Ever since Crystal Dynamics got their hands on the Tomb Raider franchise back in the mid-2000s, they’ve been cranking out some solid games in that franchise. Solid, but hardly legendary. 2013 however, resulted in a total reboot of the series that got the formula down perfectly, creating a new foundation for the franchise that was enthusiastically welcomed and appreciated.
It was a far more human Lara Croft running around this time,a young explorer who was fighting to stay alive in a gritty reboot that had no time for skimpy shorts or cheesy one-liners. It was a reboot that didn’t just recapture the spirit of the original games, it surpassed them.
Enter Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition. It’s Lara Croft, re-realised in glorious HD visuals and platform specific bonuses that throws in some of that extra DLC for a complete package. Do you need to own this game? Well yes. And no.
The biggest draw of the Definitive Edition, will no doubt be the visual upgrade to the game. It’s more than just a simple port or upscale of those graphics. It’s a genuinely massive upgrade, with Lara and her pals looking better than ever.
There is no hyperbole hidden here, as the game looks downright stunning. Playing on PlayStation 4, Lara sports dirt, wounds and scars as her journey unfolds. There’s still that uncanny valley hurdle to overcome, but dammit, these are some fine-looking in-game characters.
Are the little details are in there with these graphics. Skin that has texture and marks. Clothing where you can almost feel the fabric, Makeshift weapons that sport unique hand-me down touches. The island of Yamatai that Lara finds herself on, is equally beautiful, with lush vegetation and various ruins from the ancient and modern world helping to shape that arena.
Tomb Raider may have had a ton of concept art behind the scenes that helped imagine this island, but the definitive edition is the version of the game that has made that vision a digital reality. And on the PlayStation 4, this game runs at a consistently high frame rate.
Rare are the frame drops in Tomb Raider, as the action unfolds smoothly and vividly. It truly is a beautiful game, and one that has now replaced Killzone Shadow Fall as my go-to title to show off the hardware power of the PlayStation 4.
There are other features that have been added to this platform specific version of the game as well. Owners of the optional PlayStation 4 camera can issue voice commands to Lara, such as telling her to switch from a stealth weapon to a louder and more practical shotgun, while the controller is also taken full advantage of.
The Dual Shock lights up when you use a torch in the game, the touch pad makes for a handy map reader and hidden journals are broadcast through the controller speaker. All in all, a few nice touches of the hardware that is present.
As for content, the retail release of the game nets you all those wonderful visual upgrades, new practical outfits for Lara to wear, a digital comic book, videos, multiplayer DLC and a new tomb to explore. But the thing is, with all those new flourishes and enhancements, this is still very much the same game that was released last year on Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3.
Tomb Raider’s biggest strength is in its impressive single-player campaign, a story that can only be told and completed so many times. If you’ve already completed that version of the game, it;s hard to recommend paying full price once again for this prettier and slightly more substantial version of the game.
But if you’ve yet to dip into the new Tomb Raider, then this isn’t just the definitive edition of the game. It’s the definitive new-gen console game to have. It’s an ambitious reboot easily balances a fantastic story with solid controls and action, and it should be on the bucket list of every gamer.