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Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Review

| January 26, 2014
Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Review Reviews  Tomb Raider

There wasn’t much to complain about with Crystal Dynamics 2013 release of Tomb Raider.  Even on the aging Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 hardware, the game was one of the best looking titles of the generation.  Though compared to its PC release counterpart, you could definitely see the console versions had been held back significantly.  When Square Enix announced that they would be making a “Definitive Edition” of Tomb Raider for the Xbox One and PS4, I have to admit a little part of me was extremely skeptical.

I mean, full price for a game with marginally better graphics?  That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I looked forward to 2014.  Though playing Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, all that worry fades away.  Number one, Tomb Raider is a game that didn’t have many faults in the single player campaign to begin with.  Playing through it again isn’t exactly a chore. It’s a cinematic experience that’s beautiful on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and the enhancements that have been made to the game are almost entirely focused on the visual experience.  A number of different upgrades have been made to the game which allow you to become immersed in this beautiful adventure, far more than was possible with previous iterations.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Video Review

It’s hard not to be skeptical of these repackaged releases.  Over the years, some of them have been good, some bad.   Because of those bad ones, it’s easy to view this Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider with some cynicism.  On one hand, there’s really much additional content to be found in this release.  If you played the game when it came out last year, you’re not in for a wholly different exprience.  Square Enix has packaged all of the available downloadable content that arrive post-release, but that’s certainly not the star of the show as almost all of it expands on the exceptionally middling multiplayer component.

The graphics will wow you if you’ve made the jump directly from the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.  Not so much if you’ve made a pit stop on the PC.  But even if you did, there has been some work put into the game that can’t be find on the PC release.  Crystal Dynamics has remodeled Lara Croft entirely.  She has a more realistic look about her, complete with more realistic modeling of her hair.  And for a game that was known for its beautiful vistas, lush environments, and big cinematic sequences, the upgrades will be noticed right away and boost the overall exprience through the entirety of the games campaign.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Review Reviews  Tomb Raider

For those that didn’t play Tomb Raider last year, this is a truly next-gen experience for the franchise. This reboot is a combination of beautiful set piece moments, quick-time events, varied combat, and the traditional puzzles that Tomb Raider fans will find familiar. Tomb Raider is easiest to compare to a game like Uncharted 2 or 3 for its approach in delivering a cinematic experience from start to finish.

Though the real core of the gameplay is built around the combat system. The variety of weapons and their powerups and ways to use the environment make encounters play out in entirely different ways according to player decision. You can stealthily sneak up on enemies and dispatch them without anyone becoming the wiser, or you can take a more forward approach and come out guns,arrows,or pickaxe blazing. And while this Tomb Raider takes the game’s protangonist on an origins story of sorts, she quickly becomes grizzled combat veteran in short order. Though explored briefly at the game’s onset, Lara loses her vulnerability pretty quickly. It doesn’t take long before you feel like you have the upper-hand in nearly any encounter. Lara transitions from the hunted to the hunter pretty quickly, and your constantly growing list of weapons, ample ammunition caches and regenerating health continually reinforce this.

By and large the single player side of Tomb Raider is a game that shows off an incredible attention to detail in both the way that the story is told, and the way the player interacts and grows alongside it. As well known as Lara is, Crystal Dynamics does a good job of making you feel the transition of the character. It doesn’t hurt Tomb Raider’s case that it is also an incredible looking game with some unforgettable sequences. A dynamic camera makes for a heightened sense of danger, while also highlighting the beauty of the island when the story calls for it. Those who put presentation first will not be disappointed with Tomb Raider, but they also won’t be making sacrifices in the gameplay, story or length of the game either. It’s a well rounded experience that last upwards of 12-15 hours depending on play style, but there’s very little reason to return to island once complete.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Review Reviews  Tomb Raider

If there’s one glaring bad spot for the single player portion of Tomb Raider, it’s that there’s not enough side content. While you’ll find plenty of secrets to uncover on the island, there’s very little depth to any of it once you find it. There’s no reward outside of the XP boost you receive for clearing a tomb, and the puzzles that are usually encountered are clever but not overly complex. These side tombs usually consist of you travelling down a fairly linear path, solving a quick puzzle, and being on your way. It would have been nice to see more depth to these side excursions. With very little bearing on the actual storyline, this side content doesn’t round out the experience as fully as it probably could have.

Though as much as the single player of Tomb Raider is a spot-on hit in the gameplay department, it’s not so good as to warrant a multiplayer mode built completely around it. Obviously the intent is to keep the party going after finishing the story, but sometimes it’s just not necessary. Tomb Raider is one of those cases where its not. Taking control of a variety of characters from the single player portion of the game, Tomb Raider multiplayer opens the world up to a variety of modes to play. It’s pretty standard stuff, really. You’ve got your traditional deathmatch mode, and then three other modes which are slight variations of what you’ll find in just about every other multiplayer experience on the market. As is also expected, a rather standard weapons and skill buff upgrade system which is tied directly to a familiar XP unlocks system that is found in the single player side of the game. However, the XP from single player does not carry over to the online side of things, which is a weird decision considering that it could have given even more reason to explore the single player world more thoroughly.

So just because it seems pretty run-of-the-mill, does that mean there’s no fun to be had with Tomb Raider multiplayer? No, not exactly. This third person shooter offering definitely has some great moments and does some things well, but it’s pretty easy to tell that multiplayer wasn’t given the same amount of attention as single player. It strives to recreate some of the cinematic moments from the campaign, it just doesn’t do it well enough to keep you interested. Unfortunately, there’s a real lack of polish on this side of the game when compared to industry leaders. Tomb Raider multiplayer could be fun in small doses, but its not the kind of third person experience that’ll have players committing days of their lives to. It’s not even close to the third person powerhouse, Gears of War, and a closer comparison to a game like Uncharted 3 or The Last of Us has Tomb Raider paling in comparison. It’s really unfortunate that multiplayer is so uninspired in Tomb Raider. It could have given the game a lot more replay value after the single player fun had finished.

Crystal Dynamics rarely makes a misstep in the single player side of things, though. Tomb Raider is a fantastic solo adventure. Admittedly, I couldn’t help but wish my first experience with Tomb Raider was the Definitive One. The graphical upgrades are certainly welcome, but they don’t erase the fact that many have already been here and done that.  It’s a nice showpiece for what these next-gen consoles are capable of in terms of graphics, but if you come into Tomb Raider, this “Definitive Edition, thinking that it’s anything more than a shinier port, you’ll likely leave disappointed.

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  • Dienekes

    Might have wanted to mention it runs at 60fps on ps4 and 30fps on xbox one. That seems sort of important to include…

    • GK15

      Not really. It’s a review of the game itself, which is the same on both platforms. It’s not a review about performance difference between the two.

      Digital foundry or Lens of Truth should be able to provide that.

      • Allen

        I haven’t seen any head to heads at lens of truth.

      • Thaek

        It’s not the same on both platform, one runs at 30fps and one at 60fps. Every good game site mentions if one edition is worse than the other. (some even give different scores) 60fps is noticeably smoother than 30fps. For some one that owns both consoles like me this is very important fact. Both cost the same amount of money – of one edition is better than i’d rather buy that one.

      • Lee Swain

        Disagree strongly, how much of the review covers the graphical improvements? How can frame rate NOT be a part of that? It’s clearly NOT “the same on both platform”!

        The jump from 30fps to 60fps is massive and a big selling point. The ONLY reason not to mention it is because for some reason you don’t want to highlight the difference between the Xbox One and PS4 versions. Regardless of if that is to avoid console-war fanyboy arguments or a desire to not say anything bad about the Xbox One, it makes for an inferior review. As a owner of both systems, I always want to know which versions runs best and that includes resolution and frame rates. Just saying I can get that elsewhere might as be telling me if I want a real review, go elsewhere!

  • GK15

    I’m interested to see how the two compare to each other. Neither has a locked framerate and the XB1 is reportedly capable of hitting up to 45 fps. We’ll see, but I’m sure it’ll be great on both platforms.

    Too bad I already beat it and found almost all of the collectibles last gen. Those that didn’t play it are in for a treat.

  • Fireprufe15

    I would be quite interested to see how this one compares visually to the PC version.

    • Country Boy Lucifer

      I read an article on it, pc sits in the middle, better than last gen but current gen is visually superior to the PC version

      • Fireprufe15

        That’s quite interesting, I would assume it’s because it doesn’t have the updated models and such. It would’ve been nice of them to offer an update or DLC to the PC version that actually gives you the updated visuals.

        • Country Boy Lucifer

          Yeah I think that’s a safe assumption, the PC version is essentially the last gen version.

          I can’t see why they wouldn’t release the definitive version for PC though

        • Allen

          IMHO the proof that PC doesn’t evolve until consoles do is in things like this game. Console is where the money is at.

          • Fireprufe15

            That honestly nothing to do with where the money is. Yes there is a bigger market on console, but there has been plenty of evolution on PC that isn’t seen on console. This game has more to do with the fact that the bigger devs develop for the lowest performance target and don’t do much to increase the power of the stronger platforms. And I assume the reason for the definitive edition not being on PC too is that people with PC’s already have the game and won’t pay full price for the same game, whereas on console people definitely don’t have the game on the new consoles yet. Why they couldn’t just make a $10 DLC pack or even free update with the new graphics is beyond me.

            There’s a lot more money in PC than most people assume. Sure, if you look at VGCharts, it would seem as if it’s flatlining, but that’s because the PC market is closing in on being fully digital and VGCharts and it’s ilk don’t even look twice at digital sales.

          • Allen

            Na I disagree.

            I mean I do agree that many PC sales are all digital now. Steam and Origin are the best ways to get content.

            But PC misses out on huge things in gaming. Red Dead Redemption never even came to it. Destiny supposedly isn’t but we will see if it will just be released later.

            I still have my gaming PC but get more from my PS3 and PS4. They fit in the living room far better and have far better UI for all things on a big screen TV. I know big picture mode but that’s gaming only. Navigating is still a bitch and keyboard/mouse just don’t go well in the living room.

            PC mainly has mods. You can spend tons of money trying to reach peak performance but in games like this it just proves what I’m saying. If PC were so powerful and if the money was in PC then they would have taken the time to do this in the first place. But instead you just have PC gamers with higher resolutions and frames per second than console counterparts. Not really worth all the extra time and money IMHO.

            It’s all good. I still have my gaming PC but damn. I rarely game on it anymore. It’s mostly just my DVD burner and home media server these days.

          • Fireprufe15

            I’m the opposite. I have a PS3, had one long before PC. Then I got my gaming PC and well let’s say I haven’t turned the PS3 on in the last 3 years. I have no use for it. Sure there are things that didn’t come to PC, but the list of multiplatform games that did not land on PC is extremely short. RDR is one I missed out on, but that’s just Rockstar’s general brand of retardedness, they really are sucky at PC development. Destiny isn’t particularly something I’m interested in, there are more than enough other shooters I can play with this year.

            As for them fitting better in the living room, if you know what your doing, you can make quite an excellent living room based PC. Screw Steamboxes and those things, I just built my own. It’s nice and small, silent, powerful and my tiny wireless keyboard thing fits nicely in my living room. The games I play there I play mostly with a controller (seriously excited to get my hands on a Steam Controller to play mouse-based games).

            As for graphics, although resolution and FPS does make quite a big difference, that’s not what sets PC apart. All the anti-aliasing, anisoptric filtering, advanced shading and even tesselation in newer games is what really makes PC games look much better. The Tomb Raider’s team isn’t based on power and money of PC though. Most PC’s that could run the vanilla version will no doubt be able to pump out some updated models and textures. The fact is that most PC gamers won’t spend extra money on a DLC pack or seperate version of the game just for some prettier models on a game that looks almost as good as the definitive edition.

            Not to start an argument, every one has their preferances and I respect that, I’m just saying my opinions :P.

          • Allen

            Yeah screw steam box at least for now. Maybe in a year or two, we will see how they go.

            I’m not trying to dis PC. I just am very anal about my gameplay and have lately enjoyed being in the living room rather than the office.

            I still don’t see how mouse/keyboard ever fit well in the living room. I want like a fold up desk or something and plop myself right in front of the TV. Of course that’s just for first person shooters. Controller is preferred for all other gameplay to me.

            Well enjoy dude.

  • Country Boy Lucifer

    Never got this for ps3 so i’ll definitely be buying it

    • Allen

      Same here.

  • Guest

    I am curious to know if you reviewed the definitive version or the not so definitive version.