entirely.
There are options and some minor embellishments - there are a variety of visual filters available and you can adjust the motion blur effect, though the camera still moves in lurches, just as it did in the original. The controls, while tweaked, aren't necessarily graceful, though I've always felt that was kind of the point of Shadow of the Colossus, a game in which the real majesty is preserved for those beasts themselves while you blunder and bludgeon your way around them.
And in those imperfections there remains a game that's not for everyone, but miss the chance to play it afresh when this remake comes out next February at your peril. Games this powerful come very rarely, and to get to experience it afresh all over again is something very special indeed.