Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Gaming

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Install Size: 21.0GB
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Price: $59.99 – Available Here

Overview
The Tomb Raider franchise had been around for over sixteen years when the series was rebooted last year by Crystal Dynamics. With this reboot fans saw a new side of Lara Croft and many people believed that not only did the game deliver an excellent experience but it was even a game of the year contender for many outlets. With such an amazing reception for the original game, Square Enix is now bringing us the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider for next-gen consoles. Sporting all of the game’s DLC and a major graphical overhaul, is this title still everything fans loved?

Story
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition offers almost the exact same experience as the original version of the game as far as the storyline goes. Lara is young and inexperienced as she has only done some very minor archaeology work and is now on an expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai with her friend Sam, a few acquaintances, and the rest of the crew of the Endurance.

Following a lead that Lara has discovered, the Endurance sails into the Dragon’s Triangle only to snap in half and sink in a vicious storm that separates Lara from the rest of the crew as the few survivors manage to make it to shore only for Lara to once again be separated from the group after being knocked out by a mysterious figure on the shore. When Lara next gains consciousness, she finds that she has been tied and hung upside down in a strange cave with a ritualistic sacrifice and altars to an unknown deity.

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After escaping from this predicament, Lara learns that the crew of the Endurance is not alone on this island as hundreds of people have been stranded here in the past and these survivors have formed a religious cult that kills anyone that disobeys them. With her friends in danger and Sam kidnapped for a ritual that involves the Sun Queen Himiko, Lara will have to do anything it takes to survive and try to make it off the island.

The story remains fairly simple as it tells the story of a woman surviving against nearly impossible odds as she faces off against not only dangerous gun-toting fanatics but the wild elements that make up the island of Yamatai. There is a bit of spice thrown in as some mystical elements come in to play with Oni and strange storms that prevent anyone from leaving the island pop up from time to time. But for the most part everything is pretty much telegraphed outside of a few action sequences that see Lara having to run for her life in set pieces that put some action movies to shame.

It is also worth noting that outside of Lara, players will probably not grow attached to most of the cast. This is partly due to the fact that they rarely are given screen time, though players can learn a bit more about them from collectibles spread across the island, but also because most of them are simply used as tools for Lara’s character growth. From the beginning of the game we see Lara transform from a vulnerable and inexperienced woman weeping over killing someone to a survivalist that will do anything it takes to survive, even if it means blowing away hundreds of men with a machine gun and screaming as they run away, to do so.

Gameplay
The gameplay of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition has only received some very minor additions, most of which aren’t even noticeable or can be a bit problematic. The title still plays just like the original version of the game with players navigating around the island of Yamatai through the use of ledges that Lara can climb up or shimmy across with additional equipment gained over time to allow her to access new areas. These pieces of equipment range from the climbing axe that allows Lara to scale rough rocky surfaces, rope arrows allowing her to create make-shift zip lines and barricades that can be destroyed with specific weapons.

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The gear plays a major role in extending the play time of Tomb Raider as there are numerous areas that the player will travel through that have specific collectibles or areas gated off by obstacles that Lara cannot pass until the player obtains a specific item later in the game. As before the gear and weapons that Lara obtains in the game can be upgraded with salvage and weapon parts found throughout the game, giving players an incentive to make sure they break open every salvage box and loot every enemy that they come across.

As for the game’s combat system, it remains as fluid and enjoyable as ever. Lara will instinctively react to nearby enemies by crouching and drawing her weapon and if players move against a wall or piece of cover, she will naturally take cover behind it without forcing the player to tap any buttons. Aiming will see Lara popping out of cover to take aim at enemies that are plentiful and deadly as they usually will hide effectively and liberally use explosives or molotovs to force Lara from cover. This can make for a rather quick death as enemies with machine guns can quickly pepper Lara with enough bullets to put her down for good.

With the game’s leveling system players will be able to make Lara quite deadly and able to take a bit more damage. Some of the later skills she can earn provide Lara with brutal finishing moves that range from her slamming the climbing axe into an enemy’s skull to holding them at close range and peppering them with her assault rifle as an execution maneuver. This allows players to evolve over time and make Lara a force to be reckoned with, especially once she obtains a few weapon upgrades and uses them in the game’s fast-paced combat to eliminate numerous enemies at a time.

The optional tombs are still in the game though they only take around five minutes to get through as the puzzles that have to be solved are very simplistic. It is also worth noting that there is an additional tomb in this version of the game that was previously held back as a pre-order bonus for the original game. As for the rest of the additional gameplay content, we have a few costumes for Lara to wear, all of which are absolutely terrible and boring looking, and all of the downloadable multiplayer map packs.

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The multiplayer for the game is still extremely lackluster even with the addition of a few new maps. Unless one finds themselves really enjoying the game’s multiplayer mode you probably won’t feel like trying out enough matches to actually experience all of these maps. For what is offered, the gameplay is a bit varied with some of the single player’s combat features removed with new combat options exclusive to the multiplayer. It is a bit enjoyable to set traps for opposing players but it ultimately remains a forgettable addition.

It is worth noting that with this release on the Xbox One, players can use the Kinect to either examine relics they have found by moving around their hand and using the Kinect’s voice recognition for various tasks. This includes switching between weapons with voice commands, bringing up the menu or the map by calling for it and other little tidbits. Unfortunately, this feature tends to be more problematic than anything else as the Kinect absolutely loved picking up sound effects from the game and randomly swapping weapons during basic gameplay.

Visuals
Pretty much the whole point of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition was to provide gamers with a next-gen Lara as fast as possible and while the game is almost entirely the same as far as story and gameplay goes, the graphical improvement in this release is obvious right from the very first scene as nearly every aspect of Lara Croft’s character model has been reworked and numerous other features have been implemented into the game to make this title look as impressive as possible.

As I mentioned, Lara’s character model has been given a number of upgrades. Her hair is now handled by the previously PC exclusive TressFX technology which makes almost every strand of hair in pony tail react realistically to any given situation. I say almost as there are plenty of moments in the game that the pony tail reacts wildly or simply doesn’t react at all despite Lara’s constant movements. The equipment that Lara carries around jostles around as she runs and climbs and even the way that mud, rain, and blood runs off of Lara’s body has been touched up to provide some extremely realistic looking scenes.

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It is worth noting though that even when Lara has been submersed in a pool of blood, her hair still remains shiny and clean which is a rather odd misstep considering how much attention they paid to trying to present a realistic looking character covered in dirt and grime. Lara’s face has also been reworked to be more detailed and skin effects work with the enhanced lighting and particle effects to give characters a living feel and make many of the action sequences all the more impressive.

Audio
As far as the game’s voice work and music goes, the title remains the exact same though there are a number of language tracks to choose from if the player wishes. Saying that the voice work has stayed the same isn’t much of an issue when it comes to Tomb Raider however as the original performances were perfect and had just the right level of emotional impact to drive the events of the game home.

The same can be said for the game’s soundtrack which is ranges from melancholy pieces of background music to fast paced action music to accompany the events occurring on the screen. The original soundtrack gave players exactly what they wanted and this has not been touched in the port.

Overall
Now, the main question is, should you purchase Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition? Maybe. Despite being an excellent title in almost every way, there is one obstacle in the way of this game and that is its $60 price tag for a game many of us have played almost a year ago. Outside of some bare bones costume DLC and meaningless multiplayer maps, the Definitive Edition simply offers a major graphical upgrade and that may be a high price for those who have already played the original game and for a cheaper price this would have been an easy suggestion. That being said, if you have not played Tomb Raider yet then there is a reason this is called the Definitive Edition, as this is the best way to experience the new Lara Croft and one of the best games from last year.

8-5-capsules-out-of-10
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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