Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review
We didn’t mean to fall for Lara.
The controversies that rippled across the internet in the run up to last year’s release germinated doubt; from the distasteful moans of pain, to the brutal death spasms, to the debates about those misogynistic undercurrents of her “origins”, it’s little wonder some were primed, locked and loaded, to loathe Crystal Dynamics’ new take on Lara Croft on sight.
They were wrong.
There’s a reason this title sat aloft many Game of the Year lists in 2013. Croft’s deceptively dark narrative is the flawless cocoon for intelligent mechanics and breathtaking visuals, a game that draws you gently into its world with perfect pacing and pathos.
Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider
Croft’s reimagining is as compelling as it is captivating, making it arguably one of the very best games of the generation.
Stuffed with puzzles, treasure hunts, challenges and firefights that only rarely frustrate, the comparison’s to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted are easy to make and almost impossible to avoid.
But where Uncharted draws on Drake’s charisma and supporting cast to add depth and flavour, with Tomb Raider, it’s Croft and Croft alone who will intrigue you, so much so that it’s easy to forget that Lara’s task is, ultimately, to be reunited with her otherwise forgettable Endurance crew and escape the island.
At first, Lara’s progress is slow and stuttering, each kill – animal or man – desperate and distressing, and it takes a little while for the game to get going. Stick with it. As her experience broadens, so too does Croft’s confidence.
An inexperienced Lara takes time to accrue skill points, but the further into the game you delve, the sharper a shot she becomes, and the quicker you’ll amass XP and salvage to improve your skills and weaponry.
The points system, flawlessly balanced, builds quickly with time, rarely, if ever, feeling prohibitively unwieldy.
With it’s stunning seascapes, rich flora and infinitive nooks and crannies, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the detailed environments of Croft’s surroundings.
The completionists amongst you may feel compelled to explore each valley and scale every height, but if collecting’s not your thing, there’s no obligation, either.
What’s revealed via the treasure secreted around Yamatai add small but ultimately trivial insight into the land and its people, and the game doesn’t discriminate on your preferences; loot or don’t loot, Croft remains impartial.
But we know this already, right?
The Power Of The PS4
The real question is: is the Definitive Edition good enough to make you buy Tomb Raider a second time – or even tempt a purchase when you passed on this last year?
The answer to that depends on you.
If you missed the boat – well, ship – last year, then Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition might just be the best missed opportunity you’ve ever had.
Like us, you may be wondering just how in the hell a girl can (repeatedly) fall from heights like those and survive to tell the tale, but if you set your cynicism aside, you can lose yourself in Croft’s perfectly-crafted world.
This boosted edition – boasting perks hitherto the domain of PC gamers – only serve to remind us of the lush environments populating Yamatai, and replaying – even though it’s been less than a year since we last stepped into Croft’s mud-caked boots – feels seamlessly smooth and wholly enjoyable.
We had forgotten how good this was.
You don’t need us to tell you that Croft’s world is bolder and brighter in next-gen fidelity. From the individual blades of grass to the blades of her cheekbones, there’s no denying that Croft looks better – sharper, clearer, more expressive – in the next-gen flesh.
Tomb Raider’s Definitive Edition
But it’s not just Croft’s looks that are boosted. Whilst, admittedly, voice-controls might still be in their infancy, Tomb Raider doesn’t shy away of experimenting, the game implements a series of all-new vocal commands designed to make your gameplay all the more immersive.
Calling “show map” will, unsurprisingly, bring up Croft’s bearings, whereas shouting “bow” or “gun” will quickly switch firearms. Tactics, too, can be called on-demand, and you can shake the controller to break free.
But as you might expect, this feature isn’t faultless. On several occasions Croft switched to her bow – or paused the game completely – from sounds only made on-screen. A mild irritation whilst exploring, but blood-boiling if you’re in knee-high in bodies and/or seeking a swift escape.
Of course, it’s not just the upscaled visuals that bolster Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’s appeal.
The tombs and add-ons available via the original game’s DLC extras come fully-loaded here, so your travels and weaponry may not be exactly as you remember them.
But much like Croft’s all-new wardrobe, what’s here is little more than window-dressing; unless gratuitous weapon mods really get your motor running, don’t expect much more bang for your buck, even with the DLC perks thrown in.
There’s additional multiplayer DLC here too, but whilst we certainly don’t hate the multiplayer mode, there’s not much here to keep you gripped to Tomb Raider’s multiplayer adventures for very long.
It felt like a needless extra stapled on a year ago, and today, unfortunately, it feels very much the same. A wasted opportunity, perhaps, but let’s be honest – we’re here for Croft’s tearful, emotional campaign and that alone.