In 2013, we received a Tomb Raider reboot from the fine folks at Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix. And 11 months later, we have just received the same game on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One with a slew of extra features and a visual makeover. Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is certainly definitive, as it is really one of the few games that can showcase some of the potential for our new machines. Tomb Raider serves as a wonderful introduction and origin story to our beloved Lara Croft with tight shooting mechanics and a fun adventure, but there’s not a lot of reason to play it if you’ve played the original edition on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or PC.
I’ll get right to the meat and potatoes of this entire release. The graphics. The updated visuals were tailored specifically for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and they are, quite frankly, beautiful. Both consoles render at native 1080P, and take advantage of advanced visual effects. Most notably is called TressFX, which essentially renders Lara’s hair and changes it dynamically. If she’s climbing up a radio tower, you’ll see her hair billowing in the proper direction of the wind. Likewise, there are a lot of other smaller details in the environment from cleaner shadows to high resolution textures.
If you frequent gaming websites, you’ll likely have heard about the whole debacle between Tomb Raider Definitive Edition on Playstation 4 vs Xbox One. I can’t personally comment on this because I played through it on Playstation 4, but I can say without a doubt that frame rate will hover around 50 or so in most situations, but in some areas it will easily sit at 60. The frame rate is by no means constant though and it does dip in heavier situations. If you’re curious for performance on the Xbox One, I recommend you head on over to Eurogamer’s Next-Gen Faceoff as they really get into the nitty gritty details.
Unfortunately, the other included features in the “Definitive” version of Tomb Raider are mostly DLC. These include weapon packs, character skins, and an extra 2 minute puzzle. It’s largely cheap content that doesn’t really have any significant gameplay nor add anything to the value. It’s nice they are included, but I was hoping for some brand new content.
In Tomb Raider, we’re introduced to a green Lara Croft who is on one of her first archaeological ventures searching for the lost island of Yamatai in a place known as the Dragon’s Triangle. Unfortunately, they run into a storm that absolutely tears their ship a part and they are now stranded on an island inhabited by a group of men who seemingly kill for fun. The general storyline follows twists and turns, and it’s kind of hard to know what’s going to happen next. It lasted for longer than I anticipated, and it should take between 10-12 hours to play through.
One aspect that surprised me was the emotion and realistic movements in Lara. I can’t say the same for secondary characters, but the motion capture makes all movements from Lara much more immersive, and it’s almost captivating to watch an innocent woman face death time and time again, only to turn into a hardened adventurer by the end. The psychological torment that she endures is one of the driving factors in what makes Tomb Raider a wonderful adventure.
Whereas previous Tomb Raiders had a heavy emphasis on solving puzzles, that’s not the case here. There are some strong similarities to Uncharted as there is a ton of shooting, jumping, and climbing. If you were a fan of the older Tomb Raider games, you might be a bit disappointed in the puzzles because they’ve taken a backseat to the shooting. However, the gunplay is very tight and controls well; using a bow to silently pick off guards is a blast. Unfortunately, combat is also plagued by a bunch of quick time events. Actually, they’re not exclusive to combat. You’ll find them everywhere including in cutscenes, climbing, and more.
You also have the ability to upgrade your weapons and gear with the games currency, salvage. By picking up salvage from fallen enemies and crates, you’ll be able to add napalm to your arrows, silencers to your pistols, and a bunch of other neat features. This customization is a fresh way to update the Tomb Raider series and differentiate itself from other third person franchises.
If there’s any one thing that drags Tomb Raider down, it’s the enemy AI. Your enemies will frequently charge directly at you with no regard for their well-being, and when they do cover, they hop out at predictable intervals so you can pick them off. Most unfortunate, however, is how oblivious they are to everything. You can pick off a guard, and his buddy not 10 feet from him won’t bat an eye. These scenarios become increasingly rare throughout the game though as most situations end in gunfire.
Multiplayer returns for Tomb Raider Definitive Edition. I have never played the original release’s multiplayer, but I expect that it’s very same but with a smoother framerate. It plays largely similar to the multiplayer in Uncharted spread across four game modes. These modes are the only unique aspect of the multiplayer, including the standard free for all and team deathmatch, but also different variations on capture the flag and king of the hill. Unfortunately, I was plagued with extreme latency and surprise kicks for many games, so it can be very frustrating. I largely play Tomb Raider for the single player experience, but I’m sure the multiplayer, for all of it’s generalities, will pad out the game for a few more hours. For those wondering, there are a bunch of silly multiplayer trophies and achievements as well, so it will be difficult and time consuming to 100% Tomb Raider.
For all the problems that Tomb Raider has, it’s still a great reboot to an iconic franchise. Sure, the AI might be a tad on the slow side and the multiplayer is shoehorned in, but it’s a wonderful adventure with a very personable protagonist. Taking a page out of Uncharted just might have been the best thing for Tomb Raider to do, even if it is a tad ironic.
Buy, Rent, or Avoid?
Now, the real dilemma. If you’ve played Tomb Raider last year and finished it, there’s honestly not a lot of reason to pick up the Definitive Edition. As stated previously, it’s a huge graphical update that makes the game absolutely beautiful, but that can only go so far. If you’ve played Tomb Raider last year, you’ve essentially played Tomb Raider Definitive Edition. However, if you haven’t played Tomb Raider before and you’re a fan of action adventure games, I highly recommend you pick this up. It’s certainly an adventure worth embarking on at least once, and serves as a faithful origins story.