Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics decided to give “Tomb Raider” fans and Xbox One and Playstation 4 owners an early gift this year. “Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition” was supposed to be available on January 28, 2014, but retailers were allowed to sell the game as soon as they received shipments. This means that I was able to pick the game up four days early and spend some time with the full 1080p 60fps Playstation 4 version over the weekend. For the most part, the next gen version of Lara’s reboot is pretty impressive.
“Tomb Raider” was already a pretty good looking game when it was released early last year and except for maybe the price tag, there’s little to complain about in “The Definitive Edition.” More than just higher polygon counts and higher resolution textures, Nixxes Software and United Front Games put some work into the new Playstation 4 and Xbox one versions. The game features reworked shaders and lighting to improve the realism of Lara’s sweat, mud, and blood and other particle effects. It also utilizes TRESS FX rendering technology to deliver a more realistic hair simulation, allowing every strand to be physically active and have its own motion. This doesn’t work perfectly as Lara’s hair strangely maintains its style even while she’s hanging upside down.
“Tomb Raider’s” other technological enhancements seem to work well, creating a fairly compelling world. It’s really just problems with schizophrenic nature of the narrative that break up the level of immersion. Where the new “Tomb Raider” games works hard at portraying a level of grit, the main plot arc and supporting cast often come off as cartoony. The game is more “Resident Evil” than “The Last of Us.” Overall, the experience feels much like “Resident Evil 4 and 5” reimagined with the “Assassin’s Creed” game engine. That doesn’t make it bad, however and the new “Tomb Raider” reboot does deserve some credit for its attempt to take the franchise into a more adult direction.
In open world games especially, there’s a fine line that needs to be drawn between narrative and game freedom. While “Tomb Raider” isn’t entirely an open world game like the similarly themed and well-received “Far Cry 3,” it does offer some wide open maps and hidden areas (tombs.) Pretty early on, players can also revisit previous areas to explore and find collectibles. Two other aspects “Tomb Raider” shares with “Far Cry 3” are the crafting components along with RPG elements, which is arguably even more robust in this game. One of the collectibles are journal entries, which attempt to flesh out the characters, but while they do provide back story, they lack authenticity and ultimately fall flat in their efforts.
“The Definitive Edition” on both systems includes all of the previously released DLC. Unfortunately all of it is wasted on the uninspired multiplayer options. On the Playstation 4, “Tomb Raider” does utilize the new controller’s light bar and touch pad albeit sparingly. Like the Wii U, the Playstation’s Dual Shock 4 controller does have speaker which is utilized in the game, but can be turned off. Voice commands are also supported for those that shelled out a hundred dollars for Playstation 4 camera. The most notable benefit offered by the Playstation 4 version, besides a slight graphical edge, is the streaming and remote play ability offered to Playstation Vita owners. Even with some minor complaints, “Tomb Raider” is easily one of the best games available on the software starved Playstation 4.
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