Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition eclipsed my expectations. Having spent my Christmas break exploring the unkind shores of Yamatai on the PlayStation 3, I really wasn’t expecting Crystal Dynamics’ seemingly overpriced next generation upgrade to catch my attention a second time. However, from the opening cinematic through to the first underground environment, I knew that I was wrong. I even pushed the DualShock 4’s versatile share button to publicly acknowledge as much.
There’s been a lot of criticism lofted at the game, and some of it’s hard to argue against. For starters, at around £40/$60 depending on where you shop, this is an expensive proposition for anyone that’s played the original release. Square Enix has attempted to mitigate the backlash by pointing to the things that it has added, but a divisive new character model and an in-game comic book is probably not enough to justify paying full price again. Well, unless you like pretty visuals.
And that’s the thing: I do like pretty visuals. Some may say it’s shallow to be drawn in by attractive vistas and special effects, but I’ve always been that type of gamer, and I’m not ashamed of it. Don’t get me wrong, I fully subscribe to the sentiment that good graphics don’t make a good game, but I’d argue that a good game is almost always enhanced by good graphics. And for me, that’s exactly what unknown Netherlands-based developer Nixxes has managed to achieve with the abovementioned port.
Prior to release, there was some debate over whether Sony’s next generation system would even represent much of a step forward over current machines. Around the time that that discourse was rampant, titles such as The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, and, yes, the current-gen iteration of Lara Croft’s maiden voyage were all occupying the charts. And no one’s going to argue that they all looked great considering the hardware available – but now it’s clear that they could have been so much more.
The improvements in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are achingly obvious from the introductory interactive menu screen. Not only are the textures much more detailed, but the bumped up resolution – which cleans away the coat of Vaseline present in the current-gen version – and enhanced frame rate gives the experience a different feel from the off. And this only becomes more apparent as you progress through the game, with blustery outposts and dusty enclosures prompting you to stop and stare at the scenery around you. It breathes new life into the adventure.
Due to time availability – or the lack thereof – I don’t tend to replay titles anymore, as I’d rather use any opportunities I have available to try different experiences. However, I was surprised to find that revisiting the world’s most famous archaeologist’s origin story didn’t feel like a waste of my time. In fact, even though the campaign is identical to the one that I played on my PS3 less than four weeks earlier, I still found myself hunting every wild animal and gathering up as many artefacts as I could find.
Part of that’s probably down to the fact that Crystal Dynamics simply made an enjoyable game, but I also quickly realised that the visuals had managed to keep things feeling fresh. I enjoyed re-examining old environments because the boost in resolution and texture quality made them feel new, and I found myself stopping and staring at some scenes for longer than I actually anticipated. In truth, if I wasn’t constantly conscious of spamming my friends and family on Facebook, I probably would have pushed the share button more times than I actually did, too.
And all of this has made me realise that I’m not against the idea of doing it all over again for a different game. I actually don’t think that the release schedule for Sony’s new super machine looks as poor as some pundits are making out, but there’s no doubt that it could do with a spot of padding in places. And what better way to achieve that than by re-releasing some of last year’s biggest outings? After all, there are plenty of heavy hitters to pick from.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer publishers put out brand new escapades rather than repurposed old ones, but past console launches have proven that it’s going to take time for the blockbusters to truly begin to flow. As a transitional year, then, I think that the industry could do worse than preparing a plethora of heavily upgraded ports. It may not sound all that exciting on paper, but just imagine how good the likes of Los Santos and Columbia could look on significantly superior hardware. Is that really such a bad thing?
Would you be willing to play more upgraded ports on Sony’s next-gen system, or would you rather publishers focused their attention on concocting brand new experiences for the burly black box? Clean up your opinion in the comments section below.
Would you play more upgraded ports on your PS4? (49 votes)
Yes, as long as the conversion’s good I’d be eager to revisit some older games
It depends on the title and the quality of the upgrade
No, I’m not willing to pay again to play the same game regardless of the visuals
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