Saturday, 1 February 2014

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

17 years ago the original Tomb Raider was released. Yikes! I tell ya, sometimes I feel a bit old when saying something like that, but this is just ridiculous. 17 years! It's hard for some gamers to remember just how important the original Tomb Raider was. Developed by Core Design, a developer who previously hadn’t release anything nearly as memorable, Tomb Raider pulled many gamers into the 32-bit era kicking and screaming. Some gamers went from hurling Sonic the Hedgehog through 2D loops and moving Mario along a flat plane one day, while the following day they were controlling Lara Croft and exploring vast, detailed and varied environments. 

Personally, this was pretty much the case with me. I remember the first moment I could control Lara. Upon seeing her there in all her 3D glory, it felt like a game changing moment. With Tomb Raider Core Design didn't just open the flood gates, but rather tore them down and in turn made (just about) anything possible. However, since those glory days the series has changed. 

After a number of sequels gamers were growing tired of the same old execution. Then the unthinkable happened; gamers didn't care about the series any more. For a time it was considered dead until the release of Tomb Raider: Legend, a reboot of sorts. After two more games from that era the series still didn't make enough money to be considered profitable. It died again. The latest game in the franchise is the second attempt at revitalising the series. Simply called Tomb Raider, it was released last year, but now comes a re-released next-gen version, a version that is called the “definitive edition”. Is it really definitive or simply a worthless cash-in?

Developed by Crystal Dynamics, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition goes back to the roots of Lara Croft. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition depicts a much younger Lara than what we've been used to, one that is far more vulnerable and less travelled. After being shipwrecked when passing through the treacherous Devil's Triangle, Lara finds herself on what appears to be an uninhabited island. However, she soon discovers that there's more to this island than she initially assumed, as she finds evidence of it being inhabited, dead bodies and animal sacrifices. Now, with the immediate goal to find other survivors, Lara embarks on the journey that will make her the legend we all remember her as.

Using a blend of open-world and linear storytelling, Tomb Raider is a third-person adventure that mixes three major gameplay elements together; action, exploration and survival. Movement and combat is heavily influenced by the Uncharted series, and ultimately comes across slick, intuitive and makes exploring the island an absolute joy. This Uncharted influence even extends to the weapons, which are fierce and brutal. But don't worry, while Tomb Raider openly lets you shoot down enemies at will, there is more of a focus on stealth and tactical takedowns. This can come in the form of simply sneaking up on a enemy or avoiding them entirely, or even to using the environment as your weapon. This is the first game in the series that has nailed the perfect blend of action and exploration.

That said the survival aspect of Tomb Raider, something that is never really done well in gaming, is stunning. As Lara, the players will need to better themselves over the course of the game. This not only means finding salvage to improve your weapons, but also means that through the likes of hunting, exploring and combat the player will gain experience points which can then be used to upgrade Lara. This type of upgrading system was somewhat touched upon in Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, but where that was a complete failure in terms of how it was handled, this time it's a fantastic addition to the game.

But wait, right now you're asking, “what makes this version the definitive version?” 

Well, since this is on PS4 and Xbox One what you're getting here are greatly overhauled visuals for the most part. Seriously. I'm not talking about small improvements here; I'm talking about greatly improved resolution, much higher-resolution textures, completely dynamic lighting, a brand new Lara character model that looks absolutely incredible, more detailed environments which include lusher and thicker vegetation, and it's all topped off by containing all the released DLC already on the disc. Make no mistake, this feels like the same game, but it has been perfected. This is not just a next-gen experience, but rather, as it stands now, it's the next-gen experience. However, do keep in mind that the PS4 version does have two things the Xbox One version doesn't have; a consistently higher frame rate and the ability to use the PS4 touch pad during the game. These additions, though small, make for the better version out of the two.

Overall Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is an absolutely fantastic piece of gaming. Whether you want to explore, fight or simply survive, this game has all of your needs covered. Set in a stunning world that is only made better on the next-gen systems, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a must-have. The best Tomb Raider since the original? Hell yes.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition explores new ground and gets a 5/5 [].

Denis Murphy

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition at CeX

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