Platforms: Xbox One/PlayStation 4
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Xbox One: Nixxes Software/PlayStation 4: United Front (Originally Crystal Dynamics)
Genre: Action-Adventure Platform Played: PlayStation 4
Last year, Lara Croft made her tremendous return to gaming, providing one of the best titles available in 2013. Tomb Raider was back, and the industry had rejoiced at the return of one of the biggest icons within the medium. Lara Croft now makes her way to next generation consoles in the form of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which, above all else, contains a visual upgrade to last year’s release. Tomb Raider DE isn’t just a mere visual upgrade, as it also contains new added features, and all the multiplayer DLC and outfits that were released last year. Coupled with these additions, Tomb Raider DE also displays visuals in 1080p, running at 30 FPS on the Xbox One, and 60 FPS on the PlayStation 4.
Tomb Raider’s original release was gorgeous: from the beautifully varied island of Yamatai, to the greatly detailed Lara Croft; which is why it pleases me to say the Definitive Version not only takes it to eleven, but beyond. The island of Yamatai itself has never looked so stunning. Foliage will sway during the windy weather, and plants and bushes will move as Lara brushes past, due to the newly added physics system. The gorgeous lighting of the original release has also been improved with added shaders, while each lightning strike during thunderstorms will flash the island in a beautiful bright light, creating a great sense of atmosphere. These atmospheric moments also carry over to the optional tombs Lara can explore. Watching the glint from a flaming torch as it lights up each particle of dirt and dust in the air is breath-taking. The attention to detail during these moments is a sight to behold.
Lara Croft herself also benefits from the next generation upgrade. The added detail from various textures create a Lara that is capable of more emotional expressions – when you see Lara wince in pain, you can almost feel that pain on your end. The detailed textures also allow the dirt, sweat, and blood that encompasses Lara throughout the 15 hour adventure to possess a more realistic nature. When Lara is covered in dirt, for example, the substance starts to dry out and fade onto her skin. Lara’s hair has also been given a major upgrade, using the Tress FX technology, which allows it to flow and sway with realistic movements, coupled with the improved physics for each weapon that accompanies Lara. Seeing Lara jump and her hair reacting as it would in real life, or as her pickaxe swings alongside her on its own – only to jolt as she hits the firm ground – are small moments that astound and provide a more immersive journey.
Aside from the graphical improvements, Tomb Raider DE also includes some unique features, which are built around each next generation console; though, these added features don’t improve the game and essentially feel like an afterthought. Tomb Raider DE utilises voice commands to allow players to switch weapons and navigate menus, but these voice activations can have a mind of their own. There were over a dozen times where Tomb Raider would hear noises from the game itself, or misinterpret words I was using to pause the game or switch weapons, which can be detrimental during combat. It got to the point where turning off this feature was the only way to enjoy Lara’s experience without interruption.
The unique features of the DualShock 4’s light-bar, touchpad, and speaker have also been utilised to try and increase the immersion. When Lara has a flaming torch, you will see the light-bar start flashing red and yellow, representing the colours on screen. This feature is almost unnoticeable when playing in a well-lit room, and while the touchpad allows you to navigate the map as you would something on your smartphone, it also felt unnecessary and inferior to simply using the analog sticks. The DualShock 4’s built-in speaker is also used when reading collectibles, or to emphasise sound effects on screen. Although there is a noticeable lag between the sound coming from the TV and the controller itself, this was definitely the best use of the PlayStation 4’s controller.
Tomb Raider DE features the same story from the original Tomb Raider, which is excellent. The journey sees Lara and her group of fellow explorers shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai. Though the island may be shrouded in myth, the group quickly discovers that there is a lot more truth to these legends than first thought.
This is the origin story of Lara Croft. We follow her journey to becoming the Tomb Raider we all know and love. Camilla Luddington provides the voice work for Lara, and she does an outstanding job at providing an extremely likeable and relatable character. Experiencing the evolution of Lara as we see her change from the woman who reluctantly delivers her first kill, to the woman who is willing to hunt down those who have hurt the ones she cares for is skilfully crafted. It allowed me to truly invest in Lara Croft as a character and a person, understanding the tough choices she has had to make to become the woman she is when the credits roll.
Tomb Raider is at its best when you enter a new area and start to explore, and it does an excellent job at incentivising your curiosity of discovery. Exploring areas in hopes of finding more salvage to upgrade my tools and weapons, or experience to further upgrade Lara’s capabilities, or even discover hidden tombs that require some puzzle solving were constant reasons for me to continue my exploration. Completing hidden tasks and clearing an area of each collectible became one of the most addictive aspects of Lara’s journey. Her appreciation of exploration and finding hidden artifacts pushed me to further delve into the mysterious background of Yamatai. These moments where Tomb Raider takes off its gloves and lets you explore at your own pace are some of the most enjoyable and memorable moments of my time with Lara Croft, as we both slowly evolved into the tomb raiding legend we know she will become.
Tomb Raider DE also brings the multiplayer from the original game, including all the multiplayer maps that were released post launch. The multiplayer options are nothing special and the amount of modes are quite slim, sitting at four, which include Free for All, Team Deathmatch and variations of Domination and Capture the Flag. Although this doesn’t make it a poor quality multiplayer suite, it doesn’t provide anything ground-breaking or innovative to keep players around. You can level up your character and unlock new weapons, character skins and perks, but there is nothing here to sustain a strong communality, and finding a match will be one of the biggest hurdles for players hoping to venture online.
Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is an excellent excuse to replay one of 2013’s best titles. Though there is little incentive for those to come back if they have already experienced Lara’s journey, the added visuals, lighting and physics only improve on what was already a gorgeous adventure. The added next generation specific features feel like an afterthought, and do not justify a second purchase of Tomb Raider if you already own the original.
Tomb Raider is one of those special games that come around every so often, where you find yourself losing hours and hours off your life because it is too good to put down. Lara Croft’s return last year was one of my favourite experiences of 2013, and I’m pleased to report that playing through Tomb Raider a second time only made me appreciate the supreme quality title that Crystal Dynamics has created.
This may be Lara Croft’s first appearance on next generation consoles, but I am already excited at what Tomb Raider has in store for us in the future.
+ Upgraded visuals are gorgeous
+ New physics add more immersive moments
+ Tomb Raider is still great after the second time
+ Excellent evolution of Lara Croft
+ Exploring Yamatai yields great satisfaction
– Added features feel like an afterthought
– No real incentive to play Tomb Raider again