Review: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Isn’t All That Definitive
Last year we got a welcome reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. So much so that many were clamouring for a sequel featuring this fresh Lara. Instead we're getting the same game again. Huh?
- Worth The Time?Oh, definitely. Every minute of this great origin story is still worth it.
- Things LovedEverything that there was to love about the original game is still there, only it looks better. Well, mostly...
- Things HatedA lot of work went into improving Lara's looks but the NPC and environment models leave something to be desired which is fitting for their dull personalities. No amount of visual polish can improve this bolt-on multiplayer component.
- RecommendationIf you loved the original game then you'll love the Definitive Edition just as much. There just isn't really a reason to get it all over again. If you haven't played the original then you have absolutely no excuse. Get this now!
- Name: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Competitive Online
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
- Developer: Crystal Dynamics
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Price: R699.00
- Reviewed On: PS4
Meet the new game, same as the old game. Well, that’s not entirely true because this isn’t even a new game, it’s the same game but with a fresh pair of prescription glasses so everything is crystal (hehe) clear. This should be the easiest review I’ve ever written.
Are you ready? Let’s get this review underway.
Go read our review of Tomb Raider from last year. Okay, we’re done here. Thanks for watching. Bye bye.
Wait, just a minute. Why does Lara look different and why is her hair a perpetual Pantene commercial? Also, why are these NPCs not as pretty as her? It looks like we’ve still got some work to do here.
So Crystal Dynamics decided that instead of spending the rest of 2013 counting their money… actually they couldn’t do that because it took the entire year before Tomb Raider became profitable. So instead of beginning work on a sequel, Crystal Dynamics decided to take the year to polish the game a little bit and effectively port the PC version of the game with its superior textures, higher frame-rate and TressFX hair physics to PS4 and Xbox One.
The result is a game that looks far superior to what I played at the start of last year but doesn’t quite match up to its contemporaries on the new consoles. More specifically, the improvements made are not even consistent.
To be clear this is still a fantastic origin story for Lara, it still gives Uncharted a run for its money, the gameplay is still great and entertaining and the NPCs are still dull cookie cutter characters. Those things are unchanged.
What has changed is that the game’s previously excellent sound design and visuals have been bolstered to draw you in even more.
Some sounds will play through the DualShock 4’s speaker to give the sound some depth and speaking of the controller, a neat little feature which some might not even notice immediately is that when you are carrying a torch the light will flash red and yellow to simulate fire. It’s a strange addition but a welcome little touch.
Lara herself looks noticeably different, as you can see above. However, the changes are good and make her look a little more natural. Little details like her eyes moving around and blinking really show the effort that went into her.
Perhaps the biggest little issue is TressFX which gives Lara’s hair movement and physics. Unfortunately at times it works well but for the most part her hair is constantly swinging about like the dreadlocks on a spaghetti mop. As someone with hair I was constantly thinking that this is not how hair behaves. Unless you’re Medusa.
It’s also jarring to see her hair flailing about when it really should be clumped together by dried mud. Not to mention the fact that every other character is still wearing a steel hairpiece. It’s a good start for hair physics in games but there’s still a long way to go.
The NPCs have had little to no work done on their character models save for some texture upgrades which look good on some and plain wrong on others. DR Whitman, for example, looks shinier than JJ Abram’s biggest lens flare. It speaks of an inconsistency in the attention to detail when creating the Definitive Edition.
The environments too have had a slight visual upgrade but it’s nothing to write home about. The game still looks gorgeous but it’s got nothing on the resplendent beauty of Assassin’s Creed IV’s vistas. The improvements are mostly with regards to textures and lighting which does lend the game a little more atmosphere and visuals clarity.
The fire sure looks pretty though. Then again, any and all fire looks pretty to me.
Essentially, lots of effort went into improving Lara’s visual quality and a lot less went into the rest of the game’s visual quality. Her visual superiority serves only to highlight how inadequate some of the characters and environments surrounding her are.
The best improvement that the Definitive Edition makes over the old console version is the frame-rate and resolution. It’s at a solid 1080p on both consoles and a silky 60fps on PS4 (only 30fps for Xbox One). What this means is that during moments of intense action with lots of hot lead being flung through the air and explosions popping up the game doesn’t even stutter and it looks great while doing it.
Perhaps I’m being harsh on the Definitive Edition but it does not feel like a year’s worth of development well-spent. It’s improvements are great in places, not so great elsewhere. It screams of an incoherence and lack of polish which is ironic because all this new version of the game really aimed to do was polish the original game up to a glorious shine.
The base game is still great and the improvements certainly make it a visually amazing past-gen title but not so for the current generation of consoles. The enhancements are simply not consistent enough.