|System: Xbox One, PS4*|
|Dev: Crystal Dynamics|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: January 28, 2014|
|Players: 1 (2-8 Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, and Strong Language|
by Joshua Bruce
First, let me say that 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot was by far the best game in the franchise’s history. It didn’t really need a “Definitive Edition.” It was definitive enough in its original form. But it got a Definitive Edition, so here we are--me playing a game I reviewed last year and you wondering whether or not it’s worth picking up. To begin, if you haven’t played the game yet and you have a shiny new next-gen console (when do we get to stop calling them next-gen? Isn’t it current-gen now?), just go ahead and get this game. It’s easily one of the best games available for either the Xbox One or the PS4, and the liberal coat of varnish they slapped on this version didn’t hurt any of the playability. Not to mention that it comes with all DLC, so you won’t have to worry about picking any of that up later if you want it.
The story of the original game remains intact, along with all of the grit, grime, blood, guts and tough-as-nails situations that Lara has to wade through on the island of Yamatai. This is the origin story of Lara Croft and it’s not an easy one. The narrative can be best described as “Survival Adventure” and Lara’s will and ability to survive, and quell others ability to do so, is remarkable. As the bodies pile up and Lara approached Rambo status through the game, she has earned the title “Toughest Female Character in Gaming”, at least in my eyes. I’m pretty sure I would have curled up in the fetal position after lifting myself off of a one-foot section of steel rebar sticking through my side. Just sayin’.
Lara’s tale of survival goes from impossible situation to impossible situation on the living, breathing island of Yamatai. Thankfully, they are woven together in such a way that it never feels generic, and each section of pulse-pounding set-piece action stacks on top of another, resulting in lengthy dirt-under-your-nails, pine needles stuck in your teeth, sopping wet, cut up and beat down action. Honestly, I don’t know how she takes it all.
And all of this in “next-generation” visual glory. Tomb Raider looked great before, but with the extra horsepower of the new consoles, it looks even more amazing. Lara is more detailed than ever, and her harrowing ordeal shows in her character model. Every scrape, cut, bruise, and bleeding wound is given extra attention and you can almost feel her pain. Environmental effects add a certain pop that just couldn’t be achieved on previous consoles, and shadows (one of my pet peeves) look amazing. Dynamic lighting casts the shadows realistically, bringing an astounding level of detail to the already beautiful environment of Yamatai.
Although, I did experience visual glitches several times throughout the course of play. Sometimes transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were choppy and forced, something I don’t remember being an issue on the previous version. Also, I had framerate drops on several occasions, especially when moving into a new area. But all-in-all, these issues were few and far between and mostly inconsequential.
In addition to the visual boost of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, the control scheme was noticeably tighter as well. This may be due to the new controllers for each system, but there’s no denying a stronger sense of responsiveness and maneuverability. Shooting on the move felt much better this time around which only added to Lara’s badass persona. Platforming was given a noticeable boost as well, and I didn’t find myself falling to my death nearly as much or catching a branch through my chin as often while being washed down a stream.
Voice controls were added as well for switching weapons or bringing up your map, using the Kinect or the PlayStation camera. It wasn’t necessary, but it worked if you wanted to use it. The DualShock 4’s motion controls were also taken advantage of, giving you the ability to shake the controller violently to escape from assailants instead of flicking the left thumbstick back and forth. Again, not necessary, but it worked well enough, and who doesn’t like to shake things, right? They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with the control scheme for next-gen platforms, they just added to an already solid setup.