Lara returns to the tombs in style.
Lara Croft’s reboot kicked 2013 off in style, thrusting the femme fatale back into the spotlight after years of playing second fiddle to the likes of Nathan Drake and Ezio Auditore. It’s not that the Legend trilogy did anything wrong – standing as fun escapades fully worth your time at today’s knock-down prices – but they still failed to capture the attention of the world in quite the same way as her earlier adventures.
The team behind Tomb Raider took what they had learned and came out fighting, producing one of the best single-player titles of the generation and one of my all-time favourites. Lara’s story was (mostly) believable due to her rewritten personality, as we watched her turn from timid explorer to hardened killer. Climbing and gunplay were all excellent with noticeably fewer respawning waves than in the comparable Uncharted games. Lara would take cover with no input needed and without sticking, she’d move realistically and have instant access to four main weapons all subject to a host of useful upgrades.
Almost nothing felt superfluous, with journals and hidden items providing precious experience whether you took the time to examine them or not. Rewards were both tangible and effective, turning Lara into a seasoned huntress with a customised arsenal at her fingertips. The island too was a great place to explore, rife with secrets and side tombs waiting to be plundered. Without gushing too much (a little too late for that, perhaps), Tomb Raider was the cinematic adventure that every Croft fan had been hoping for.
The problem with this ‘definitive’ re-release though, is that gamers with even a passing interest are likely to have already picked it up on PC or last-gen systems. The few still pondering a purchase can feel comfortable knowing that they’ll still get much the same experience on older consoles and at around a third of the price. This definitive edition has got its work cut out if it hopes to coax anyone into spending the cash at launch.
What you’re getting on PS4 and Xbox One is a surplus of minor advancements such as voice commands, high-res textures, some motion control and dualshock speaker functionality. The island of Yamati has never looked better, with trees that now sway with the wind, new weather effects and a whole lot of new particle effects adding just that little more shine to an already great looking package.
While the odd touches don’t go unnoticed, it’s Lara herself who’s undergone the biggest change. The TressFX hair from the PC version has been included here, having apparently been rejigged for home consoles. Sub-surface scattering gives Lara her more realistic skin tone, and the abuse she suffers is made all the more visible by the highly defined cuts and bloody stains on her skin. Her weapons jostle and sway too, but while it suits the axe and bow/arrow combo nicely, the exaggerated movement of the rifle on her back is borderline ridiculous. It’s also noticeable that supporting characters have merely been upscaled with no further improvements offered.
Much has been said of the framerate discrepancies between the PS4 and Xbox One versions, and while I haven’t been able to test the latter version at all, a large number of sources have touted Sony’s version as marginally superior given its 60 frames-per-second highs, with the Xbox managing a slightly lower resolution and running at around 45fps. It’s doubtful that such a thing would be noticed unless both versions were being played side by side, and even then the effects would be negligible. Still, the evidence is out there for those who care enough to look.
The price plastered over Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is a curious one, as it in no way reflects the time and effort put in by the developers. It’s a game that absolutely deserves your money if you’re looking for an adventure with silky smooth gameplay, but even then it only deserves to be purchased once. Anyone with the original release running on a high-end PC already owns this game, albeit with a less detailed (but still very impressive) character model. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is certainly pretty, but we’ll have to wait for Second Son and Titanfall to really show us what the next-gen is capable of.
Note: PS4 owners might want to consider altering the RGB range in their console’s display settings from Automatic (recommended) to Full, should they find themselves perplexed by the game’s washed out appearance.
For the full review of the original game, click here.