‘Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’ a gorgeous update
Some games basically scream for a modern-day update, sequel or re-release. (Think “Final Fantasy VII,” for one.) Others stand the test of time so well or offer so little to improve upon that it would be offensive to alter them. (Again, think “Final Fantasy VII.”)
The 2013 reboot of the classic video game franchise “Tomb Raider” easily secured its place squarely in the center of those extremes. Brilliantly written, expertly paced, emotionally gripping and jaw-droppingly beautiful, Crystal Dynamics’ reboot finally brought long-overdue justice to Lara Croft’s story. So when it was announced that a “definitive edition” of “Tomb Raider” would be released, with updated graphics and all extra content included, you can’t judge me for being a bit surprised: Not because I didn’t enjoy playing it the first time through on the PS3, but because I simply didn’t shellthe need to re-release this game.
In essence, while I was thrilled about the 2013 release, which fulfilled my own personal wishes for a compelling Lara Croft game, I just couldn’t imagine what would be added in the 2014 version.
After completing the “Definitive Edition,” I can say this much: Not much has changed. And that’s high praise.
Decked out in 1080p (I played the PlayStation 4 version this time around), “TR:DE” revels in its stunning graphics, rivaling that of the original PC version. But as I said earlier, little more is truly added to this already excellent mix.
Whether you want to see out full retail for this version really just boils down to a simple statement: If you haven’t played it already, and you own a next-gen console, get it. Simple, right? For action game fans, “Tomb Raider” ranks among the best, right up there with Naughty Dog’s vaunted “Uncharted” franchise. It would be a shame for you to pass up this gem.
An added perk this time around: All the original game’s downloadable content will be available immediately. To be honest, though, that’s not saying much. There’s an extra secret tomb for you to explore, but the rest consists of some multiplayer maps or weapon upgrades. (A note here on the multiplayer: It’s not particularly well done, one of the few flaws in “TR:DE.”)
One addition does deserve a bit of attention, and that’s now you can use voice and gesture controls on the PS4 and Xbox One. (You need the PS4 camera or Xbox One Kinect to use these features.) You can shout a variety of commands that can aid you on your missions. In my opinion, though, it wasn’t terribly useful, and I found using the controller more effective for these tasks.
For those unaware of the story, “TR:DE” recasts Lara Croft, tomb raider, as a younger version of herself, stranded on a dangerous island with a murderous cult nipping at her heels. Through her trials, and there are many though which she suffers, her character changes, testing her mettle and forming her from a scared archaeologist into the confident and capable survivor on an island that grants her no reprieve. (You wouldn’t believe just how incredibly filthy everyone gets!) It’s an engaging tale, one that will impress you straight from the start, and one worthy of one of gaming’s greatest heroines.
I do have a complaint about the otherwise amazing storyline and plot structure: It takes about 3.3 seconds for Lara to go from weak and frightened to brutally murdering her assailants. It’s something of a shock, considering she spends the better part of the game lamenting over her deadly choices. And though you’re capable of avoiding most combat entirely if you so choose, the structure of the action doesn’t really flow that way. It’s not necessarily a flaw, just an observation. I guess it wouldn’t be hard to believe that anyone in that dangerous circumstance wouldn’t do the same.
In the end, “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition” didn’t really add much to what was an already spectacular game, but it’s hard to not be impressed with these stunning graphic updates. It’s still a beautiful game, one I hope of many great ones. (The sequel, “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” is set for release in 2015.) Now it’s just all the prettier (even with all that mud and grime).
Five reboot stars out of five, and a critic’s pick.