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Review: Tomb Raider Definitive Edition (PS4, Xbox One)
Last year Tomb Raider was given a reboot, with all-action adventuring archaeologist Lara Croft taken down a new darker and grittier path.
It saw the character transformed from a beautiful, tough, fearless vixen (and sex symbol to teenage boys) into a bloodied, battered, more 'normal', vulnerable young woman who becomes a hardened survivor after being thrown into a desperate and violent fight for escape from a mysterious and dangerous island.
Whereas everything about previous Lara was over-the-top, larger-than-life and, to some extent, tongue-in-cheek cheesy, the re-imagined Lara (played to good effect, according to most, by English actress Camilla Luddington) was a more down-to-Earth, serious and, for want of a better word, human character.
It was a bold move by developer Crystal Dynamics, but also a successful one. Tomb Raider 2013 was critically acclaimed and was also a game which this site liked. Our reviewer said: "This is a great game with a strong campaign and it’s a very successful reinvention of one of gaming’s most important franchises."
Almost a year on publisher Square Enix has released this Definitive Edition which includes the main game with updated next-gen graphics, some small bits of previously downloadable content, a couple of pieces of extra media and some gimmicky rather than essential voice and motion control features.
If you played through the original game last year all reports point towards how the Definitive Edition isn't different enough to warrant paying out full price for a second time. It's essentially exactly the same game, just better looking.
If, however, you missed out on the experience first time around the new edition is a recommended game for anyone looking to play the best console version of one of the highest rated adventure games of the past year.
Playing the Definitive Edition was my first experience of new Tomb Raider and I can now see what all the fuss was about.
I'm not going to go into much detail about the story and gameplay as these areas have been well documented already, including in our own aforementioned review.
What I will say here is that the story, in terms of both this particular escapade and explaining the origins of Lara’s heroism, is compelling. Dark, very dark, with barely a shred of lightness or humour, but compelling.
For the gameplay, the cocktail of ingredients - some familiar from earlier Tomb Raider games, some not - includes shooting, hunting, jumping, climbing and exploring, and these combine to create an intense, exciting adventure presented in a high-end cinematic style.
Thanks to the crazed inhabitants of the island and the wild animals aplenty, Tomb Raider is properly scary in places (to me anyway), with definite elements of survival horror thrown into the mix. I’m of a slightly jumpy disposition and probably more faint-hearted than most gamers so I’m not a fan of roaming around dark creepy forests knowing I could be savaged by wolves at any second, but if you like your heart to pound and your palms to sweat you’ll feel right at home.
As mentioned before, the main advantage the Definitive Edition has over last year's 'regular' edition is how it looks.
While she's arguably looked sexier in previous games, I don't think Lara has ever looked better than she does here - at least in terms of how lifelike she is. It’s not quite a perfect character model, with occasionally jarring facial expressions and robotic movements, but it’s very impressive how much detail has been captured such as in the way the strands of her hair move about. It’s a step up from how Lara’s looked before on consoles, with next-gen allowing a more PC-ish experience.
The rest of the high-definition graphics look pretty amazing too, actually that should be pretty and amazing. This is evident in the polished textures, detailed particle effects and realistic lighting seen while navigating around the large, alive areas. Similar to the sports games seen on next-gen so far, clothes and environmental features sway and move about in a believable fashion.
Audio, including low-level ambient sounds such as animals skulking around, comes through with clarity and depth which helps to ramp up the atmosphere alongside the dramatic soundtrack.
The game runs at a speedy and silky smooth lick with no obvious slowdown that I’ve noticed.
While the Xbox One version may be slightly less definitive owing to a lower framerate (but still perfectly enjoyable as I understand it), the PS4 version of Tomb Raider is up there with Killzone: Shadow Fall as the best action games to show off the capabilities of Sony’s new console.
Due to the horror themes and gory nature of some parts, I haven’t fallen head over heels in love with Tomb Raider but the quality of it has still shone through.
Tomb Raider is an action-packed, emotional, tense and all-round spectacular Uncharted-like thriller. If you’re after the best console version of this acclaimed game, the Definitive Edition is it.
Seeing the fine work that’s been done on current-to-next-gen ports such as Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed IV bodes well for when the hotly-anticipated properly-next-gen action-adventure games begin arriving soon.
8 out of 10
Out now for PS4 and Xbox One – PS4 version played
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