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PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’

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editor’s note: Our full review of Tomb Raider (2013) is still available online

In March of 2013818yA5mNQpL._SL1500_, Square Enix released a reborn Tomb Raider, a retconned tale of Lara Croft’s origins. If you click the above link, you’ll see that I gave it four stars and suggested that it was a whole lot of fun to go through.  I also noted a distinct lack of agency on the player’s part and was distressed by the fact that too often the way Lara acted was determined by the needs of the story and not vice versa.

All of that remains equally true in Square’s new Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.  And, it remains true, because essentially this is the same game.

It must also be said that last year you probably would have paid between $50 and $60 for Tomb Raider.  This year, you’ll pay the exact same for the Definitive Edition (and half that for the regular).

Perhaps I should explain, this new version of the title is perhaps best thought of as a Game of the Year edition, but with improved graphics.  Quite improved graphics; graphics that take advantage of the new generation of consoles.  Make no mistake, the game is absolutely beautiful. The new edition also includes the DLC that was made available for the original (of which there is not a great deal), and the ability to use voice commands (more on that later).  It is, in short, a slightly ‘suped up version of the game.

The game plays equally well now as it did then and, running through it all 10 months later, I find myself enjoying it just as much as I ever did.  In short, what was a good game before, is still a good game now.

As stated, outside of the aforementioned new graphics, there are a couple of other slight tweaks to the new edition, but the most obvious ones end up feeling rather gimmicky and don’t add that much.  Chief amongst these is the inclusion of voice control for certain commands (bringing up the map, changing weapons, etc.).  This is accomplished on the PS4 by plugging a headset into the controller.  A nice idea, it is still relatively buggy – voices of characters within the game are sometimes registered by the game as potential commands and either misinterpreted to result in Lara doing something or result in a command unknown error message.

Another change features the use of the speaker on the controller to pump out some voices.  This happens on several occasions, most notably, when Lara is using her walkie-talkie.  She still speaks from the main speakers, but whomever responds on the walkie speaks through the controller.  Unless audio levels are set perfectly, the result is that you can sometimes barely hear Lara (yourself) say something, but hear the response loud and clear.  Of course, the opposite can happen as well depending on your speaker settings.  That is why having half a conversation play out of a controller speaker and half out of a TV speaker is a bad plan – the speaker volumes aren’t automatically kept in sync and suggesting to players that they ought to manually adjust the controller volume every time they adjust the TV speakers is ludicrous.

It would have behooved the developer, rather than trying to shoehorn in features of new consoles, to perfect issues that were present in the original version.81UWbU0D1HL._SL1500_  Two problems instantly come to mind here.  When in a cave with a low roof, fire dissipates from Lara’s torch in a less-than-believable looking manner.  Second, if Lara is standing on one side of a stone wall and someone hurls a fire-making projectile at the other, Lara can still be injured by the fire… on the other side of the wall.  Physics disagree with this occurrence.

None of the issues are enough to detract from my score of four stars, but on the other hand, the improvement in graphics isn’t enough to boost my score to five stars (Blogcritics not doing half stars).  What then is the result of my experience with the update?

If you haven’t played the new Tomb Raider and only have a PS4, not a PS3, it really is worth picking up.  If you have both systems and haven’t played the game, well, only you can make the call if the extra $30 to play it on your new system is worth it.  And, finally, if you have played the game before, well, I wouldn’t choose to spend another $60 to play it again.  I would happily spend half that, but not the full amount.  That isn’t to say that Tomb Raider isn’t great–it is a great game–but it’s not so different from the great game you played last year.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (2013) is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on Xbox One.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.