Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Street Date:
- January 28th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- February 3rd, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Square Enix
- Crystal Dynamics
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
The PS4 version of 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' reviewed with a revisiting of both the PS3 and PC versions 'Tomb Raider,' which were released last year. In terms of gameplay content, 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' is near identical to 'Tomb Raider.' 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' is also available on the Xbox One.
The notion of the reboot, or re-imagining, of a previously licensed property, across a variety of entertainment mediums, has become exceptionally routine; whether as a television show from decades past, a movie that had the right idea but failed to deliver, or a videogame franchise that became stale. Some have been necessary and embraced with open arms, while others mortify countless fans of the original. The announcement of Crystal Dynamics' 2013 release of 'Tomb Raider' was initially met with skepticism. Was it a franchise that was already too far gone? Could anything ever be done to resuscitate an aging Lara Croft? It was undoubtedly a risky proposition but one that was eventually well received from dedicated fans and wary critics. Less than a year later, and the skepticism has returned to meet the new console version, dubbed 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition,' and boasting of large visual revamping, complete with a new Lara model. But are there enough improvements to warrant a separate playthrough on the latest platforms?
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Full disclosure – 'Tomb Raider' was my pick for game of the year in 2013. It scratched every gaming itch I had and I spent hours indulging in Lara Croft's newest adventure. When given the opportunity to experience this game again on the PlayStation 4, I jumped at the chance.
As excited as I was at the prospect of playing 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' on current gen hardware, the reality is that the game itself – the level design, story, and characters – haven't undergone any dramatic changes. The premise remains the same – a young, over-achieving Lara Craft becomes stranded on an island after her expeditionary team enters the treacherous waters of the Devil's Triangle in search of the mythical island of Yamati. What develops is a brutal battle for survival against the elements and unwelcoming inhabitants, as Lara transforms from innocent young woman to fearless and confident adventurer.
What makes this latest iteration of 'Tomb Raider' – definitive edition or otherwise – so noteworthy, is the exceptional pacing of the game. Whether fighting for your life, exploring hidden tombs, or platforming across dizzying heights, the game excels at changing up gameplay while consistently introducing new plot points and game mechanics; all of which will keep you engaged. Boredom is not a term I would associate with Crystal Dynamics' fresh new start of this time-tested adventure.
For those unfamiliar, 'Tomb Raider' is a 3rd-persona action adventure game that incorporates fairly common cover-based shooting mechanics and light elements of crafting and character level experience. As you defeat enemies, hunt wild animals, and solve tomb-specific puzzles, you gain experience that can be spent to improve your combat effectiveness and survival instincts. Similarly, salvage that is found, or picked from the corpses of your enemies, is used to update a variety of weapons and climbing tools – helping you to become the survivor you were born to be.
While 'Tomb Raider's' controls are generally tight and responsive, approachable for a variety of gamers, the Definitive Edition brings additional features to the PlayStation 4 – some gimmicky and unnecessary, and some that fit right in with the overall experience.
So, let's start with those that actually enhance the experience.
Similarly developed for 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag', pressing the DualShock 4's touch pad will bring up the map of the island, providing you with waypoints, collectibles, and relic locations. As relics are viewed you may rotate them by swiping the touch pad, providing a more three-dimensional perspective. Finally, (and this is my favorite new feature), lighting or extinguishing Lara's torch is managed by a quick swipe - up or down. These actions are meant to represent striking flint to ignite the torch or swinging Lara's arm to extinguish it.
Then, there are those 'nice-to have-but-who-really-needs-them' features.
Taking advantage of the PlayStation 4 Camera, you have the option for voice commands. Phrases like 'Show Map', 'Bow', and 'Gun' respond surprisingly well, but not nearly as quick as the push of the applicable touch pad or directional buttons. These voice commands will likely entice a small percentage of gamers to actually utilize. Still, with my entertainment center placing me roughly 8-10 feet away from my HDTV and top mounted PS4 camera, I was impressed with the responsiveness and remain optimistic for more creative uses of the peripheral in the future.
Finally, we're left with the 'what-were-the-developers-thinking' features.
Unless you're a fan of the DualShock 4's front facing light sensor, you may scratch your head over the way 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' puts it to use. Lighting a torch will set the controller's light sensor on a flickering display of colors, while Lara's use of guns will cause the sensor to flash in time with the individual shots. Did anyone really ask for this feature?
Gimmicky controls aside, the 'Definitive Edition' provides a more immersive single player experience, while delivering the same high-action set pieces I fell in love with on the PlayStation 3. The option to play with or without voice controls and touch pad interaction are entirely up to you and are never forced.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
There was quite the build-up to the release of 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition'; specifically regarding the high-definition upgrades. The sticking point in many cases seemed to be why should the new PS4 version look better than the existing PC version? If the changes for the 'Definitive Edition' were released for the PC version, it would make comparisons a lot closer as the PS4 version just has a lot going on that isn't in the PC version. Furthermore, trouble caused by TressFX on the PC when 'Tomb Raider' was released need never bother this new version on the PS4. Then again, the PC version is available to mod and display at higher resolutions than the PS4's 1080p. Say what you will about PC vs. console, 'Tomb Raider' on the PlayStation 4 looks absolutely amazing.
The developers at Crystal Dynamics went out of their way to point out the incredible TressFX technology that highlight every strand of hair on Lara's head, along with her character redesign, but honestly, they take an immediate back seat to the much more interesting environmental effects.
From the grandest vista (of which there are many) to the smallest detail, 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' is a visual powerhouse. I was more than impressed with the PlayStation 3 version of the game, but find myself stunned by the sheer beauty of this game on the PlayStation 4. The increased level of particle effects, inclusion of smoke, fog, and icy wind, represent a game that is highly polished, while still running at an incredibly smooth and consistent 60 FPS. Seeing what the PlayStation 4 is capable of, purely from a graphical standpoint, has me incredibly excited for what is yet to come.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
With all the side-by-side graphical comparisons leading up to the release of the Definitive Edition, I am unaware if there was ever any mention of an audio overhaul. Regardless, I feel I would be doing this review a disservice by not mentioning how impressed I was with the surround sound. Being stranded on Yamati has never felt (or sounded) more realistic.
Waves crash against the distant shoreline, seagulls scream above your head, and shouts from your separated expedition shipmates echo from behind – and that's just in the first few minutes of the game. If you have the option to play 'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition' with the volume turned up, through an evenly balanced surround system, please do. You will not be disappointed. The high level of environmental variety is consistently represented from one of the best audio recordings I've experienced in a video game.
Adding to the DualShock 4 features mentioned above, the developers at Crystal Dynamics have made good use of the controller's built in speaker. Conversations between Lara and the rest of her stranded party over two-way radio are pushed through this tiny speaker, giving the situational dialogue an even greater feel of authenticity and realism. Even more impressive – yet disturbing – are the special audio effects delivered with headshots and finishing kills that Lara performs. A faint, yet noticeable, 'splat' emits from the tiny speaker, re-enforcing the life-or-death situation that you find yourself in.
As much fun as I've had playing 'Tomb Raider', the linear nature of the story is sure to prohibit more than a few playthroughs of the campaign. Unfortunately, the tacked on multiplayer doesn't do much to promote repeated visits to the online component. I remain baffled that a game that was so lovingly developed with the single player experience in mind was devoid of any significant additional content (save for one measly additional tomb) to further explore the island, it's inhabitants, or additional locations.
With a handful of maps and modes to choose from – none of which provided much inspiration – I questioned the rationale for including a multiplayer component at all. Based on the difficulty finding an active match across any of the available team death match, free for all, and rescue modes, it seems apparent that none of the 'Tomb Raider' fan base asked for a multiplayer experience, nor are they interested in playing one.
When compared to current heavy hitters like 'Call of Duty' and 'Battlefield 4', 'Tomb Raider's' online experience comes up significantly short. It ultimately feels generic and uninteresting, and I doubt I'm the only 'Tomb Raider' fan that would have preferred the developers spent more time creating an expanded single player experience.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
As you might expect of any Game of the Year edition, 'Tomb Raider Definitive Edition' comes packed with previously released online multiplayer DLC maps, as well as a handful of costumes Lara can change into during the single player campaign. Additionally, you get access to both the digital comic and art book. The comic provides a nice backstory to all of Lara's shipmates leading up to the events that occur within the game, while the art book details some impressive images that set the stage for a variety of in-game environments, characters, and equipment.
If you passed on 'Tomb Raider' when it released earlier in 2013, or opted to hold out for the Definitive Edition, now is a great time to experience this incredible franchise reboot; highly recommended on a current gen console. While I was disappointed to see a $60 price tag associated with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, I realized after playing it that it is much more than a simple up-rez of a game nearly a year old. The opening moments of 'Tomb Raider' on the PlayStation 4 confirmed for me that the developers at Crystal Dynamics put their heart and soul back into a game they so clearly love. While the updated visuals are quite stunning and, at times jaw-dropping, the gameplay continues to be immersive – with incredible set pieces, high action, acrophobia-inducing platforming, and an interesting story with likable characters. I said it in 2013 when I completed 'Tomb Raider' the first time, and I'll say it again here – 'Tomb Raider' has found a way to give Naughty Dog's 'Uncharted' series a real run for the money, and I can't wait to see where Lara's adventure's lead her next.
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