In 2013 an old franchise was reborn, a franchise that had spawned no less than 13 video games and 2 Hollywood movies, Tomb Raider.
This reboot saw us introduced to a younger and less experienced Lady Croft (though still very much the parkour expert), before she became the supernatural fighting, relic hunting, gun-toting protagonist that has long been a favourite, especially within the teenage male gamer demographic.
The gaming community rejoiced, a fresh look to a withered series. The new game, named only Tomb Raider, was a success, both critically and commercially. It topped the charts, sold faster than any game before it that year, only surpassed by GTA V, and received rave reviews across the board. With so much success it was only a matter of time before a version was made for the newer, more powerful gamets consoles now on the market.
Fast forward to January 2014, throw in the power of the PS4 and Xbox One, add a nifty subtitle and what have you got? Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.
Definitive, you say
The question on a lot of gamers minds will be, “How much does the Definitive Edition differ from the original?”, to which the answer is… not a great deal. Let’s break it down into two camps, what’s old and what’s new.
Why fix something that isn’t broken?
The story is the same, girl seeks adventure, girl gets shipwrecked, girl must survive, girl becomes Tomb Raider. The story is well told and the narrative varies in pace throughout, sharing a huge range of emotion and drama not common in the series.
The first couple of hours spent learning to survive can seem quite slow as the game slowly teaches you the controls through a number of basic challenges. Once Miss Croft is fully weaponised however, the game turns into Uncharted on speed. This is a fitting origin story for one of gaming’s greatest heroines.
The mechanics are the same, albeit updated for the latest console controllers (map access is conveniently placed on the Dualshock 4’s touchpad). In addition the weapons, collectibles and side missions are all as they were in the previous console generation.
Multiplayer hasn’t seen any improvement with the generation jump either. Created by a different developer to the main single player campaign, the online aspect of the original wasn’t met with high esteem and left many critics debating whether a long standing solo player franchise like Tomb Raider really needed this mode in the first place.
Ok, so what’s new then?
Well firstly the Definitive Edition comes packaged with all released DLC, which sounds great. Sadly this is barely noticeable with the only significant single player addition being one new optional tomb to explore, extra playtime yes but nothing more than a very brief distraction from the main story. The other DLC in the pack includes weapon improvements, multiplayer maps and new items, overall nothing to wow about.
Speech recognition has also been thrown into the mix. You can now use your voice to open the map or change weapons, for when pressing a controller button is just too much. This is a novelty at best for the casual gamer and not something that the mainstream gamer will likely bother with for long.
So to recap, we have the same game packaged but with all of the DLC and a bit of Star Trek style voice control to annoy the masses. So it’s pretty much a straight-forward generational port with a few extra bells and whistles then? Well sort of, but no.
A Survivor is Born
The Definitive Edition’s biggest selling point, the wow factor if you will, comes from the visual improvements.
On both consoles the game runs at 1080p with the PS4 and Xbox One running impressive frame-rates of 60FPS and 30FPS respectively. Now PC gamers will likely look that those numbers and be less than impressed, after all, the original version of the game easily ran these specs on the non-console version.
This new game however, isn’t just a resolution update to bring the consoles up to spec with the PC. This update is the first of, what this writer hopes will be, many games that will show the PC gaming community that the console renaissance is beginning, a chapter in the gaming history where the console can outshine the PC for visuals once more.
Every character in the game has had a little work done but it’s the cosmetic surgery put to work on our protagonist that shows off the power of current console technology and it stands out even when we compare screenshots with the PC. Extra layers of texture has been added, Lara’s appearance has been improved to look more like the current real life model and the improvements in hair physics (yes such a thing does exist) add a level of realism and beauty that we have been waiting to see on the new machines.
The story gives you plenty of opportunities to admire the visual enhancements to the scenery as well. Whether you’re scaling a radio tower or traversing a mountain top, there are a number of occasions when you will find yourself drawn to the view.
The visuals impress, especially on the PS4 version
Worth buying for gamers who didn’t play the original version
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No new game-play for those who played the previous version
Multiplayer has not been improved
Voice recognition below par compared with other games