When Lara Croft stepped back into the gaming space last year, it was reminiscent of those high school days when classmates would return from summer break completely transformed, in this case to a much more mature and appealing stature. You’d be hard pressed to find many bad things to say about Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the Tomb Raider series. Our very own Dan Casey said it best: The game is damn fun to play, borrowing elements from series like Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed and stirring them in a fantastic pot of original ideas and ingenuity. Now, the newly-released Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition brings last year’s amazing experience to the PS4 and Xbox One.
Whether or not Tomb Raider is still an awesome game isn’t to be discussed; it is in every sense still the “cream of the Croft,” the best game in the Tomb Raider series to date. The true matter in question is just how “definitive” the next-gen version of this game is. Survival instincts warrant us, as consumers, to pose this question, as it’s a game that’s not only almost a year removed from its original release date, but also charging a whopping $60. Given these circumstances, is it worth it to take the trip back to the dreaded island of Yamatai?
The good news is, there are some noticeable improvements made in Definitive Edition, the most obvious of them being the game’s visuals. Lara Croft’s character model has been completely reconstructed from scratch, all the way down to her strands of hair. With how gorgeous the game was last-gen, you wouldn’t think there’d be much that could be done to reach higher standards in visuals. But Lara looks better, the environments look richer, and the level of polish and detail is astonishingly pleasing to the eye, making this the most satisfying graphical achievement I’ve experienced on the next-gen platforms to date. If you’ve ever imagined being able to play a game that looked as good as the cutscenes in previous generations, ladies and gentlemen, I think your wish may have just been granted.
There are several pretty nice gameplay elements that have been added to the mix this time around. The PS4 version utilizes the Dualshock 4’s touchpad to do everything from lighting torches by simply swiping up, to accessing and browsing the game’s map, to examining discovered artifacts. They even utilized the DS4’s lightbar, which glows yellow, orange, and red whenever Lara is holding a torch in her hand, and tailored the audio from Lara’s hand actions (like shooting guns or breaking open boxes) to come out of the controller’s speakers. Voice commands are also available on both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, allowing you to do everything from switch weapons by simply naming one to pausing the game just by saying “pause.” However, I turned the voice commands off, because the game picked up enemies shouting through my sound system, thus inadvertently triggering the game to annoyingly switch weapons or pause free of my control.
There is a noteworthy difference in frames per second between the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. The PS4 version appears to run smoother, seemingly closer to 60fps, while the Xbox One version runs closer to 30fps. The PS4 version did drop in frame rate twice as I played through, both times lasting about a minute or so before kicking back up to 60fps. Given that frame rate is something many seem to gravely care about (all Call Of Duty games from MW and beyond run at 60fps), I’d say if you’re a multi-console owner, you may want to take the PS4 version into consideration, as it has the edge in this category.
From a plot stand point, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is identical in every aspect in comparison to the original. Don’t expect any exciting new twists, secret endings, or expansions to the story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Tomb Raider was an excellent origin story for Lara Croft to begin with. The length of the single-player is nearly unchanged as well, with the only difference being the addition of one extra optional tomb to explore, which was released originally as DLC for the last-gen versions of the game. Other than that, there’s nothing differentiating last year’s and this year’s versions of the game in terms of plot and game length, which subtracts from the question of whether this game is worth the $60 price tag for players who owned it in its last-gen version.
Oddly enough, where the most extra content is added is in the game’s least desirable component, the multiplayer. All of the multiplayer DLC is included in Definitive Edition, which would seem like a bargain if it weren’t for the fact that the multiplayer is still as lackluster as it was before. This section of the game also remained unchanged and still feels as spiritless as it did on 360 and PS3. Don’t get me wrong, there’s surely fun to be had by someone in the multiplayer, but given the amount of depth seen in every other multiplayer component out there, Tomb Raider‘s is still very easily forgettable.
As much as I loved this game on PS3 and Xbox 360, I wish this version had been my first time experiencing it. There’s no question that this is truly the definitive version of Tomb Raider, as the gorgeous graphical enhancements make the single-player more engrossing, and the inclusion of every available DLC add-on give it a slight content edge over its last-gen predecessors. But alas, these advantages are extremely small in stature, and there’s just not enough being offered to deem this game as $60 worth of “definitive,” especially when it’s nearly one year removed from its original release.
If you missed the opportunity to play Tomb Raider when it first launched last year, by all means, run to your local retailer as fast as you can and make it paranormal rainstorm (or “make it rain” for short) with $60 at the cash register. Perhaps you’re a sucker for amazing visuals and are simply dying from this drought of lacking games, so that $60 is burning a gaping hole in your wallet. That’s totally understandable, but if you have played through the last-gen version of Tomb Raider, be warned: there’s assuredly a severe lack of anything new to see here and you’ll be best suited gritting your teeth and holding off on this one until the price drops.