March 5th of last year the world was waiting for the new Lara Croft to emerge from her shell. We had seen her in action in all the trailers leading up to the launch and somewhat at E3 2012. Of course, there was a lot of skepticism to the reboot of a series that had gone very stagnant. How much could Crystal Dynamics really reinvent the Croft character? What story was there left to tell that didn’t seem like rehashed adventures of other titles? There was a lot of concern with a ‘new direction’ of the series and of the character. What came out of that launch was a potential ‘Game of the Year’ contender and a more serious take on a character that was nothing more than badass and boobs in the past. Tomb Raider introduced the vulnerable side of Lara Croft, as well as her internal/external struggle with having to deal with a crumbling world around her that she somewhat was responsible for creating (at least putting her friends into). I certainly loved the title, as I was pleased as punch from beginning to end with the single-player experience (the multi-player experience was not much of a concern for me).
Fast-forward nearly a year and Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have decided to take that title (and exactly that title), update the visuals, add some voice control and re-publish it to the world as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Oh, yes, and charge gamers $60 for the experience. That last sentence seems to be the eye of the controversial storm with Tomb Raider:DE. Is it worth $60 to have the above items added to a new generation experience? For most people it is worth the extra dough. Most of the folks we chatted with during our Twitch streaming sessions saw the game in all its beautiful glory and immediately said they were going to purchase it. Most of those folks had already owned the original. For me, I tend to agree with them.
The sheer depth of the world in TR:DE is far bigger than it was with the PlayStation 3 version. You’ll find no rendering or pop-up issues. Almost nothing looks flat in the latest release of the title (well, there could have been some improvement on the trees in the ginormous environment — their branches were a bit flat), and the amount of details put into everything around Lara (and Lara herself) is just staggering. What’s potentially scary is that you can tell from the game that there is still more improvement to the graphics that could be done. That alone creates excitement and hope for a sequel sometime soon in the future. Other improvements with graphics include better lighting details, shadows, detailed textures (wait until you see the dry mud on her face) and beautiful particle effects. You’ll be able to see the particles come to life when you’re squeezing through rocky caverns on your way to raiding tombs. It’s just plain eye candy that makes you happy you spent the $60 for this update.
Other improvements in the game include additional ways to control the game. The first, and a bit of an annoyance — especially when you have multiple people in the room, is the voice command controls. You can call out weapons for Lara to switch to, call out maps and what not for instant access. Sadly, this is actually a bit annoying because when you are talking with someone during the game, as it could automatically pause the game or bring up weapons or maps; that’s without the specific words to call them up. I can’t tell you how many times my wife messed me up during this review process as she was trying to tell me something — yes, I wasn’t listening because she was messing with my game as she was chatting with me. It was kind of funny, but kind of not. Regardless, if you have a silent room and call out voice commands then it will work. If you’re not lonely and single then you may have an annoying time with this feature. It’s neat, but it’s a bit wonky as well.
A controller improvement with this game is the usage of the touchpad. The touchpad allows you to skip cutscenes and allows you to pull up the map. While it’s nothing particularly special to talk about, it’s still nice to see this sucker put to use. Slightly less useful is the changing of the light on the controller when you die. I’ll keep the suspense low by telling you it changes to red. I saw a lot of red during my exploration time after the single-player experience was done.
So is this game fun? Well, this is my third time through it and I have to say it’s been just as fun as the first. The story itself is engaging, Lara is fun to watch grow from a scared girl to a badass leader. You’ll find a lot of time is going to be spent on searching the world you go through to find tombs, side quests and little things that you may not have noticed while you were running from enemies (damn wolves). The multiplayer is what it is (and what it has always been), so no surprises there. Maybe the sequel will prove a better experience. You’ll find a load of fun and things to do in the single-player experience, so don’t worry about the MP.
Going full-circle with this review of TR:DE, do you need it if you already own it? My personal opinion is that you want to add this one to your library again. While I can’t speak for the XBOX One version of the game (I have read rumors of a frame rate issue), I can say that seeing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition in 1080p/60fps is something to behold. While it does drop the frame rate here and there, the game is generally dead-on when it comes to looking smooth. Again, the graphics and the upped frame rate are good enough reasons to re-purchase this game, if not to experience the adventure again in a prettier way. For those gamers out there that have never played Tomb Raider before, welcome to the best generation of it. You’re going to be in for one helluva experience and thrill ride (not to be cliché). Also, at the end of the day it’s nice to see a big time title on the PlayStation 4. It’s been a LONG time since we’ve seen something fresh, so it’s refreshing to see Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.