Rebooting Tomb Raider and telling an origins story of the iconic Lara Croft was a pricey endeavor for Square Enix, taking practically all of 2013 to reach profitability. With the hard work of concept and production out of the way, bringing Tomb Raider to next generation platforms is a brilliant way to both extend the earnings potential of the product while delivering a definitive experience to those that either missed out on Tomb Raider the first time, or simply want to relive it in its glory. The question is—are the visual and performance upgrades worth paying the full retail price of $59.99 if you’ve already played it or when the PS3 version is available for half the price?
Aside from mostly passable DLC being included in the pricetag that consists of outfits and a new tomb to explore, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is by large the same game as the PS3 version, just with facelift. Not only has Lara’s face been remodeled, but textures, lighting, shadows, and reflections have been improved upon. Lighting and fire effects are exceptionally superior over the last-gen. Carrying a torch through a darkly-lit cavern is the perfect example of why the Definitive Edition should exist.
Grass and other fauna sway with the wind and stand out. Sweat, dirt, and blood on Lara’s battered face is more realistic, as is her hair—something that has been frequently used to compare the two versions visually. Just about everything looks significantly better.
Despite the visual improvements, though, an odd stiffness to Lara’s movement and facial expressions still lingers in the PS4 version of the game. And even with the PS4’s processing power, 1080p clarity, and 60fps, framerate stuttering is still apparent during cutscenes especially. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great, but overall it’s lacking the full next-generation visual suite experience. Thankfully, gameplay is a lot smoother and fluid, even in the midst of an intense gunfight.
Having more options and features available to you is typically welcome, but tacking on voice-controls and DualShock 4 speaker functionality is a big miss. Within just a few minutes of testing them out, I quickly and painfully sifted through the menus to shut them off. Painfully, because a horrid menu selection sound (along with other in-game sound effects) billows out of the controller’s built-in speaker. That had to be stopped. Less cringe-worthy is the voice-controls you can use to swap weapons among other control options. I just couldn’t be bothered with yelling out “Bow” when I could simply tap up on the Dpad. Plus, voice controls had a tendency to pick up nearby conversation, prompting actions that weren’t meant to happen. I’m glad to see that there was an attempt to utilize these other means of control and feedback, unfortunately the execution was poorly done.
Without getting too much into detail about the game itself (we’re reviewing the Definitive Edition part, for a more thorough analysis on Tomb Raider itself, see our original PS3 review here), Tomb Raider has all of the elements that make a stellar action-adventure game. The lengthy campaign has a wonderful balance of over-the-top action set-pieces, interesting puzzles, and creeptastic exploration, and the combat is quite enjoyable—nailing a headshot with a bow and arrow is finesse-filled bliss. The experience is only slightly marred by a forgettable supporting cast and an upgrade system that feels more linearly-designed than one of choice.
Tomb Raider itself is well-worth the purchase—it’s a great game. The decision you must make is if improved visuals are enough to warrant buying this Definitive Edition. Frankly, I’m convinced that its release is more about profitability on a product that’s already crafted than it is about bringing a vastly superior next-generation version of Tomb Raider to the market. For $59.99, it’s not that much better than the PS3 version aside from some visual sprucing. Those that have already experienced the game aren’t missing much with the Definitive Edition. However, had you missed Tomb Raider on the PS3 and have interest in Lara Croft’s surprisingly fast transformation into a resilient killing machine, then you may as well pony up the extra cash to play the best version of the game: the Definitive Edition.