Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

One beautiful playground.

Tomb Raider Feature Image

Tomb Raider is a playground.  Playing the title again has really brought back some fond memories and helped me realize even more that this is one on my favorite games of all time.  With one of the best level designs in any game and an atmospheric game play system, Tomb Raider is a wonderful experience.  Almost a year after the title has been released, developer Crystal Dynamics has released Tomb Raider Definitive Edition.  This new version of the game has been broken down, polished and enhanced for the next gen systems.  Crystal Dynamics had always imagined the game to be like this but given the console hardware limits during development, they were unable to have the assets much better than what they were.  Back in 2013 PC gamers were able to experience a 1080p version of the game with better hair effects, lighting etc that console gamers were not able to.  With the re-release of the game, the developers did not stop at just porting the PC version, but instead made some nice improvements.

On PS4 you get a 1080p resolution game at up to 60fps.  The frame rate on the Xbox One was capped at 30 fps by the developers.  While I have not played them side by side, I can compare the PS4 version to that of the PS3 and the difference is remarkable.  The higher frame rate is very noticeable and gives the game a smooth, buttery feel.  Every texture in the game was redone at 4k resolution to ensure crisp, clear images from any viewing distance.  There is also a new character model for Lara this time which actually changes the way that her face looks.  It is truly a next gen looking game if you ask me, and the changes are noticeable even if you already played on PC before.  New animations for equipment further immerse you in the world.  As you run and jump from ledges, you axe swings at your side with your every move.  Each arrow will toss around in the quiver as you walk through a rainy forest.  The way the light will reflect off of Lara’s pores and the way the sun glistens off of water is remarkable and helps this game to shine at every corner.

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The game play is wholly intact and runs now smoother than ever.  One thing I never touched on in the original review was the new cover system.  Tomb Raider’s cover mechanic is ingenious and I have never before seen it implemented this way.  When you are in combat and you approach cover, you will crouch down behind it automatically.  You don’t need to smash some button to suck into cover and then have to fidget with the controls to get out.  It just simply works.  Once you walk away you stand upright and if you need cover again just walk up to a wall or slowly lean into a corner.  It is just a flawless system that puts other third person shooters to shame.  I’m talking to you Gears of War.

Other next gen features were added to take advantage of the new hardware and peripherals.  Voice commands are available via Kinect and the PlayStation Camera which allows you to change weapons or to open and close you start menu and map.  While I found the voice commands to be very responsive and accurate, they were overly sensitive at times.  Sometimes it would interpret me talking as a command to pause the game when I said nothing of the sort.  Other times the game would pause itself by the voice of an NPC over the speakers.  While this was not too common, it is something to mention.  Also on Kinect you can turn collectibles in game by gesture and the touch pad on the DualShock 4 enables the same thing.  On the DS4 specifically, the light bar will flash red as you are being shot and flicker red and orange when you are carrying a torch.  When you are playing in a dark room, little touches like that all help the immersion.  Also some game audio can be played through the DS4 speaker such as gun reloads and audio logs.  While the weapon reload audio coming from your hands is super cool for immersion, other things like voice play back on recordings is strange since the same audio is playing on your TV speakers and it is delayed just enough to be noticeable.  I wish that I could have disabled one or the other rather than just disable the controller audio.  It could have be customized a little more but that is such a minor gripe.

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So if you are one of the people who already played the origin story for Lara Croft last year, you may be wondering if this new facelift is enough incentive to give it another go, especially with the $60 price tag.  I truly feel that it is.  If you are short on things to play on your new console then you are getting a lot with this one purchase.  You get the full, enhanced campaign, a entertaining yet repetitive multiplayer, plus all the DLC that was previously released.  The multiplayer requirement to prestige 3 times to platinum the game has also been removed, thankfully so the multiplayer won’t be too much of grind.  The bottom line is that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is the way Tomb Raider was meant to be experienced.  If you have never played the new Tomb Raider game or if you are dying to get your hands on a solid title for your new console, then look no further.  This game will not disappoint.

 

For further reading about Tomb Raider and what it has to offer, please check out my original review from 20th March 2013, and appearing courtesy of Tech Fixation.

Developer Crystal Dynamics has returned once more to bring us another entry in the Tomb Raider franchise.  The last time we followed Lara Croft on an adventure was more than 4 years ago.  The developer has come a long way since then and brings us the origin story of Lara.  The story has her on her first voyage as a young woman, looking for adventure.  She is on the ship Endurance with her fellow friends and deck hands searching for the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai.  It is said to be once guarded by a queen who held mystical powers.  Well one thing leads to another and Lara and crew find themselves shipwrecked on an island and then separated from each other.  This quickly thrusts young Lara into a character arc as she must come to terms with her situation and choose how to survive.  The sense of dread she experiences as she kills her first attacker or hunts her first deer are quickly dismissed as she continues on her quest to rescue her friends and discover the islands secrets.  The island has a Bermuda Triangle feel to it.  Once stranded, it seems almost impossible to leave, and by the looks of things, they aren’t the only ones stuck there.

I was surprised about how this game made me feel.  It, in some ways, did not feel like a Tomb Raider game and in other ways it did.  I would say that there is a lot less of a focus on platforming as in past titles.  There is plenty of it for sure, but it was paced nicely with the games combat.  Some of the best times I had were trying to figure out how to get up to a higher ledge to find hidden collectibles.  Climbing and shimmying along walls has never felt more polished.  The days of leaping to your death by accident are gone because the controls are so smooth and responsive.  The game features several action set pieces much like in Uncharted 3, but they are all unique and don’t feel forced.  The set pieces are based on the events that are happening around you and they are thrilling.

Now, the combat in this game is superb.  Not only is shooting enemies and countering their melee attacks way better than they have ever been, but they rival games like Uncharted.  The guns all feel accurate and powerful and performing a head shot with the bow feels so rewarding.  All of your weapons can be upgraded a few times as you collect salvage.  This gives them new abilities and alternate fire modes to give more spice to the combat.  But to be honest, the bow is so darn fun and effective, that I had to keep reminding myself to try out other weapons.  As you find some of the game’s many collectibles and get kills you earn XP which you use to upgrade your abilities.  You learn new dodging moves and melee counters which keeps the combat fresh and enjoyable all of the way through.  Playing the game on normal difficulty was just right.  The enemies were not too easy, nor was it too difficult and I feel that playing the game on the hardest setting will give quite a challenge.

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I beat Tomb Raider in about 15 hours.  That may seem short at first, but the game is rich in content.  The story is designed to guide you down a path of separate areas.  Each new environment is large in size and offers its own challenge to engage the player.  Tomb Raider is jam packed with collectibles.  You can find relics, GPS caches, old letters, journals and even plants.  Most areas have optional tombs which you can explore for extra rewards.  These are the games “dungeons” as they represent a puzzle for you to overcome and then reward you with a treasure map.  This map will highlight some collectibles in that area so they are easier to find.  While most of the puzzles were clever and unique, you won’t find anything too challenging.  I never spent more than 10 minutes on a puzzle and that was it.  Once it’s solved there is no more exploring as the treasure is right around the corner.  So the tombs are nothing too special, but offer a nice distraction for the rest of the game.  Each area also has its own unique challenge like finding hidden posters or destroying land mines along a beach.  Having a lot of collectibles is very good in this game because it never feels tedious.  It felt as if I was always finding something new, and you get rewarded with XP when you do so it is a win-win.  The game encourages you to go back to old areas to fully explore them and gather all of the collectibles.  Without having the story pressing you forward, you can really enjoy the massive levels and enjoy the beauty of the game.  Many collectibles are left inaccessible to you until later on when you have upgraded weapons and new abilities.  This helps to add more depth to each area as well.

Some people were disappointed with Tomb Raiders multiplayer, blaming it for being generic and bringing nothing to the table.  It’s hard for me to be disappointed with something that was not expected, nor needed.  The multiplayer has 4 game modes which are pretty generic.  There are options to customize loadouts and unlock new weapons.  There is definitely nothing wrong with Tomb Raider’s multiplayer, nor is there anything that makes it stick out above the rest.  If the campaign had suffered as a result of adding multiplayer, then I would feel much differently.  Heads up trophy lovers: you have to prestige 3 times in order to platinum this game.  At least we can be grateful that there was some thought put into the player loadouts and upgrade system.  You might as well enjoy your journey since it will be a long one.

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Tomb Raider is an excellent game, with brilliant storytelling, jaw dropping beauty and heart racing combat.  If you’re a fan of Lara Croft or just want to play a high quality action adventure game, look no farther than Tomb Raider.  This game doesn’t need multiplayer to keep gamers from trading it in, the rich campaign and enjoyable replay-ability is more than enough to hold onto this gem for months to come.

The Verdict

9.5Amazing

The Good: Superb level design, Tight gameplay focussed into one sharp looking, graphical package.

The Bad: Lackluster multiplayer, Wonky voice controls,



4 Comments

  1. Matt February 6, 2014 7:40 pm  Reply

    Completely agree Roger, this game was good the first time round, and the additions and updates are definitely worth it. I have no buyers remorse on picking it up again. Only wish there was some more single player DLC to continue playing in that fantastically realised island.

    • Andy February 6, 2014 7:56 pm  Reply

      Couldn’t’ agree more on the DLC front, I want to raid more tombs!

  2. Andy February 6, 2014 7:48 pm  Reply

    I hope that more devs use this as a benchmark by which they measure their own next-gen ports of last gen games!

  3. Dexter Jaekel February 6, 2014 8:19 pm  Reply

    Great job Roger. Great to read your impressions. I’m even more excited to pick it up now. Still might wait for the price to drop a little bit though.

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