Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Last year’s Tomb Raider reboot was an outstanding game. It took a few cues from Uncharted to help modernize the franchise, which was fitting since Uncharted took more than a few from the original Tomb Raider series as well. Tomb Raider felt like a natural evolution of things, with an increase on logical reasoning behind what was going on. It provided a relatively short, but thrilling single-player experience with a multi-player mode thrown in for good measure that fell far short of the benchmark set by the Uncharted series. It featured some incredible graphics that resulted in a lot of breath-taking views, and the visible build-up of dirt and wounds on Lara in the gritty re-imagining added a lot.
When the Definitive Edition was first announced, the redone graphics received the bulk of the attention – with much of that being negative due to the existing PC version already trouncing the console releases. Fast-forward to the game’s release, and that’s still the biggest deal. As someone whose PC can’t handle Tomb Raider maxed out, this redone version was quite exciting since even grainy videos of the TressFX hair-flowing system were amazing, and this version was set to redo everything. Well, there’s a downside to that. While Lara’s new face bothered me in pre-release screens, it didn’t bother me at all while playing through it again. What did bug me was the change in skin tone and changes to her model as the game wears on. Before, dirt and debris buildup along with wounds added a lot to the reality of things. Now, those changes are there, but far less pronounced.
The change in skin tone takes her from a light tanned color to a nearly doll-like peach. Her skin looks too perfect, with no real signs of flaws. Throughout the adventure, you get bits of the build-up that was there before but the effects seem to been toned down a lot. Whether it’s due to criticism of Lara taking too much abuse or just a re-imagining of how she should be portrayed, it hurts to not have all of the damage evident on her face. She’s still a tortured soul and you can see that on her, but it’s not on pronounced and that hurts the immersion. Similarly, the wound damage isn’t as graphic as one would expect given next-gen hardware.
It may seem like an odd, and perhaps morbid thing to find interesting, but the depth of her wounds added to the reality of things. It’s not just a thing with her game though – the Yuke’s UFC games last gen featured the same kind of sliced-open flesh and you could see into the wounds as well. While the last gen version of Tomb Raider didn’t feature a lot of depth to the wounds, that was easy to handwave due to hardware and you could just use your imagination to fill the blanks. Now, in the version that is supposed to be the definitive one, the wounds still don’t have much depth to them. It hurts the reality of things. Similarly, the lack of entry wounds in some of the non-canon death animations do the same thing.
The redone graphics greatly benefit the environments and some minor aspects of the side characters that add a lot to the overall presentation. The entire game was redone with new graphics resulting in more realistic textures on trees and additional details being added to the world – like birds flying above and more lighting being added to liven the world up a bit. Lighting is a lot more pronounced now, so when lightning strikes, you’ll see more extreme color saturation during a strike. Similarly, fire now lights up Lara and the environment far more realistically than it did before. The clothing on some side characters looks much better, while faces are hit or miss. Most cutscenes feature the redone graphics, but on the rare occasion that doesn’t happen, it sticks out a bit like the in-game engine transitions in the God of War Collection on the PS3. It’s striking in a bad way, but doesn’t take you out of things. The revamped hair on everyone is amazing. Lara’s moving around realistically in wind will shock you, while the variety of hairstyles on display is impressive for everyone, and those with shorter hair – like the main antagonist and the eldest member of Lara’s crew, feature incredibly-realistic hair that adds a lot.
While the graphics warrant the most attention of anything in the Definitive Edition, there are some smaller additions that haven’t gotten much attention. The addition of all of the multi-player DLC is nice, but not really essential since that mode isn’t very good. The inclusion of a bunch of skin packs is nice, but also not essential. The pre-release comic and art book are nice in digital form, but not essential to the experience. New next gen-only features include the ability to talk and change weapons on the fly, or bring up the map at any time on both the Xbox One and PS4. PS4 owners get the exclusive ability to use the track pad for lighting the torch and can use Sixaxis controls to move Lara around in a parachute. The PS4 version is lauded as having a smoother overall framerate, while the Xbox One version sticks to a solid 30 FPS and doesn’t waver. This means that animations aren’t going to look as robust as they could, and seems a bit disappointing for something called a definitive edition. Control-wise, the PS4 pad’s going to be a bit more comfy for every function as the Xbox One pad is a little harder to use due to the iffy bumper controls for attaching rope lines and making use of survival skills. If you’ve got both next-gen systems, the PS4 version seems like the one to check out.
Audio-wise, nothing’s been changed and the voice work is as equally great now as it was before. Lara and the other major characters are acted very well, while some of the lesser protagonists are acted about as well as they can be given their limited characterization that rarely rises above stereotype level. The cast did a good job with what they were given, it’s just that some weren’t given much of anything to work with.
The best way to approach this, and the inevitable next-gen revamps of past-gen hits, is how you would approach things like HD trilogies or remakes of PS2-era games. If you absolutely loved it, but can’t justify spending full-price on it again – a justifiable view – then simply wait for a price drop. HD trilogies tended to freefall in price, and while that won’t likely happen for this game for at least a little while since it’s on brand-new hardware, it will probably hit $40 soon. It’s a shame that each console version has some flaws though, since neither runs at 60 FPS all the time – so you know that while it’s called definitive, it could still be better, and it seems like the only way that can happen is via a PC version. Given what a mixed bag this definitive edition is, and its high cost with nothing really new being added, it’s tough to recommend a purchase at full price. Even though it’s an incredible game, it’s still one that can be beaten over a quick rental period, with multi-player that isn’t deep enough to sustain the experience for much longer.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for the Xbox One provided by Square Enix.