There’s no need to ask ‘does it matter if Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition only boasts better graphics and hair effects that make Lara look like an extra from a Pantene Pro 10 advert?’ Of course it matters. The real question is, how much? I reviewed Tomb Raider Definitive Edition on PS4 to find out for myself and you can read my thoughts after the break.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Just How Definitive Is It?
Tomb Raider is a game that is gorgeous by default. You are Lara Croft; a survivor, with your skills inherited as much as they are grown into, on an island where flames are abundant and the lush, green forests are as dense as a nursery school flunkee. When I played Tomb Raider on PS3, the game wowed me instantly, my eyes grew to the sizes of all of the moons in our solar system and then some and I immediately declared it the best looking game on Sony’s aging console. Crystal Dynamics’ upscaling efforts (the game runs in 1080P at 60FPS on PS4) have succeeded tremendously and I feel pretty confident in saying that Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is the best looking game on PS4 thus far.
“Jasmine’s controller has been disconnected. Please charge the battery.” I’m introduced to this message for the third time in my playthrough with the game being the prime suspect for my Dualshock’s lack of battery, thanks to the PS4 version boasting the somehow ‘definitive’ feature of a flashing orange, yellow and red light on the controller that comes up whenever Lara lights a torch. Given that fire is one of the main components in the game, used to light pathways or set gases and threads on fire, that light flashes an awful lot. This is a good summation of the effectiveness of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’s improvements; added enhancements that are as useful as a chocolate teapot that add little to nothing to the game. Another prime example to this is the new voice commands, which allow you to pause the game and switch play styles using your voice. But honestly, plugging in the PS4’s default mic (which is as ill-fitting as the mechanic it powers) gave me about 30 seconds of amusement once I realised that I could turn Lara into a dancing avatar by constantly yelling ‘stealth’ at her to equip her bow, before re-equipping the shotgun. This isn’t a reason to buy a £44.99 video game.
Lara Croft; Puzzle Solver
Where the game does show its strong suit, however, is in its puzzles and its combat. The two are equally as important as each other and the matching of them both puts Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition in a league of its own (and I say this as someone who has played all three Uncharted titles). Be it by way of combustible arrow, shotgun pellet or hack ‘n’ slash with her climbing axe, every time Lara takes down a goon, you want to throw a fist in the air and congratulate yourself thanks to dialogue that tells you just how much they underestimate a plucky young, female adventurer (the change of the dialogue over the course of the game, to “that girl is kicking our ass!” is a highlight) and few things brought me joy than silencing them with a well placed headshot. There are around 5 variations on enemy types which you’ll develop dodging and countering skills to beat, with a few quasi-boss battles peppered once you’ve taken ploughed through a wave and in fact, possibly the only downside to Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is that the waves of enemies themselves challenge you more than the ‘boss battles’, in part because there’s a clear preference from the devs on challenging your brain more than your trigger fingers.
That said, the emphasis on puzzles is a good one. Through the medium of optional tombs, as well as finding the right way to utilise learned mechanics (Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition puts rope arrows and grenade launchers in your hands, amongst other tools, for this) your mental muscle is put through its paces as you resist the urge to Google the best way to put the tomb raiding into the game’s title. There are several and each will fill you with delight once you’ve balanced, climbed and exploded your way through them to get to some treasure at the end (sadly not tangible, but the experience is a prize enough, as my mother would say). The game wouldn’t be the same without it and I happily crawled through every one of them just to know that I’d explored everything Tomb Raider had to offer.
It’s not just the reward of the trek that you get either. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition offers up a fabulous XP collecting RPG-type situation, with rewards for completing large set pieces (again, with ships falling apart around your ankles and caverns collapsing around your ears, these are some of the best in genre), collecting salvage, popping headshots, killing the wildlife (boars, crows, gulls etc.) as well as collecting relics from the various cultures that have made their way to Yamatai. Hoover up XP and salvage and greatness thou shall reap as you can upgrade guns and Lara’s skills via campfires (autosave points) to make her a better shooter, scavenger or all round surviving human! This is about Lara’s quest to become a great explorer, after all, and I can say that even up until the last 30 seconds of the game, I found my upgraded skills a real use, so I’m thankful for the mechanic and don’t at all think that it was tacked on.
A Masterclass in Video Game Writing
Now, I’ve purposely made this review light on story because I think that what Rhianna Pratchett (the lead writer behind Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition) has done with the game is something really special, and I mean truly incredible. Yamatai is an island of greater power than Lara and her crew, of Sam (her best friend) and fellow group adventurers and historians (Lara’s team are of various races and genders, which was refreshing to see) can imagine and Sam in particular is wrapped up in that in an interesting way that you’ll have to play the game to find out. However, the story captivated me but nothing made me smile and cry and laugh like the relationships between Lara and the rest of the crew, and Lara’s quest to protect them and save Sam felt honest and real, particular the latter as you realise that they’ve been friends for years. Through diary entries (these are read out by the voice actors too and come through the PS4 controller’s mic in one of the only definitive features I found useful), photos and via Sam’s video diaries you discover how much they all care about each other, their hidden motives and how much getting off the island would mean to them all. There are few examples of games that I can think of where characters have been written so well and that an ensemble cast especially has made me care so much. Even if I hadn’t loved all of the other components of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, this alone would make me yell from the rooftops that I would love to see a sequel.
Is Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Worth It?
Yes and no, it depends. I own this game on PS3 too and can say that while I enjoyed outfitting Lara out in the DLC-added costumes and the title is exceptionally pretty, £44.99 is not worth it for the improvements, because you will have fun playing this game a second time around but it’s unlikely that other than when the game pans out to show the sunset on the horizon, or the menacing storms in the Yamatai sky that you’ll notice much difference in terms of graphics.
If you haven’t played Tomb Raider on PS3 or Xbox 360, then Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition comes highly recommended, not least because it is one of my favourite games of all time. The game is a great amount of fun and adventure on any console but yes, on PS4, it is the definitive edition and the only reason it gets a 9 is because I don’t feel that the definitive improvements justify a perfect score, although, were this a PS3 review for the original Tomb Raider title, this would absolutely be a 10.
Click here to buy Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition from Amazon.