Definitive version, not so definitively priced
Tomb Raider had a rather interesting development cycle. It went from pure hype, to “this looks like an Uncharted clone,” to controversy, and back to hype. But all of that dev drama aside, when the game actually came out, I thought it delivered.
As one of my favorite titles of 2013, I really enjoyed Tomb Raider for what it was, and thought it looked pretty gorgeous to boot. Those visuals have been jacked up for the Definitive Edition on the Xbox One and PS4, but that’s about all that’s been changed. It’s still the same great game, for better or worse.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (PS4 [tested], Xbox One [tested])
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: January 28, 2014
To be perfectly clear, outside of the graphical upgrades, the Definitive Edition is basically the exact same offering as the original Tomb Raider package on 360, PS3, and PC. DLC has been bundled in (sans one previously exclusive character), mostly consisting of unimpressive multiplayer maps and even less impressive costumes. There’s also approximately 15 screens of art from the official artbook which, while beautiful, isn’t something you’ll spend more than a minute on.
You’ll also get a 28-page Dark Horse comic book, which serves as a nice little prequel, providing back stories to flesh out the poorly developed supporting characters in the game. It has a nice UI that automatically zooms in on panels, and it’s pretty easy to read overall. There’s also a six-part developer video series with Chuck‘s Zachary Levi. In other words, it’s all ancillary content, nothing to get excited about, and nothing really meaty or new.
The real question is does it look better? Yes. Yes, it does. That’s evident after the first ten minutes with the cave-in sequence and all of the particles that dance about in the environment, whether it’s embers from your torch’s flame or just general dust. Pretty much everything is better, which not only makes the game enjoyable to look at, but makes combat that much more intense when all of the enhanced filters are applied. Lara’s impressive new hair effects are a standout improvement as well, and her face has been completely rebuilt. Every strand on her head is active (and it shows), and effects like sweat are now more noticeable.
Bushes also sway in the wind, the water is more clear, and just about every single environmental aspect of the game is improved. It’s a good thing, too, as Tomb Raider‘s island is pretty iconic, and I found myself looking at some of my favorite sequences in an all new light. Although I don’t think most fans will care or notice the differences, I was fairly impressed by them.
Does it look sixty dollars better (or that much better than the already souped up PC version)? Not really — at least to most people it won’t. It runs at 1080p and 30/60 fps (Xbox One/PS4 respectively), so it’s at the very least on par with the PC version, even exceeding it at points with the completely reworked portions. There are other gameplay-related extras like Kinect support for the Xbox One and remote play for the PS4, but again, nothing major. The DualShock 4’s lightbar is a factor, as it flashes when you fire a shot or light a torch, and the speaker also plays random ambient sounds (which can get annoying after a while). Along with the PS4 version’s 60 fps, it’s the clear-cut winner here.
The Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider truly is meant for those who haven’t played this great game yet, and in that regard, it’s a shame that it wasn’t competitively priced. A clear amount of effort went into making this look like the best version, and with all existing content in tow, it’s also the easiest way to get everything. The catch is you’ll find it much cheaper on the 360 and PS3 sans visual upgrades, and even cheaper on PC during a Steam sale. If you’ve never played it though, wait for a price drop and try the Definitive Edition.