Following the success of the reboot with the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013, Square-Enix has graced us with another, more superior, version of the already good-looking Tomb Raider, called the Definitive Edition. Released on the 28th of January 2014, the Definitive Edition took major criticism over the pricing of $60 and the fact that it is 1080p/60fps on PS4 and 900p/30fps on Xbox One. Has the developer done enough to convince us that this is a truly next gen Tomb Raider and should you spend the full amount that you may have paid a year ago for the latest iteration of the game?
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition follows the same journey that Lara Croft embarked on a year ago in which we see her transformed from a young naive explorer into a hardened survivor. After an expedition into the Dragons Triangle goes horribly wrong, Lara and her crew find themselves stranded on the mysterious island of Yamatai where their only goal is to survive. Quickly into the main campaign you realise there is more to Yamatai than meets the eye: strange weather patterns, murderers and raging gods – all will confront you in this ten to fifteen hour long 3rd person action packed campaign. A campaign that starts off with you hunting deer quickly spirals down into you killing hundreds of island inhabitants a mere 2 minutes after your very first kill for the benefit of rescuing your crew. If you were expecting the transition to not be as jarring in the retread of the Definitive Edition, you’re going to be disappointed. The key question is though, does the Definitive Edition add anything to an already well polished game? Well not a lot, except for an additional tomb, additional outfits, multiplayer maps and enhanced visuals. However, the enhanced visuals alone may be reason enough to revisit Yamatai and help save Lara and her ship-wrecked buddies once again.
Tomb Raider first started all the way back in 1996 with its original game debuting on the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC. The game was a universal success, showing the potential for where third person action adventure titles could go and also helping ship 100 million PlayStation consoles as well. The franchise from that early success followed on with numerous sequels, prequels, books and films, resulting in a series that some would say had lost its way and become tedious in its design. On March 5th, the franchise made a tremendous return revealing an origin story with a younger, much more inexperienced protagonist that we had never seen before. The game was an instant success, with critics raving about the new approach taken, also showing the potential left in the Tomb Raider franchise. The result of the reboot is a promise of a sequel which has been confirmed to be hitting next gen consoles in 2015. This Definitive Edition gives gamers a taste of what they can expect of a next gen Tomb Raider, leaving fans much more anxious for the sequel.
The origin story of Lara Croft is still, if not more, compelling in the Definitive Edition thanks to the upgraded visuals. The visuals are some of the best I’ve ever seen on a console and are on par with other next gen games like the stunning Killzone: Shadow Fall. Underneath the gorgeous visuals lies a good story which never becomes repetitious or gets dull thanks to an engaging plot that motivates you to keep on playing and a fun combat system that rejuvenates your interest every few minutes. This can be a negative at times because it keeps you focused and busy with the main story quest when you could be spending more time doing side quests like hunting deers and finding collectables to get the most out of your experience on this cursed island of Yamatai.
The excellent voice acting of Lara by Camilla Luddington coupled with the great cinematic direction of the game makes the story much more compelling and believable. Camilla provides an emotional edge and a younger sounding voice to the Lara Croft we have come to know, making this reboot feel new and exciting. It’s a shame that this can’t be said for most of the supporting characters. You spend most of the campaign trying to save the crew while you have no emotional connection with most of them due to the story’s lack of focus on developing the supporting cast. The crews’ voice-acting leaves more to be desired since it lacks depth and emotions for the most part. This is mostly down to the writing and not the actors themselves. After all, the actors can only do so much with the materials they’re given. So just how bad you asked? Let’s just say that some of the voice actors that were cast sound like they just got back from the abysmal Aliens Colonial Marines – how’s that for an analogy? There are some stand out performers however, among whom includes Roth played by Robin Atkin Downes, who provides a convincing portrayal as a father figure to Lara throughout the story.
The gameplay remains mostly the same as the 2013 standard edition except for the addition of voice commands. If you have a Kinect or PlayStation Camera then shouting weapon names at your TV will equip them seamlessly. This is one interesting perks that makes this Definitive Edition stand out from last year’s edition when it comes to gameplay. Lara still controls brilliantly with your controller as every jump is made successfully without fail. Quick Time Events (QTE) or button prompts also react promptly every time you punched in the correct sequence of buttons on your controller. Additionally, there is no Assassin’s Creed style mess ups with you being desynchronized by no fault of your own if you tread too far beyond your limited boundaries. Lara goes where you want her to go without fail.
The missions in the game are just as well polished as the game mechanics, with none of them ever becoming repetitious or dull. Missions range from entering a ship wrecked Endurance with the aim of rescuing one of your crew mates, to searching a war time bunker for clues. The inclusion of various mission scenarios are great and works well in maintaining our interest in the game. To assist those great missions there is a whole host of weapons at your disposal. If you want to tackle the game with a more stealthy approach, equipping the bow is a legitimate play style to adopt. If you want to tear through your enemies at will with no thought of self preservation, then the shotgun has your name on it. Pistols and machine guns also await you for added support. All these weapons can be immensely upgraded, with collected salvage points, at camps which can also be used as fast travel points across the world.
The weapons would have no use if it wasn’t for good enemy types. The types range from a simple enemy patrol that can be taken out with one or two bow shots to those with shields requiring you to first break their defenses before you can take them out. The gameplay is solid in every aspect from level design, voice commands, mission types, enemy types to controlling Miss Croft herself. The ingenious game design and addictive gameplay experience are each compounded with the Definitive Edition‘s upgraded visuals.
With the Definitive Edition ported to the next generation consoles, you would naturally expect an improvement in graphics. Don’t worry because graphics have been improved thanks to good particle effects and higher resolution character models. From the first few minutes spent in the harsh world of Tomb Raider, you can’t help but take in the incredible island of Yamatai. The mountains, sea and ruins all look amazing and go a long way in making Yamatai the world that it is. The island is not the only aspect of the game that receives improved graphical treatment – the character model of Lara Croft herself has also undergone a makeover. The new Lara now looks like she has just received a dose of botox, making her look even more impressive on your high definition TV. These improvement in the game’s graphics is sure to set a benchmark for the visuals in future games to follow. Even though this is strictly a port of an older game, it looks just as impressive as the recently released Killzone: Shadow Fall, and that’s saying something. Again, the Definitive Edition offers a noticeable improvement in graphics when compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3 standard edition. This alone may be a valid reason to revisit Yamatai and undo the island’s curse again in this latest Definitive Edition.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is easily one of the best games to hit the next generation consoles. The stunning graphics, enhanced features and the interesting supernatural elements embedded into the game’s brilliant story make this a definite buy for anyone who hasn’t played this game before. Yes the game suffers from some of the same issues as last year’s standard edition like the excessively recurring Quick Time Events which some may find annoying and the jarring transformation of Lara into a much younger and inexperienced protagonist. However these issues are not enough to diminish the brilliance of this upgraded Tomb Raider.
Images: Official Tomb Raider Site