Back To The Island
Last year, Lara Croft left her mark on gaming once more with a superb reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Rather than focus on an older, experienced treasure hunter, the game showcases Lara at a younger age, crashing on an island filled with danger around every turn.
Square Enix brought that experience back for a Definitive Edition on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with minor tweaks and gameplay additions thrown into an already fulfilling adventure.
Finding Strength In Herself
What makes Tomb Raider such an enthralling experience is how Lara eventually grows from helpless victim to all-around warrior, learning necessary survival skills and barely escaping close calls with mercenaries and wolves. As players progress through this adventure, they'll pick up a variety of tools that Lara will use throughout her journey, including an axe for prying open doors and climbing up walls, a bow and arrow for killing enemies from a distance and plenty of firepower.
This quality experience continues with the Definitive Edition, with gameplay that doesn't let up when it comes to battling enemies and surviving the elements, whether it's narrowly escaping a plane crash or choking out an unsuspecting adversary before he can alert the others. The dodge and shove mechanics work wondrously for staying out of harm's way, and Lara's offensive skills are impressive, even though shooting an arrow from close range is tricky. Thankfully, a pistol is more effective.
There are situations where the player must shake the analog stick back and forth to evade capture, then perfectly time the press of a button to narrowly avoid death. Not doing so will result in Lara dying horribly, whether it's being devoured by a wolf or choked out by an unmerciful gunman. These sequences can be tough to watch, but thankfully, the game takes the player right back to it, so the mistake can be made up for. Just be prepared - this isn't a game for the squeamish.
Along with a wonderful single player campaign, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition also brings back multiplayer mode. Here, players take on each other in battle, with one team playing survivors and the other filling the roles of scavengers. Players will rack up kills for their team or collect certain objectives on a map. Once again, however, it doesn't really tie into the main game and there's no sign of Lara to speak of. It still feels like a fluffed-up add-on.
Unique Next-Gen Features
Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Tomb Raider have slight gameplay changes, where Square Enix attempted to make use of each piece of hardware. On the PS4, players can flick their thumbs across the TouchPad to light a torch, and the Dualshock 4 also matches colours depending on the circumstance. For instance, when a torch is lit in a cave, it lights up bright red. It's cosmetic at best, but cool nonetheless. With the Xbox One, players can use the Kinect to switch weapons with verbal commands, and also take a closer look at artefacts that Lara collects using hand gestures. It's a bit gimmicky, but the implementation could've been worse.
The huge change players will notice is the visual upgrade. As expected, textures look impressively better on the newer consoles, including a more realistic skin tone for young Lara and some striking detail on the environments. Whether she's walking through a barely lit cave or rope sliding down the outskirts of a demolished village, the game is a sight to behold. In terms of technical performance, the PS4 version has a slightly faster frame rate, moving towards 60 frames-per-second compared to almost half the speed on the Xbox One. That said, both versions run well overall.
The developers at Crystal Dynamics should also be commended for sound design. The sound effects and musical cues are perfect for Tomb Raider, creating the right kind of tense, adventurous tone that flows throughout Lara's adventure. For good measure, Camilla Luddington voices her character with strong conviction, even when situations look dire.
Worth Exploring All Over Again
Despite the confusing multiplayer and the lack of genuinely new content - outside of a batch of DLC released with the original game - Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is worth checking out, even for those who beat the original. The visuals look stunning in both versions, the controls are excellent and the new additions aren't half bad, even if they seem gimmicky. This is an experience that both veterans and newcomers will embrace, and sets the stage for Lara's next adventure, whenever it may come.
GAME's Verdict: 9/10
- Breathtaking graphics take advantage of next-gen hardware
- Superb gameplay keeps things tense throughout
- The audio is perfect, between sound design and Luddington's voice acting
- Multiplayer feels like a half-baked add-on
- New additions to gameplay aren't entirely innovative
- No new single player content