Published on February 9th, 2014 | by Greenie860
Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition Review
Summary: Definately the best version of the game and for newcomers to the game a must play
Just under a year ago the mesmerizing re-imaging of one of gaming’s most famous icons was released. While we didn’t review last years original release on the Xbox 360 or PS3 I had reviewed it for my own blog so this will be an update to add the next generation features.
This is a brand new grown up Tomb Raider (the first one to be M rated) and a fresh faced new Lara, who as you will discover is a deep engaging character battling for her very survival.
This is a big game for Lara and her tombs, if Crystal Dynamics had just churned out another generic Tomb Raider game, it would have failed – or at least not been the massive AAA title that we have. The archaeological action game ship has sailed with Drake and co firmly on board. Naughty Dog’s games have refined and perfected the action platform game genre leaving very little room for another, no matter how long they’ve been around.
With that in mind, this new Tomb Raider is essentially an Uncharted game, from the big explosive set pieces, to the pixel perfect platforming to the cover based shooting. We’ve seen it all before. But thankfully, there is an ace up the sleeve, (or vest as the case may be) for young Lara Croft, and that is the fact this latest outing for is an origin story. Without that, I don’t think we would have such a stand out game on our hands.
I don’t think I can emphasise enough how important the origin factor is. Having played every single Tomb Raider to date, it was an amazing and revealing experience to see how the once action orientated, almost invincible Lara Croft of old came to be. This new 17 year old Lara is vulnerable, scared, and amateurish, and questions her kills rather than celebrates them. You really feel every shot, bump, fall and bite, and you find yourself grimacing every time this young fragile girl gets hurt. This is emphasised by the character’s on screen environmental gestures be it Lara tentatively looking around the environment or her putting her arm out when close to rock faces and shear drops. A far cry from the duel wielding super chested adventurer that we’re all used to. And it’s this reason, for me that makes this game as good as it is.
But that’s not all, there is of course more, lots more. Like the island of Yamatai which is undoubtedly one of the most hostile places you can imagine. It’s also big but not really free roaming, but you can travel back and forth for extra exploration if you desire. In the main, you’ll be following the spectacle that is the story, moving from checkpoint to checkpoint taking part in firefights (or stealth kills depending on your flavour) platforming your way around the beautifully designed locales, or simply trying to stay alive.
Each pathway you find, more often than not will lead you to an arena, an arena that is ripe for exploring. Here you can hunt around for salvage, which is Tomb Raiders currency, kill animals for food and XP, hunt for hidden tombs or take part in small simple challenges. There is plenty to do and explore, and funny this, I found myself walking around the levels exploring them and investigating every minute rock and crag in case I missed something, rather than running around waiting for a symbol to pop up alerting me I’m near something and worthy of my attention. The way the arenas are designed encourages this. If you want to complete the game quick as a flash, by all means run around like a mad thing, do the story and nothing else. But you’ll be a fool to do so as you’ll miss so much of the game.
There are tombs to explore but they are not the major gameplay mechanic any more, no longer are entire levels dedicated to them. Now they are more side quests, a treat if you will when you find a tomb (yes you do have to go out and hunt for them) they are some of the games highlights, often being a single puzzle, but still offering the same level of satisfaction when you solve them. This is a game more about endurance than complex puzzles and tomb solving, it’s up to the player to find every trinket, and treasure there is, all the while battling the elements and the islands inhabitants. It just feels more real, and more varied, which for me as the way it should be.
Thankfully there are various tools and skills that can help Lara out on her adventure. Starting out with nothing but her wit and bare hands, Lara soon becomes a dab hand at the bow and arrow, climbing axe, and an array of guns. She also learns to fight dirty. A smart move involving Lara throwing dirt in the eyes of enemies is a nice touch and again shows the vulnerability of this young adventurer. There are skills to be learned too like improving your animal hunting skills, climbing skills or combat skills. If you have the skill points or the salvage, all you need to do is find a camp and you can upgrade. It’s simple stuff and we’ve seen it all before, but is a nice addition as we see Lara grow from a lonely scared girl to someone who will do anything to survive.
Which, in essence, is what it’s all about. As not only is the island trying to kill you, so are it’s inhabitants, the Solarii, a sinister and mysterious race of people who live on the island. It’s all a bit LOST if you know what I mean. They are nasty and after you see the way they treat their prisoners need to die. thankfully the combat is solid and meaty, there is an automatic cover system which you will either love or hate, I personally prefer to press a button to duck into cover, but the automatic system works well, just walk up to anything waist high and you’ll be alright. The best weapon by far out of all the shotguns and rifles is the bow and arrow. Not only can you zoom in, and get one hit kills, you can also fire ropes to help you traverse the levels and flames too to help you reach unattainable crates of salvage. It’s not the best most in depth combat system out there, but it works well, and strangely seems suited to this inexperienced Lara. For the definitive edition using the Playstation 4 camera or the Xbox One Kinect it has become really easy to switch between weapons or navigate the game! For the most part it works fantastically and a real credit to the developers. Visually On next generation there is without doubt that this version is the best looking and there is very little difference between the two. I was left speechless at the effects with the fires and the cut scenes especially.
So, compared to previous titles then, this game is more about survival and discovery of a different kind. As such, a greater emphasis has been placed on looting fallen foes and hunting out hidden salvage chests. The platforming is as good as you expect it to be, and the shooting is solid. I was a little disappointed not to have any underwater swimming sections, something that made the original Tomb Raiders stand out. And as good as the island looks and feels, there is no globe trotting, so no Mayan Pyramids to explore or running from a T-Rex in the Amazon. It’s just you and this island, which I guess is the point. Just don’t expect to see a wide variety of locations. There are a few glitches to like rain pouring through a solid roof, and sometimes the platforming can look a bit scrappy, but I’m picking holes here, and by no means ruin the gaming experience.
This game is a stunning example of how to do an origin story and easily sits up there with the likes of Batman Begins. The new Lara is a character you’ll come to love (not like that you naughty people). It looks stunning, the set pieces make your eyes bleed and exploring is an utter joy rather than a dull slog, I literally found it hard to put my controller down. Special mention has to go to Camilla Luddington’s voice work, bringing Lara to life and producing some of the best ‘Ooos’ ‘Arrgh’s and ‘Grrrs’ yet to grace a video game. Overall, a top job by Crystal Dynamics for bringing Tomb Raider bang up to date in a game that is yes is very similar to the Uncharted games, but brings enough to the table to make it its own brilliant game.
To make the definitive edition the best is that it includes all of the DLC from last years original, which includes all of Lara’s costumes, the multiplayer maps and the challenge tombs which are really fun to play. While the price point might make some people who have already played the original skeptical, the game is worth playing again and definately worth playing for a first time