Last year we were lucky enough to be graced with a Tomb Raider game that felt very much a new entry into the Uncharted franchise - rebooting the beloved Lara Croft with the technical competence and Naughty Dog type action gameplay that people have been in love with for years. Of course, Tomb Raider wasn’t a Naughty Dog game and of course isn’t part of the Uncharted series but it’s clear they were the inspiration for this Crystal Dynamics led reboot. Big shoes to fill as Naughty Dog can do absolutely no wrong, play The Last of Us if you haven’t already done so, but to be fair Crystal Dynamics absolutely nailed it. Arguably one of the best games in the last few years of life on the aging PS3 and the even older Xbox 360, Lara was back with an origin story that played out like a huge budget Hollywood blockbuster.
Adored on launch by resident reviewer, Luciano Howard who proclaimed that this new Tomb Raider was “the height of visual quality” and “It’s basically a pleasure to watch”, concluding “This is a near-perfect realisation of the third-person action adventure genre” (Full review here). So here we are, three months after the launch of the new consoles and a full eleven months since the title’s original launch with the new ‘Definitive Edition’ (available on both Xbox One and PS4). So what exactly is new about this new edition, well, let’s get this out of the way early doors… the story is the same, the mechanics are the same, 100% of the gameplay is exactly the same, even the achievement/trophy list is identical. Aside from the inclusion of the multiplayer DLC as standard it makes life much easier to look at this new version of Tomb Raider in the same way you’ve previously looked at HD remakes of classic titles. Admittedly we are only talking about a game that is under a year old but the principles are very much the same.
And to be fair to Square Enix, although they were dumb enough to call the game a failure financially after it selling millions of copies and being one of the best games of the last generation, they have sort of pulled a blinder here by releasing this Definitive Edition when they have. Timing is absolutely everything when it comes to entertainment products and fresh off two sets of seriously lacklustre launch titles for both new consoles early adopters are left playing mediocre titles as there isn’t anything left to play, more to the point, in January and February there is very little to BUY! To fill this void is a seriously tarted up version of one of the best games of the last few years. Well played Square Enix, well played.
Almost every change in this new edition is graphical aside from some voice control which is so pointless we won’t dwell on it, but that is by no means a bad thing. The Xbox One and arguably (and there will be arguments) to a greater extent the PS4 are capable of stunning visuals. Therefore the boffins at Crystal Dynamics went back to the drawing board with Lara and completely remodelled her, she now looks younger, more innocent even. Add in the crazy TressFX flowing hair which could previously only be achieved on a decent PC and it’s a clearly different Lara from the previous gen version...and it is great.
To add to this almost every aspect of the visuals has been either revamped or heavily added to - marks on Lara’s skin seem less superficial and more like they’d actually really hurt. The environments contain many many additional effects, from trees flowing in the wind, to the long uncut grass swaying in the middle of a storm. Throughout the entire game it’s clear that this wasn’t just one of those Konami-like ‘turn up the resolution’ hatchet jobs to make a quick buck. Sure, the ultimate aim here is to make a buck but as a player, even if you’ve played the original, it’s well worth going back to the island.
As the adventure focuses almost entirely on Lara’s coming of age each graphical enhancement increases the often visceral nature of this character progression. Ignoring for a moment the ridiculousness of this innocent young girl weeping when killing a small animal for food in order to survive and then in under ten hours (of gameplay time) becoming the queen of the headshot, the close up shotgun face blow off, not to mention the pick axe into the neck finisher, the graphical enhancements really do turn it all up a notch. Sure it’s a bit silly, and yes the character transformation is ridiculous but it’s slightly less ‘gamey’ now in this new version and a bit more brutal and in your face. It allows for you to connect to the character just that little bit more as the amount of detail on the screen provides you with more visual feedback than previously.
Technically it runs really nicely on the Xbox One but there has been a lot of fuss over it running at 30fps rather than the (upto) 60fps on the PS4. Fanboys have run amok with it and to be fair to them rightly so, the game is much smoother on the PS4 and Xbox One owners, along with Microsoft, should be very worried if this trend continues. If you own both consoles then the PS4 is the way to go, if you only own an Xbox One there is still absolutely nothing wrong with that version - don’t let the great fps debate stop you from enjoying Lara one more time.
Tomb Raider is one of the games of the last generation and now it’s that little bit prettier, and better for it. More realistic, more visceral as a result and an absolute delight to play through one more time. If you missed it first time around buy it now, if you loved it originally it’s better the second time around and if you are still on the fence, trust us when we say you really should pick up the definitive version as soon as your wallet allows for it. A great release to fill the void before some decent games come out on both next gen platforms.