Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

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Although it took me a couple months to get around to it, I thoroughly enjoyed 2013′s Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics and completely agreed with Lisa’s full-score review of Lara Croft’s rebooted adventures. Now with the release of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, I had a good excuse to play through the game again, but has time cooled me on the experience?

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What You Need to Know

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition cleans the slate and tells the story of Lara Croft’s origins as an adventurer, archaeologist, and indeed, tomb raider, as a crew of sailors and scholars accompany a famed explorer on the hunt for the fabled Yamatai, an island steeped in the allure of Japanese myth and legend. Before long, Ms. Croft and the crew are shipwrecked on the island (believed to be Yamatai) when a furious storm forces their ship into the shore’s rocks.

After regrouping and trying to find a way home, the gang is attacked by hostile island residents and Lara Croft finds herself in a nightmarish struggle for survival – an impossible situation that ultimately reveals her inner strength as she very quickly has to learn how to defend herself and endure under harsh conditions.

Tomb Raider may at first seem like a standard third-person action adventure game in the style of Uncharted (or even the previous Tomb Raider games), but the MetroidVania method of gating progress across what is essentially an open-world (split into discrete areas) sets it apart, and as you learn new abilities and find new tools you’ll gain access to different parts of the island, while collecting salvage to upgrade your weapons and earning experience points to improve and learn new skills.

Finding your way around the world can be a puzzle in itself and navigating the jungles, cliffs, mountains, villages and shanty towns of the game is a not-insignificant part of the adventure, with third-person shooting sections taking a backseat to exploration. That’s not to say that combat isn’t an important, well implemented portion of Tomb Raider, but you will spend less time shooting and more time climbing during the sixteen or so hours it’ll take to complete the story.

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What’s New?

New to the genre (or at least better implemented than other games) is Lara Croft’s ‘focus’ mode, which at the press of a button (accompanied by a satisfying ‘boom’ sound) coats the screen in black and white and grey, with objects of interest and the path forward highlighted in yellow and red, all of which fades away the moment Lara moves forward (which means you won’t have it activated the whole time, like in a Batman Arkhamverse game).

New to Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4, however, is the game’s 60 frames per second framerate, which was immediately noticeable after playing at 30 frames per second on Xbox 360 with movement and actions feeling much smoother and snappier than before. Lara’s face has also gone through a bit of a transformation in Definitive Edition, while extra atmospheric effects (like lighting and fog) are clear to see, reinforced with much higher quality textures.

The PlayStation 4’s controller is also used in a few neat ways, with the touch pad used to ignite and extinguish your torch with a swipe, while map and menu navigation is made easier with swipes and pinches to zoom. With a PlayStation 4 camera, you’ll be able to use certain voice commands to bring up the map, for example, and when your torch is lit the controller’s light will flicker in hues of red and orange to simulate the swaying, flickering flame – gimmicky, but it was fun to see by happenstance in a darkened room.

Also new to this edition of Tomb Raider is that all of the downloadable content – including costumes and multiplayer maps – have been included in one package.

You’ll Enjoy Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition If You Liked…

… the Uncharted series.

…. the adventure and exploration of previous Tomb Raider games.

… the ‘gear-gating’ of the Metroid Prime series, with chances to apply new tools to gain access to new areas.

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What I Liked

- 5.) By the end of the game, Lara Croft is a gun-toting combatant able to go toe-to-toe with the best, but the staggered progression up to that point and the provision of tactical approaches to combat with a few tools at her disposal helped me to work strategy and a modicum of thought into the fire fights.

- 4.) The attention to visual details is fantastic while the use of the camera to enforce feelings of vulnerability and danger is incredibly impactful – shimmying along a ledge high in the mountains as your view whips from side to side made the situation a lot more tense that it was in reality.

- 3.) While definitely not the focus of the game, I did enjoy putting my brain to work during a few light progression puzzles, and taking a step back during one of the half dozen tomb sequences to plot a route through contraptions and pathways before me.

- 2.) The character writing in Tomb Raider is excellent, while the voice acting brings these personalities to life brilliantly – seeing and hearing Lara Croft grow from a snivelling wimp to a mighty adventurer was a wonderful journey.

- 1.) Tomb Raider’s masterstroke is the game’s pacing. Everything from how often story beats are doled out, to when you learn new abilities and upgrade your weapons and skills, to when the developers trust you to gain access to new areas and challenge you with combat, all make the game an addictive, utterly enjoyable experience from start to end.

Favourite Moment

My favourite moments in Tomb Raider were at the end of a challenging sequence that combined both third-person combat and especially tricky areas to climb across, and I was able to reflect on it all by sitting Lara at a camp fire save point to spend a few upgrade points and ready myself for new challenges ahead.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 2.) Out of the dozen or so PlayStation 4 games I’ve played on my current setup, Tomb Raider is the second that I had to switch the system down to 720p (as opposed to 1080p) to get rid of a peculiar rendering issue that displays black lines across detailed areas of the screen, like foliage. A weird problem that’s only ever surfaced before in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

- 1.) I’m not a fan of Quick Time Events, and while Tomb Raider’s QTEs are light I hope they’re a thing of the past for future games in the series.

Least Favourite Moment

Not a lot springs to mind, but I always did my best to ensure I didn’t see Lara get impaled on spikes and sticks during the many sliding and gliding sequences – it’s not fun seeing her writhe in agony after an horrific accident.


Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Other than the downloadable content included in the package, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition has more than its fair share of items to collect, areas to explore and things to do in order to set yourself on the road to 100 percent completion.

There’s also a fully featured team-based multiplayer component to Tomb Raider, and now with the DLC included, there are a lot of maps and modes to play through with what is (at the moment) a limited online community. You’ll find games, just not many of them.

The Bottom Line

Tomb Raider is still an outstanding action adventure game, made even better in the Definitive Edition with enhanced visuals, an improved framerate and more content to enjoy – it’s not worth buying a new generation console to play, but if you haven’t played it yet it’s as good an excuse as any.

If you have played it through on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 and you’re itching for another go, I would recommend waiting for a good price drop before re-introducing yourself to Lara Croft’s latest and greatest adventure in the near future.


Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition was reviewed on PlayStation 4


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