Once more, with feeling.
Gamers love re-releases. We eat up Game of the Year Editions, HD collections, remakes, ports, and downloadable versions of classic titles. We love having instant access our favorite games on our favorite systems, and we like being able to replay classic titles without having to rummage around in the attic for our old consoles and praying that they still work. It’s just the way we are.
Game companies love it, too, and multiple titles have found their way back into our lives in a new package in recent years, from ubiquitous classics like Xenogears and Final Fantasy VII to more niche titles like Persona. Square Enix, the publisher behind the former two titles, is perhaps of king of re-releasing their admittedly impressive back catalog, so it’s not really surprising thatTomb Raider, one of the best games released in 2013, has already made its way to next-gen consoles in the form of the Definitive Edition. And as the title implies, this isn’t just a simple port.
"The Definitive Edition runs at a higher resolution and features an upgraded framerate, enhanced physics, better graphics, an improved lighting engine, more detailed environments, and what developer Crystal Dynamics calls an “obsessively detailed Lara,” complete with a new character model, a new face, new skin and damage model, and new hair courtesy of TressFX."
The Definitive Edition runs at a higher resolution and features an upgraded framerate, enhanced physics, better graphics, an improved lighting engine, more detailed environments, and what developer Crystal Dynamics calls an “obsessively detailed Lara,” complete with a new character model, a new face, new skin and damage model, and new hair courtesy of TressFX. The Definitive Edition also comes with all of the previously released DLC, which consists of a few new costumes for Lara, all of the previously released multiplayer maps, and an extra single-player tomb. In addition, the Definitive Edition includes some “making of” videos and a short digital artbook, and while these are nice, they aren’t particularly meaty offerings, and most people will get little, if any extra value from them.
This means that the biggest selling point here is the upgraded visuals, which, to be fair, are (largely) extremely impressive. Textures are much higher quality, and the increased resolution really makes the world pop. The environmental changes are equally impressive. The water effects have seen a noticeable upgrade, and the environments themselves feature more foliage, much of which is now impacted by the game’s physics systems. All of this is enhanced by the new framerate, which rarely, if ever, drops below 60 frames per second. Tomb Raider was a great looking game when it released on the PS3 and 360, but the Definitive Edition ups the ante significantly.
Lara’s upgrades are a little more hit and miss. The new character model is excellent, and special recognition must be given to the new skin and damage models, which are stunning. The former makes Lara look significantly more realistic, and the latter means that the damage Lara sustains over the course of her adventure is more dynamic than what we saw in the last gen versions. Unfortunately, this new standard of quality does not extend throughout the entirety of Lara’s new model. Much has been said about Lara’s new face, and while it looks great in some scenes, it looks terrible in others, and one wonders what prompted the developers to try and fix something that wasn’t broken, rather than simply make tweaks to the already impressive model from the previous release.
"It still has a fantastic campaign, great gameplay, a large amount of content to explore, a likeable cast and great heroine, and an intriguing storyline. But the same flaws remain, too."
In the same vein, the aforementioned TressFXed hair looks great – at least, until it doesn’t. Sometimes it randomly flaps all over the place, or simply gets overexcited by a small breeze. When it doesn’t, it looks fantastic, if always a little too dark and perfect, which is odd considering the way Lara appeared in the previous release and the game’s promotional art. Still, the Definitive Edition is far and away the best looking version of the game, save maybe for the PC version running at maxed out settings, but it’s frustrating that these changes to Lara have brought problems with them that didn’t exist in the original release, especially when the rest of the game is uniformly upgraded around her.
Beyond the visuals, Tomb Raider is still the same game you played last year. Voice controls have been added for those with a PlayStation Eye camera or Kinect, and the light on the PS4 controller will change colors depending on the situation, but these additions are minor and do little to add to the experience. It remains an excellent game, and one of last year’s best titles, but it is the same game, with the same strengths and weaknesses, which makes the title of “Definitive Edition” a tad questionable.
It still has a fantastic campaign, great gameplay, a large amount of content to explore, a likeable cast and great heroine, and an intriguing storyline. But the same flaws remain, too. The campaign is still too bombastic for its own good, and the puzzles, while excellent, are sometimes marginalized so the game can focus on being a third-person shooter in the vein of action games like Uncharted or Gears of War. Furthermore, no amount of graphical enhancements and additional maps will help the bog-standard multiplayer, a feature that no one asked for and fewer people play.
If you already own a copy of Tomb Raider, the Definitive Edition offers little additional value, unless you’re a diehard fan of Lara’s adventure who wants the best possible version and is willing to plunk down an additional $60 to get it. On the other hand, this is a pretty great value if you haven’t already played the game and want something shiny for your next gen console of choice. If you don’t have a gaming PC, this is the best version of Lara’s adventure available, and while it may not be “definitive” in the way that I’d hoped, it is still one of the finest games to come from last year, and in a year that was filled to the brim with quality the way 2013 was, that is high praise indeed.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
*Copy provided by publisher for review purpose.
A strong campaign with an intriguing storyline and interesting characters. Lara is awesome. Lots of content to explore. Tombs are fantastic. Still one of the best games in recent memory. Enhanced visuals are extremely impressive. The game runs very well.
No changes other than the visual upgrades and a few minor additions. The additional content doesn’t add much. The multiplayer still isn’t all that great. Occasional visual inconsistencies in Lara’s face and hair.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a tough sell for those who have already embarked on Lara’s adventure, but those who have never played it will find a lot to like here, and the numerous upgrades make this the best version available to those without access to a gaming PC.