Excellent On Any Console
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.
The sounds of Tomb Raider are as wonderful as I remember them: an outstanding score, excellent voice-acting, and sound effects that immerse you fully in Lara’s world. However, there is one minor annoyance I feel I have to mention. As I began to play, I noticed that some sound would come through the DualShock 4 speaker. I thought this would be a cool addition to the gameplay, like when Lara would receive radio calls or pick up a journal, it would come through the controller. Unfortunately, there was no way to turn off those sounds coming through normal sound channels, so I was stuck with hearing them from both my television and my controller, which made for an annoying echo. Eventually I just turned the controller speaker off, wishing that I could have just heard radio chatter through my controller alone to add to the immersion of the game. It didn’t hurt the overall soundscape of the game, it’s just a feature I wanted to work properly that didn’t.
There were other small oddities as well. For instance, In the opening scene when Lara is hanging upside-down in the cave, her hair seemingly defies gravity, waving around as if she was standing upright instead of hanging toward the floor as it should have. Also, and I’m not sure if it was this way in the previous version (if it was I didn’t notice it then), but it seems that the high-definition character models from the island timeline were used for the camera flashback sequences onboard the ship Endurance. Meaning, that in these flashbacks, Lara and other characters have the same dirt patterns on their faces as they do at points on the island, and I’m pretty sure they had a shower on the ship. Now, I know this is nit-picky, but when everything in a game is given this high level of detail, these little anomalies become apparent. Do they detract from the game as a whole? Nah. But it goes to show that in this age of ridiculously detailed visuals, developers are going to have to pay attention to tiny variables in order to continue suspension of disbelief, or at least to keep people like me at bay.
Did Tomb Raider really need a Definitive Edition? No, it didn’t. Honestly, I would have been happy with a straight port, but it did allow the developers to bring an amazing game to consoles that are desperately starving for good content. At the end of the day, Tomb Raider looks better, plays better, and (for the most part, stupid controller echo) sounds better than it ever has before, and contains all the DLC that was released in one easy-to-buy package. I guess it is a Definitive Edition after all.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Definitely the best looking version of the Tomb Raider reboot. Even if there are a few minor graphical glitches. 4.5 Control
The controls are slightly tighter on the new console controllers. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Definitive Edition sounds just like the original – Excellent. 4.6 Play Value
The experience delivered in Tomb Raider was great the first time around, and with all DLC included in this release, there’s just that much more to do. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|