GAME NAME: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
DEVELOPER(S): Crystal Dynamics
PUBLISHER(S): Square Enix
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 31 January 2014
Xbox 360 (Original review)
I remember gasping at the E3 2011 demo two years ago. It was a sign of a new beginning for our modern gaming icon. Boys (and men) around the world rejoiced as this polygon beauty promised a whole new direction for the Tomb Raider series. Gone are the fair-skin, plaited hair and big boobs that characterised the First Lady of gaming. In its place you have a younger, more rugged Lara that’s not scared to mix it up with anything Mother Nature can throw at her.
Things start off with Lara joining a film documentary crew on an adventure to find an island based on a myth. As they (unbeknownst to them) near the shores of Yamatai Island the ship gets struck by a sudden storm and splits into two. Lara and the crew are separated and washed to shore and before our heroine knows what’s happened she’s hanging upside-down in something that looks like a torture chamber. Adult Lara would be horrified. Crystal Dynamics did not fool around with the gruesome bits either.
Nathan Drake occasionally reaches out to touch a wall in passing. Batman’s suit gets more tattered the further into Arkham City you venture, but nowhere have I ever seen such reckless physicality as in this Tomb Raider reboot. Hearing Lara scream in agony each time she puts a foot wrong is a common occurrence. I’m a strong supporter of this new hard-hitting direction that Crystal Dynamics is taking with Lara. It’s not just her looks or the blood-splattered edge of her design that warrants attention. After being ship-wrecked on an island with psycho killers, Lara has to push deeper inland to find her friends. To keep the latest Ms. Croft outing relevant in the modern age Crystal has adopted an entirely fresh approach with a welcome emphasis on both physical ‘oomph’ and a more tactical use of surrounding environments.
Not long into your journey Lara will discover a bow. Your first victim? That would be a deer or rabbit. Press and hold the left trigger to ready your bow and press the right trigger to inject an arrow into anything that moves. Unlike Tomb Raider titles in the past you always feel in complete control with your weapons. Salvage the animal and you receive points for upgrading Lara’s survival abilities as well as weapons. No, you can’t just upgrade these as you please. To do that you have to find a Base Camp which consists of a bonfire. Here you can improve your damage stats of your shotgun, increase the magazine size of your handgun or attach a scope to your machine gun. Don’t sneeze at your bow. You can add napalm and explosive rounds to the tip for that ‘Rambo‘ effect. You can also use the opportunity to travel between various campsites, acting as waypoints to help you find all the notes left by other people who have since succumbed to the island’s mysterious happenings and relics. To help you locate these along with mission objectives you simply press the LB button to highlight everything of importance within your immediate surroundings.
Comparisons between Tomb Raider and Uncharted come naturally, given that both franchises are third person, action adventure titles with treasure hunting at their cores. In the mid stages you’ll encounter a good dose of bullet spraying (as seen in Uncharted) along with the odd quick time event. Other similarities come in the form of detail. Lara automatically ducks under anything that is waist-high. There is no need to press a button to crouch and it has to be said that the graphical detail matches most of what Uncharted could throw at the PS3. Forget for a minute that this is one island. The various scenes are vastly different in atmosphere and style. One moment Lara will be stealthily treading through the forest and in an hour or two she’ll be walking over a bridge towards a hidden temple. Other than using the waypoints there is no backtracking.
Ironically Tomb Raider falters in one aspect and that’s the tombs. There are only a few tombs scattered about the island and, unless you’re a very unobservant player, chances are good that you won’t miss it. These tombs act as mini puzzle chambers, with each one taking about five to ten minutes at most to complete. It’s a little disappointing as the game generally lacks in material that challenges the mind. It’s also best that you steer clear of the online multiplayer. It’s a bugfest that does not deserve to be on the same disc as the single player campaign.
Gamers that are craving for some adventure and platforming won’t be let down. If she’s not scaling mountainsides with relative ease using a climbing axe (which attaches to specified surfaces by pressing the X button) she’s shooting a rope arrow to make it from one side of a cliff to the next. Yes, expect different types of baddies and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat for most of your journey. Yes, headshots and stealthy kills will reward you with more points to upgrade quicker. Yes, this is the best Rambo ‘movie’ since First Blood: Part 2. Yes, you really should stop reading this and go buy one of the best games of 2013… like now!
PS4 – Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Note: Going forward, G3AR will deal with all HD remake reviews in this fashion. Instead of blabbering on about something we’ve already explained to you, such as the narrative, we’ll focus on what’s new. Why the HD remake should or should not be considered. Let us know what you think.
Tomb Raider has finally made it to the PS4 in glorious crisp detail. The narrative has remained exactly the same, but Lara has been put under the knife. Literally. Our lead lady has undergone massive changes in the appearance of her facial features. The internet lost their minds when this was first unveiled, but play the game for a good 20 hours and your opinion on that will change. The graphical updates, though subtle, do add to the overall contrast of the story. Forests are a bit more dense and textures are crisp. Most of the emphasis has remained with our heroine Lara. When she is covered in sweat, dripping with water, smeared with blood or mud from head to toe, the detail never fails to amaze. Enter a base camp to upgrade your gear and you’ll find something new – Lara has seven new outfits at her disposal.
When it comes to controlling Lara, the PS4 controller does a grand job of it. Triggers combined with the analogue sticks have a sense of precision when lobbing an arrow into some unaware goon’s head. There are, however, new features that make use of the DualShock 4. When pressing and holding the touch button in, you’re taken to a screen that shows you the treasures you have collected and the number that remains undetected. You can also use the touch pad to guide the cursor instead of jabbing away at the analogue stick. The biggest addition comes in the form of voice control, however.
If you have a PS4 camera attached to your system, you can simply command Lara what to do next. Change your bow between flamed arrow and regular arrow by saying “Fire” or “Regular”. Switch weapons by saying “Shotgun”, “Pistol”, “Rifle” or “Bow”. Instead of pressing numerous buttons to get to your map, you can simply say “Open Map” and you’ll be transitioned to that screen. It works better than you might imagine. I constantly used the “open map” command, though I found that I reverted to pressing buttons to switch between weapons.
It’s the Extras menu that brings you some great bonus content in this Definitive Edition. As with the original version, you’ll be able to view concept art and character models from the game, but the new videos are something special. You can follow six videos, named ‘The Final Hours’, whereby you follow everything about the making of the game leading up just before launch. You get to witness Lara’s body and voice model in action and see what developers get up to just before the game gets put to bed. A digital comic book explains the events leading up to their search for Yamatai Island and an Art Book provides you with pre-rendered images. If you’re a sucker for extras, I can’t recommend this enough.
If you’re yet to experience Lara’s latest adventure, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as engaging as Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition, but if you’ve played it before, you might want to wait for her next adventure.