(PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Polished treasure

Rather than force you to sit through a string of paragraphs longer than the average historical textbook, we’ll get straight to the point: Lara Croft’s next generation debut looks the part on the PlayStation 4. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition may be little more than a cleaned up retread of last year’s dirty day-trip to Yamatai, but it’s arguably one of the best showcases of Sony’s expensive new tech yet. The big question is: are the visual enhancements enough to encourage you to test your endurance levels all over again?

That’s going to depend entirely upon your opinion of the original product, as this is still the same Uncharted-esque adventure that deployed on ageing appliances approximately ten months ago. For those out of the loop, this re-release of Crystal Dynamics’ series reboot takes Britain’s bustiest export back to the origins of her love affair with archaeology, as she’s shipwrecked on a macabre Japanese island and forced to play the alpha male in her crew’s hapless attempts to escape. As a result, the narrative plots the path of the protagonist from innocent twentysomething to unhinged superhero, all in the span of a ten or so hour single player campaign.

If that sounds like a squeeze, then it won’t come as much of a surprise that the heroine’s transition from sweetheart to homicidal maniac is a smidgen, well, speedy. Despite the developer’s intention to portray a more meek iteration of the iconic star, it all comes across a touch disingenuous when she’s toiling over a dead deer in one scene and shooting at the skulls of Solarii soldiers in the next. It perhaps doesn’t help that the studio opted to pad out voice actor Camilla Luddington’s script with out-of-place obscenities.

Nevertheless, if you can detach your ability to detect ludonarrative dissonance [Smarty pants – Ed], then you will undeniably find an exceptional experience basking beneath the unpredictable Eastern weather here. The title certainly subscribes to Nathan Drake’s school of cinematic gameplay, guiding you from one set-piece to the next like a particularly pacey rollercoaster ride, but it’s also a little more open than the average Naughty Dog escapade, augmenting shades of Metroid and Castlevania as you unlock the sizeable areas with new gear and gadgets.

Moreover, the game does a great job of coaxing out your inner completionist, packing every corner of its elaborately detailed forest and underground environments with hidden books, artefacts, and GPS signals. In addition, each location is littered with unique challenges, which upon completion award you with experience points and salvage to spend at camps. This makeshift currency ultimately allows you to improve the leading lady’s abilities, providing a sense of progression throughout the exhausting affair.

And as already alluded, every inch of that fatiguing experience has been given a coat of polish courtesy of the additional horsepower enabled by Sony’s new super machine. For starters, the star herself has been completely overhauled, with a facelift equipping her with the supermodel looks that defined her earlier days. While she loses a little believability in this fresh Barbie doll form, the laughable – but impressive – TressFX technology makes up for any shortcomings, prompting the protagonist’s barnet to whip about like a L’Oreal advertisement shot on Brighton beach. She’s worth it.

However, the heroine’s hair isn’t the only on-screen object susceptible to very slight movements, as the whole game feels much more animated in its next-gen guise. Grass, plants, and trees now swirl about in the wind, while dust and embers float purposefully in the air. These enhancements will prompt you to simply stop and stare at some of the vistas, but the whole illusion is accentuated by the re-release’s resolution bump and framerate increase. It really does result in an enormous improvement, and easily makes it one of the best looking games that we’ve ever played.

While the visual upgrades represent a real step forward, though, some of the DualShock 4 specific features are more gimmicky than a Swiss army knife. For example, the device’s light bar now flickers like a flame when you’re wielding your trusty torch, adding the homely glow of a furnace to your surroundings while you play. There’s nothing particularly problematic about this per se, but it all feels a touch over-the-top, as does the decision to emit radio chatter through the peripheral’s poor quality speaker.

Other additions are similarly superfluous, with the voice controls adding nothing to the game other than ability to accidentally pause the action each time that you curse during combat. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the inclusion of the touchpad to browse maps, inspect objects, and perform a handful of simplistic in-game interactions, the functionality doesn’t necessarily need to be there. Fortunately, you can opt to turn off or ignore many of these extras, so it’s not really an issue at all.

The same could be argued for the straightforward competitive component, which hasn’t exactly evolved into a must play multiplayer centre-piece on next-gen consoles. Boasting a handful of team and solo game types, the predictable eight-player online excursion offers up a largely unoriginal third-person shooting experience, packed with perks and loadouts to unlock. In truth, the core gunplay isn’t strong enough to carry this mode alone, but there are a couple of amusing objectives that make it a decent enough distraction for a round or two.

Conclusion

If you’ve already plundered every last dusty antique in Lara Croft’s origin story on the PlayStation 3, then you’re going to need to decide for yourself whether you have the resolve to do it again. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is an exceptional port of an already entertaining escapade, but outside of the extravagant visuals, there’s not a whole lot to sweeten the purchase a second time. If you have a perverse penchant for grave robbing, or you’ve never stepped foot on the strange shores of Yamatai before, then this is an enjoyable band-aid for the emerging next-gen drought. Just don’t expect it to change your mind if you didn’t like the original game.

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User Comments (30)

Gemuarto

#2

Gemuarto said:

OMG, you called it Uncharted-esque adventure T__T... Never understood that. It has nothing to do with Uncharted, except that you need to climb walls and explore tombs.For me, it's more like old Tomb Raider + Resident Evil 4 + Bioshock. It has some Uncharted moments here and there, but nothing important. I tried to play Uncharted 3 for the second time a while ago and was bored to death. It is really two very different games, if you ask me.

Ginkgo

#3

Ginkgo said:

Loved it on PS3. May pick it up again for ps4 when the price drops, but not at full price.

get2sammybAdmin

#5

get2sammyb said:

@Gemuarto I don't know, I think it's heavily inspired by Uncharted. I agree that it's slightly more open than a Naughty Dog game, and encourages slightly more exploration as a result, but I still feel that the moment-to-moment gameplay feels very similar to an Uncharted game.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, though. In fact, I love the Uncharted formula so much that I consider it a positive.

divinelite

#6

divinelite said:

@Gemuarto other Tomb Raider has very distinctive differences than this one. Tomb Raider reboot is simply an Uncharted version with Lara Croft, but don't take me wrong, I really LOVE it. Definitely play this after I get a PS4 down the line

banacheck

#7

banacheck said:

I quite liked the game on the PS3, I'll probably play it again once the game has dropped in price a bit. It's going to play a lot more smoother because of the 60fps, towards the PS3 version.

Gamer83

#9

Gamer83 said:

Just completed today and will do a second playthrough alongside my playthrough of Outlast to make the wait for Thief easier. I loved Tomb Raider on 360 and have fallen in love all over again. And I'm really looking forward to learning how Crystal Dynamics plans to top itself with TR 2. As much as I like Deus Ex and Sleeping Dogs, I hope Lara's next adventure is the next game SquareEnix has lined up from its Western teams.

Gemuarto

#10

Gemuarto said:

@get2sammyb Maybe it depends on play style. I always explore everything I can, before moving any further, most times have 100% completition in the area =). And action is just nice distraction from that. And you can stealth kill most enemies in 50% of situations. And you can hunt and go to previoues locations. And overall;; action feels much less linear than Uncharted and has more variety, thanks to stealth and that you can have 5 weapons at a time, not 2 like in Uncharted. And game has very different atmosphere than Uncharted, too. So maybe, if you rush through it, you can call it Uncharted-esque, but it's just one side of the game. And overall it has it's own face, not to be called Uncharted-esque. I know that nobody cares, but it's really sad or funny, that you called it Uncharted-esque, when Uncharted is actually Tomb Raider-esque.

Gamer83

#11

Gamer83 said:

@Gemuarto

Yeh, other than being more cinematic now I agree TR isn't really like Uncharted mainly due to the pseudo-open world. I also think it's a better game than any of the Uncharteds except maybe 2, and I'm a big Uncharted fan, TR is just on a different level to most games though.

Splat

#13

Splat said:

I would say the TR game raised the bar in-terms of gameplay but the Uncharted games told the better stories.

I think the TR story is good and Lara's performance was GREAT but the cast around her isn't as good as the cast around Nathan Drake.

Punished_Boss_84

#14

Punished_Boss_84 said:

@get2sammyb How ironic since the original Uncharted was called a Tomb Raider rip-off and now Tomb Raider is being stated as heavily influenced/ripping off by Uncharted.

@Splat Strangely enough i have heard that perspective voiced many times, must be a degree of truth to it.

Fire-and-Water

#15

Fire-and-Water said:

Seems like a ****ing rip off to me. Not of Uncharted, they're ripping off people with all these "held back content" editions!

charlesnarles

#17

charlesnarles said:

My gf always scoffs when Lara says something completely American in a poorly acted "British" accent (What borough is she from, exactly?) [unless she'd been raised all over the world yadda yadda yadda] but she still never sounds 1/3 as English as the articles on here. They really couldn't have used an authentically accented actor?

get2sammybAdmin

#18

get2sammyb said:

@charlesnarles She is English, but it's clear that she's lived in America for most of her life. Wikipedia states she's from Bracknell, but moved to the US when she was 14.

Shellybird27

#20

Shellybird27 said:

I guess I'm too biased with Uncharted, but after hearing that this game was inspired by Uncharted, I was interested. But I played it, and in my opinion Uncharted is just so much better, and I didn't even finish TR. But that's just my opinion.

JaxonH

#22

JaxonH said:

@Gamer83

I played this game all weekend, and I like it. It's pretty good. I will say that I wish there was a heavier focus on puzzles, rather than one little puzzle at the end of a tomb, with very few tombs in the game. But taken on its own merit, it's a great game.

Didn't Eidos develop this game? I like their work. Have to get around to finishing Deus Ex on Wii U after Tomb Raider. Gotta be honest- I wasn't really interested in Thief, but seeing as Eidos is developing it, it's definitely on my radar now. Can't say I'll for sure buy it, but I'll be keeping tabs on the reviews...

Gamer83

#23

Gamer83 said:

@JaxonH

Eidos made Deus Ex, Crystal Dynamics makes Tomb Raider.

And about the tombs, that was really my main complaint with the game, that and the multiplayer. I honestly felt like the time and resources that went into the subpar multiplayer experience could've been better used adding a few more, longer more drawn out tombs. Even if they were only optional, I would think the vast majority of people playing the game would go out of their way to find them because that's what the game is all about. I was also very disappointed that all the extra content, outside of outfits and one pre-order tomb (which was added on-disc for the Definitive version), was for the multiplayer. To me not every game needs to have online multi, and this was one of them. I'm hoping Crystal Dynamics listens to the feedback because the general consensus was 'single player awesome, multi, not so much.' Tomb Raider 2 should have more tombs, and some of them should be required, they also need to be more drawn out, like you said. Other than that I thought the game was about a good as one could get. I've read at some places that a full open world for the sequel would be a good addition, but I think the Pseudo-open world fits the style of TR much better.

JaxonH

#24

JaxonH said:

@Gamer83

Yeah, I don't really like open world. I like open, and lots of paths to take, but full open-world is too much for me personally. I need direction, ya know? Tomb Raider does it perfectly imo. It's a really great and fun game, but yeah the whole tomb thing is a bummer. I like Zelda games because of the action/adventure and PUZZLES. I was looking forward to exactly that with Tomb Raider, but I got mostly action and adventure. Still, they did a fantastic job with it, and it's by all means a really fun game. First PS4 game I give "Jaxon's Stamp of Approval" to...

Gamer83

#25

Gamer83 said:

@JaxonH

What's funny is I actually love open world, in fact it may be my favorite genre, but it depends on the game. I think games like GTA, inFamous, Saints Row and Crackdown where the story takes more of a backseat the open world is a great setup. For games like Uncharted or The Last of Us which rely as much on narrative as gameplay, then yes, a bit more direction is welcome. I like how Crystal Dynamics and Naughty Dog found ways to open these games up though without taking you too far off the path and I hope Naughty Dog's Uncharted team plans to do the same thing with that series. I love Uncharted but mainly for the narrative. The gunplay, and especially platforming, are fun but the games are pretty much point A to point B with some treasure hidden in an obvious spot as you move along from one place to the next. Tomb Raider had all sorts of cool things to do from searching for items to doing different challenges in its different locations and documents and the like in TLoU were also spread out nicely.

TasukiStaff

#26

Tasuki said:

@get2sammyb: Great review.

I played this game before on the PC and I loved it. I bought this one a few days ago but still haven't cracked it open. Looking to do that in the next couple of days.

ThreadShadow

#27

ThreadShadow said:

@get2sammyb
I'd like some help. I know the esrb descriptor has "strong language". I, unlike everyone else on the planet, don't care for "strong language", so is Lara the one doing all the "strong language" or is the whole cast involved?
"pad out voice actor Camilla Luddington’s script with out-of-place obscenities."
Is it pervasive? Can it be easily skipped or muted in-game? Does it occur mostly during gameplay or cut-scenes? Is it always "f" related words or other types?
Does anyone else miss the days where games didn't need this type of stuff? Tomb Raider, Metal Gear, etc., for some reason need this stuff to be attractive these days? I think not.
I don't care for Gears of War, but I applaud EPIC for including filters. Not every gamer wants to be bombarded with swears, or gets turned on by geysers of blood and brutality.
Anyway, thanks for the help.

get2sammybAdmin

#28

get2sammyb said:

@ThreadShadow There aren't many (if any) f-bombs that I can think of, it's mostly Lara swearing at the enemies as she guns them down. You can't filter it out, but it's not that bad - just out of place.

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