Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition ReviewFebruary 27, 2014
Last year’s Tomb Raider was a great reboot for the franchise, featuring a strong origin story for longtime gaming heroine Lara Croft. While the PC version that I reviewed looked gorgeous, with its impressive TressFX hair rendering technology, sharp textures, and immersive weather effects, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions looked a fair bit worse, obviously due to the very dated hardware the game was being rendered on. Now that the next generation of gaming is in full swing, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have decided to bring gamers the ultimate Tomb Raider experience with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and Xbox One.
Embarking on her first real adventure, Lara Croft is shipwrecked on a mysterious island with possibly supernatural powers. Over the course of the game’s 8 to 12 hour campaign (depending on how sidetracked you get with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’s side missions), Lara will transform from an innocent-yet-strong-willed girl to something more closely resembling the hardened heroine we all know and love. It’s a stunningly beautiful, exciting, well-told origin story that feels equal parts Indiana Jones, Uncharted and Lost.
The PlayStation 4 version of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition runs at native 1080p and 60 frames per second, which immediately improves upon the last-gen console experience. But the Definitive Edition also features a brand-new, more lifelike model for Lara Croft (with nifty rendering techniques like sub-surface scattering), along with all of the game’s DLC. This includes a new secret tomb to explore, eight new multiplayer maps, six multiplayer weapons, four multiplayer characters, six new outfits for Lara, the Dark Horse digital comic book “Tomb Raider: The Beginning”, a digital art book called “Tomb Raider: The Art of Survival”, and finally “The Final Hours of Tomb Raider” documentary series.
The updated environments, weather/ fire effects, lighting, and especially the TressFX technology makes Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition truly visually impressive. It might seem like a trivial thing, but the difference between Lara’s default locks and the TressFX-enhanced version is truly night and day. Watching her hair blow in the wind, react properly during jumps, and self-shadow drastically increases the realism of Lara’s character model and the player’s immersion in the game itself. Effects such as sweat, mud, blood, and cloth simulations are noticeably improved, and all textures are 4 times the size of even the PC version’s.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition makes use of some of the PlayStation 4’s flashy effects, such as voice control and the light bar. The light bar glows red and orange when holding a torch, and flashes when Lara is firing a gun. Voice control is finicky, but generally works pretty well; you can switch weapons by saying the names of different armaments, as well as bring up the map, pause the game, etc.
With Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Crystal Dynamics has finally gotten combat right. Fighting enemies is fun and engaging, and the game does a great job of supplying you with new weapons, combat moves and upgrades throughout the proceedings. You’ll find salvage all over the island, and by looting corpses, which can be utilized at base camps to improve your arsenal. Similarly, you’ll gain XP throughout, unlocking Skill Points that can be put towards survival or hunter-based upgrades. Though all the weapons feel great, I stuck with Lara’s awesome crossbow for most of the game. Its upgradeable flaming arrows were especially useful for crowd management, and igniting assailants with it. By the game’s third act, though, you’ll need to quickly switch between your entire collection in order to survive. You’ll encounter more seasoned enemies with armored suits impervious to flames, foes armed with riot shields, and even gigantic, supernatural baddies near the game’s end.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition also features a very Batman: Arkham City-style progression system. While the game is somewhat open-world, there will be areas that you can see but can’t get to until you find that one conveniently-placed tool you needed. By the end, Lara will be able to easily traverse the landscape: zip-lining, parachuting, and rock-climbing with a pick-axe.
Overall, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a gorgeously rendered update of a well-told story with incredibly high production values. The game contains clever nods to the series’ past while simultaneously driving it forward for a modern audience. It accomplishes everything that a reboot strives for- redefining a gaming icon, reinvigorating a franchise, and making us excited for what’s next.