Hey, wasn’t I just talking about this game in March of 2013? That’s right, Tomb Raider is back, but now, it’s on the PS4 and Xbox One, and it’s got a bold new addendum, calling itself a “definitive edition”. In straightforward game-talk, that means of all the versions of Lara’s reboot that are floating around, this latest release is supposedly the one to get. So, is it? Pretty much, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should get it for a number of reasons.
More Particles & Fog, Same Yamatai
For people that are unfamiliar with the history, Tomb Raider is actually a reboot of the entire Lara Craft/Raiding Tombs intellectual property that came to last generation consoles in 2013. It took the Lara Croft of old and unleashed a Batman: Begins style origin story on her. Her previous history was wiped away—except for the basics about her being a rich orphan—and rather than just start her off as an accomplished tomb raider, already somersaulting and dual wielding pistols, Crystal Dynamics told the tale of Lara Croft as an uncertain college student, thrust into her first, traumatic adventure. Plenty of drama—and grievous bodily harm—abounded as Lara was forged from the fires of a trial for survival into the beginnings of a capable globetrotter. But here, in this story, mostly she gets kicked around a lot, learns to shoot a bow, and gets a small preview of her growing skill with guns. It was a game that made Lara Croft a bit more realistic (proportionally speaking) and a bit less sexist for a 21st century audience, and it overhauled the design of the game. Taking nods from Uncharted (which in turn was itself inspired by Tomb Raider), the exploration and tomb puzzle solving were reduced, and the emphasis was switched over to the gunplay and action. It was a bold makeover for the series, but it was one that worked. Tomb Raider was well received at many outlets including CGM itself, which is why this latest addition can be problematic.
Content-wise, this is the same game that came out in 2013, with all the DLC included—though that’s not as impressive as it sounds since it amounts to an extra tomb, some costumes and some extra maps for multiplayer. There are also a few added interface tweaks to take advantage of the new gimmickry that comes with the PS4 and Xbox One. Everything else is the same fun, well designed game that was released last year, and thanks to how recently the title came out, it still holds up wonderfully as a game. The main event here is the fact that the game got a serious graphical face-lift, and the job they did is impressive indeed.
An HD+ Re-Master
It seems a bit premature to already do HD re-masters of games from the last generation, but Tomb Raider has the dubious honor of being one of these “HD+” games since its graphics were already high definition to begin with. This, right here, is the selling point Square-Enix is hoping will bring people back to the game if they’ve already played it before. Originally, the plan was to take the existing PC version and port that over to the PS4 and Xbox One, but then something more elaborate happened, and Crystal Dynamics took another pass at the graphics, creating a new model of Lara Croft, adding in more physics and particle effects and considerably bumping up the resolution of the textures, as well as bumping up the frame rate. In all likelihood, they saw this as a “training wheels” project to get more familiar with the newest hardware, and from an efficiency point of view, that’s a great idea.
Surprisingly, the new look of the game is noticeable to even the untrained eye. Textures are much crisper and more detailed. Particle effects are everywhere now, with sparks of flame, smoke from explosions and fog rolling into areas. Even the foliage is more vibrant thanks to physics that now let leaves and branches sway in the wind. Lara herself is not quite the same Lara from the 2013 version thanks to the new model and addition of “Tress FX” or hair physics, which were brought over from the PC version, and, most impressive of all, there’s a considerable bump in the frame rate, at least on the PS4 version, which is averaging over 50 frames per second throughout.
…See the upcoming digital only issue of CG Magazine to check out the full review.
The Double Dip Dilemma
So now, we get to the crux of the matter. Should you buy Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition? The answer depends largely on who you are. Square-Enix is charging the full retail price of $60 for this game at the time of launch, so if you already bought the game when it first debuted, this means you’re committing to spending a grand total of $120 for the same game. However, if you’ve somehow never played the game before, this latest version IS the one to own, there’s simply no argument about that. First time players can safely buy this game with a clear conscience, as it’s a quality piece of entertainment that now performs better than it ever has before. If, however, you’ve already bought the game, and you’re thinking of pulling the trigger again, you have to ask yourself, “How starved am I for a new game on my new consoles?” Or, “How much of a graphics whore am I?” People with the disposable income who just want to see what their new console can do can also safely buy this game with the confidence that it’s jazzed up enough to justify a “next gen” label being slapped on it. It’s a worthy demo piece for the new consoles.
The people that shouldn’t buy the game are everyone else.
…Look out for the digital only issue of CG Magazine to see Wayne’s full thoughts on Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.