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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

  • First Released Mar 4, 2013
  • Reviewed Jan 27, 2014
  • PS4
  • XONE

Surviving against all odds.

Examining ancient relics is just one small aspect of an archeologist's job. Sure, in-depth knowledge of deceased civilizations is important, but much less so than mastery of a deadly bow or a knack for a quick recovery after a bloody fight. Excitement defines the actions of an adventurous archeologist, no matter how reluctant you might be to bear arms, and you see this chaotic lifestyle through the eyes of perpetual survivor Lara Croft. Her life is one of bloodshed and misery, strength peppered with pain, and as she overcomes every crushing setback, she learns what kind of person she truly is. Such endeavors are so fantastical that her story of emotional growth is often overshadowed by the wildly unrealistic events, but the overwhelming beauty of the island is so gripping, and the exploration so expertly designed, that you become invested in Lara Croft's incredible journey.

The Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider is a lot like Lara Croft's excellent adventure from last year, only with enhanced visuals and extra features. Just about all of the downloadable content from the 2013 release is now located right on the disc. There are a host of new multiplayer maps to gun down your friends (or enemies) in, weapons pulled straight from Hitman: Absolution, and a handful of new characters to play as. Single player hasn't been ignored, either. One new tomb lets you flex your puzzle-solving muscle, and a variety of outfits give you more stylistic flexibility. Have you ever wanted Lara to dress like a 1930s explorer? Now's your chance! None of these additions are all that interesting, so if you've already played through Tomb Raider on an older console, there's little incentive to jump in again. Unless, that is, you love voice communication. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions support commands, so just saying "map" or "pistol" immediately does what you'd expect. It's not the most novel functionality, but at least it works.

Lara Croft is a junior member of a small crew searching for the remains of a lost kingdom that mysteriously vanished. Her companions encompass typical archetypes that are at once recognizable and forgettable. There's the scientifically minded man who wears glasses and shirts with geeky puns, the muscled fisherman who defies his impressive physique by repeatedly showing just how sensitive he is, and a stoic mercenary who's also a long-term mentor to Lara. Their names don't matter, because with such little development of their personalities, you quickly forget who they were as soon as they're offscreen. This tired cast is thrust into a story filled with equally tired tropes, so you rarely care about the overarching events.

It's unfortunate how poor so much of the exposition is, because Lara herself is well defined. She starts out as a strong-headed recent graduate determined to scout unexplored lands in search of this lost civilization, but quickly realizes the terrible predicament she's in when things go awry. You understand her unwillingness to believe the terrible events that have transpired, and feel as squeamish as she does when she's forced to kill an attacker. Killing eventually becomes commonplace for Lara, and though it's hard to accept how quickly she adjusts to this bloody lifestyle, her anxious cries during battle and exhausted collapses afterward make you see the scared person hiding beneath the surface. And when she finally cracks halfway through the adventure, shifting from someone fighting to defend herself to a person clearly on the offensive, you understand that, too, because everyone has a breaking point.

Her shift from wide-eyed adventurer to full-fledged killer makes sense, and that's precisely why it's so uncomfortable. We're forced to put ourselves in her shoes, question how we would respond to attacks on our lives, and wonder if we'd be able to fight when it would be so much easier to surrender. Smart pacing ensures that there is plenty of time to examine what transpired in that last deadly fight. With only a half dozen or so attackers, most battles are over before you get lulled into a rhythm that demands you turn off your moral leanings. So you scavenge for a while, explore the environments, and then face five minutes of chaos and screaming before you're once again left by yourself. Such deliberate and rare steps into bloodshed make every fight so much more effective and emotionally taxing. As smartly as Tomb Raider handles its rare forays into combat, it does a poor job of showing death. Lara is tortured in such sensational ways that it's downright gratuitous, as if the game is reveling in her torment.

The overwhelming beauty of the island is so gripping, and the exploration so expertly designed, that you become invested in Lara Croft's incredible journey.

Lara has no fear of being dangerously close to flames in very cramped places.
Lara has no fear of being dangerously close to flames in very cramped places.

Thankfully, you can avoid such glorification if you want. Just don't die! Though that's often easier said than done. The early moments of Tomb Raider, and many other sections sprinkled throughout the adventure, are composed of quick-time events in which one mistimed button press leads to an immediate end. Often, these brief sequences are a welcome change of pace. When you're ambushed on a narrow bridge, or are running away from an avalanche, your heart races, and these sequences end quickly enough so that you don't get weighed down by your lack of input. However, by cramming so many QTEs in the first 10 minutes, the game makes you wade through tedious encounters before everything opens up. It's a shame that the early sections are so dry, because the rest of Lara's trip is full of excitement, but it's a small price to pay for the graphical brilliance these sections carry with them.

From the opening moments, Tomb Raider showcases its gorgeous visual design. Yes, the Definitive Edition sports better textures, lighting, and a variety of other technical effects than its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, but it's the art style that makes you want to venture deeper into this haunted island. As Lara picks her way through a claustrophobic cave, or hunts deer in a forest bursting with life, you feel as if you're a part of this world. Summit a mountain and then look toward the horizon; the delicate light streaming through the clouds creates a sense of romantic wonder that would please any couple on their honeymoon. This is a stunning game that shows how technical expertise can enhance artistic brilliance, and vice versa, as just about every element draws you ever more into Lara's world. The odd hiccups, such as flames that defy reality, stand out amid the well-realized look that seeps into just about every other element.

And you have plenty of time to admire the view. Lara travels through many different sections of the expansive map, and almost every one is a small-scale open environment. Hidden goodies are sprinkled throughout; some add details to the backstory, and others let you examine ancient treasures. Though none of them have much of a tangible impact, the sheer joy of uncovering their hiding places is endlessly satisfying. Tools that you gain throughout the adventure open up more pieces of the environment, letting you pull down structures with a rope arrow, blast through doors with a shotgun, and overcome other roadblocks as well. This encourages you to revisit sections to ferret out every lost doodad, and I spent hours just trampling through the environment in search of condor nests and flags.

Come on, Lara, stop and smell the trees and worry about surviving later.
Come on, Lara, stop and smell the trees and worry about surviving later.

There are optional tombs to plunder as well. It's strange that a game titled Tomb Raider places so little emphasis on, well, raiding, but the bite-size side quests certainly add a nice puzzle-solving element. Tombs hide elaborate mechanical structures that need to be appropriately manipulated in order to make your way through them. You may have to balance a platform with weighted barrels or use the power of wind just right, and there's a thrilling rush when you figure out what needs to be done. Granted, many of these areas contain only one or two puzzles, so you may spend only five or so minutes in one before you find the treasure at the end. But even though they're brief, they provide a nice detour that urges you to use your cunning along with your various abilities to discover every secret.

Such deliberate and rare steps into bloodshed make every fight so much more effective and emotionally taxing.

Eventually, you have to pull your attention from burial masks to the armed men attacking you. Lara has a vulnerability that leads to a quick end if you get hit more than a couple of times, so combat is built on smart movement and steely precision in the face of danger. By standing near chest-high barriers, Lara automatically crouches safely out of harm's way, though don't expect to stand your ground as your killers swarm toward you. With Molotov cocktails and well-positioned shots, attackers make you pay for standing still, so you must be as fast on your feet as you are with your trigger finger. Roll from one pillar to the next, or climb up to higher ground to relish a brief moment of respite. Enemies pursue you, leaving themselves exposed as they try to mimic your motions, and it's satisfying to loose an arrow or pick them off with a pistol as they stumble clumsily behind you. There are some silly moments, such as when you merely wait for a dumb guy to stick his head out from cover, but combat is so fast and exciting that such missteps are easy to overlook.

Part of the reason the combat enthralls from beginning to end is how brief fights are. With only a few enemies present in most fights, you can eliminate threats within a few minutes, so you're back exploring the impressive locales in no time. That makes you appreciate each encounter all the more, and there is enough variety so that every fight feels different. You may approach a camp in the dead of night and have the choice to pick enemies off stealthily or take your chances with a full-out rush, or, in another scenario, you're hanging upside down in a snare while enemies rush toward you. Other times you're rolling around in a room with destructible pillars, or plunging through a burning building, and every fight requires a slightly different approach. This variety helps keep the fights exciting. Plus, even though you have a standard assortment of guns, the bow proves to be both more satisfying to use and more challenging. Taking out someone with the bow with one perfectly logged headshot feels so empowering that I deliberately fought without guns so that every fight could be as exciting as possible.

A gun? How gouche.
A gun? How gouche.

Unfortunately, while the single-player exploits are both inventive and exciting, when you venture into multiplayer, things lose that glow. Everything here feels fine. Sticking an arrow right through someone's head is just as satisfying here as it is against an AI opponent, and there are even traps to stop unsuspecting players in their tracks. But it's all so expected. Whereas the solo quest veered from the norms in interesting ways, such as by offering fully explorable environments and putting such a small emphasis on combat, the multiplayer just recycles much of what has become the standard in competitive arenas. Sure, there isn't anything inherently wrong with such uninspired battles, but it's a shame there aren't more interesting elements to wrestle away your attention from other games out there.

What's most remarkable about Tomb Raider is how its many elements so perfectly complement each other, so that no matter which activity you're currently engaged in, you're fully invested. Even the straightforward platforming, in which Lara's sticky hands ensure there's little chance of failure, is thrilling thanks to brief quick-time events that keep your mind focused on even your smallest actions. There are two things that hit me when I first played Tomb Raider last year, and then resurfaced when I played through the Definitive Edition, that cement this as one of my recent favorites. Lara herself is so well crafted that I grew attached to her exploits and was sad to say goodbye when the credits rolled. And the exquisite visual design is so breathtaking that I continually found myself staring at the scenery instead of pushing onward. Tomb Raider is a great reinvention of this enduring franchise that made me eager to see where Lara goes in her future.

Back To Top
The Good
Gorgeous visual design
Lara Croft is a well-developed character with believable progression
Fast-paced, varied combat is endlessly exciting
Exploring the beautiful environments is a peaceful diversion from combat
Slowly unlocking new tools encourages you to further explore past sections
The Bad
Gratuitous death sequences
Uninteresting plot and secondary characters
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Tomb Raider

About the Author

Tom collected every hidden item when he played through Tomb Raider last year, though he unfortunately didn't have enough time to scour every environment in the Definitive Edition. Still, he was once again sucked into this incredible adventure, proving that its high placement on his Game of the Year list wasn't a mistake.
420 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for kveldulv

BOught it for $5.99 on psn today. I bought the $60 rise of the tomb raider last week for $29 instead of this one and now this one was on sale for 6. Glad I waited.

Avatar image for dark_maturus

It's $9.90 on Xbox One right now. I might just have to hop on this deal....even though I already beat it on 360 ;)

Avatar image for ps3gamer1234

Bought today for 12.00 on PSN Store for the PS4.

Avatar image for gokartmozart89

I just picked this up on PSN for $14, and it was totally worth it! I had never gotten around to playing it on the last gen hardware, so the experience still feels fresh.

Avatar image for tshipe

@gokartmozart89 Haha me too . 14$? Can't beat that. I wasn't expecting much but I quickly found out that this is currently my favorite game on the PS4. The gameplay is awesome and the graphics are amazing, top notch. Best 14$ I have ever spent. This game looks and plays better than any new game out at the moment, and its over a year old.

Avatar image for bsquared

@tshipe @gokartmozart89 Just picked it up on PSN for $12. Lol

Avatar image for ps3gamer1234

@bsquared @tshipe @gokartmozart89 Me too.

Avatar image for dmblum1799

I'm gonna boot this up tonight. I live in Korea and Amazon wanted my local green card number and had a hell of time getting it shipped. Was cheap though, 35 bucks. Hope it's fun.

Avatar image for santinegrete

Great game, but the bad point of "gritatious death scenes" in this review is really stupid.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@somepolak @siickstyxx He'll do, eventually.

Avatar image for siickstyxx

So here's my take on this version only for PS4 and XO... the PS4 and XO been playing PC only! thats right Microsoft and Sony bit.h's PC's are sick! and this sh!t these console (dont make me laugh would never spend my mofo money on console sh!t) are crap don't spend your money on something PC's can own and use for a tool... pfft enough said!

Avatar image for somepolak

@siickstyxx tell me how much you enjoyed GTA V

Avatar image for frankmcma

I just finished this game and it is amazing. So much fun with a very likable central character, beautiful visuals, tight and satisfying combat, just-complex-enough puzzles, deep exploration and a rollicking story that keeps you on your toes.

It's funny, I had the PS3 version and only played it for like 4 hours, never finishing it, because there were always new games coming out to try. But I knew I liked it and always meant to go back to it. With the PS4 and not a lot of games early on, I am glad I gave it another shot. I finished the main campaign (about 15-20 hours with story, figuring stuff out, and exploring) and now it's one of my favorite games of all time.

I also highly recommend the excellent game guide by Brady Games, I got the digital version from Apple's iBooks.

The influence from Uncharted is very clear, and there are actually not as many tombs to raid as you think there would be. But the game has such a great variety of scenerios and edge of your seat sequences, it's like being in control of a summer blockbuster movie. I am so ready for the sequel! Highly recommended game!

Avatar image for master_ux

The game is Great!! I really enjoy it, the graphics are great, developers have done great job!!

Avatar image for paynec87

Beautiful looking game on PS4. I'm really enjoying it so far.

Avatar image for TashunkoSapa

So who is the jackass Gamespot editor that takes 1 point off each review score before hitting the 'Publish' button?

Avatar image for Venom_Raptor

Gratuitous death sequences. Tom is getting more pathetic with each review

Avatar image for marmotzero

I think I've finally put my finger on what bothers me about McShea's reviews.

He has strong opinions about particular games... that's totally fine. So do I! Nothing wrong with praising or trashing a game that you feel strongly about.

My ultimate goal when reading these reviews isn't to try to find someone who agrees or disagrees with me. My goal is to figure out if *I*, myself, would like the game that is being reviewed (to decide if I should buy it).

I can't figure that out with Tom's reviews! His opinions seem so fickle that I have no baseline that I can use to figure out if I'll like the game.

Avatar image for Blashbuck

maybe someone should take the time to review this website.

Avatar image for gamespotpanayis

Game looks great on both PS4 and XBO.. I really can't tell the difference. Would have loved this to be more of a puzzle game though.. As an orgin game, it seems to have drifted far from the original. (Although I don't miss the fact that I can't progress because I didn't pick up a gold coin at the bottom of a pool I passed two hours ago!)

Avatar image for cgobeil

I was sure you were gonna give it an 8, Tom. *wink* *wink*.

Avatar image for OneStrong2

This Tomb Raider lost it's appeal with the rape controversy; not to mention the death sequences are often needlessly excruciating and borderline sadomasochistic. I don't mind a rough journey. Nathan Drake, from the uncharted series, had more than his fair share of bumps and bruises. However, most of her suffering is the feminine equivalent of what Arnold Schwarzenegger's bulky physique is to the action hero. It doesn't make her seem tough, just like a test dummy. The series has strayed far from the beaten path, and I hope it returns to it soon. She doesn't have to be an action queen, just a Lara Croft who actually raids tombs again. No tomb raiders seem to be able to capture the feel if the original era.

Avatar image for bdous

My PC ran this with all settings maxed,is this edition better than the PC?I am only refering to graphics

Avatar image for speedy5212

@bdous They made special visual improvements for the PS4 and Xbox One version like dynamic trees that sway with the wind, more foliage, light scattering on skin, updated Lara model etc.

The PC version is the same as the consoles one. So you can play it on higher resolutions and better fps with tesselation but the game would still look better on the PS4/X1 version even if your PC is capable of more.

Look up eurogamer's digital foundry Tomb Raider face off for a detailed comparison.

Avatar image for pigsybum

How a game with improved graphics and more work done get a lower score baffles me.

Avatar image for nousername66


It was Tom McShea'd, which is a baffling experience.

Avatar image for FesterSilently


It's "Lara", not "Laura", fer Chrissakes.

It might seem like a nitpick, but the game (series) has been out for, what? Two *decades* now?

Okay...rant over. Now where's my PC Definitive Edition? ;)

Avatar image for pip3dream

I decided to play through this game after getting out about 60% of the way through on my PC when it came out - but ended up putting it down due to the distractions of life. Getting back into this game on my xbox, has been a wonderful experience. The game is TRUELY beautiful. Seeing it in high rez glory on my big tv is great. The Island environment truly looks a live, and I have to say the combat has never been more fun.

The story is still silly and campy, and really glosses over so many key parts of what an ORIGIN story should be.... but I won't get into that. The gameplay itself is intense and spot on. It's too bad they couldn't write a story that was a comparable match to the beauty of the gameplay and graphics... Now THAT would of been something amazing.

Avatar image for iloveyourface

xbone version looks like nintendo64 my friend has it looks like a frickin slide show. xbox just needs to roll over, whisper "sorry that i existed", and die.

Avatar image for pip3dream

@iloveyourface This is ridiculous. I was a little apprehensive about getting the XBONE version after hearing the PS4 was so much better - but after spending a few fantastic hours with this game, I don't see what the heck all the fuss is about. I originally played through this game on my PC - but I never finished it. I decided to give it a go on the bone, and I have to say it's breathtakingly beautiful. Seeing it in high rez glory on the Big Screen, with all the bells and whistles - it really looks like a next gen game. I have had zero problems with frame rate, I am really confused what everyone has been complaining about.

Avatar image for Enundr

@pip3dream @iloveyourface theres not a huge diff between the xbone and ps4 version from what i see , even as much as i dislike xbone and M$ theres no need to go about making up random BS like that XD

Avatar image for adkcrazox

You got eyes cancer my friend

Avatar image for karin_2049

I've just collected my PS4 copy with bonus artwork from EBgames. It looks great except for the fact that the pages just fall down from the bloody artbook! What's up with that?

Avatar image for iloveyourface

you got a very rare version i hope u kept it its worth over 3.7 million dollars. source: my dad works with lora kraft.

Avatar image for StephenSays

Wow alot of hate for this game?

I notice when a game gets popular people get upset.

This still is a great game but to each their own. And Tom reviewed it so...

Seriously the only flaw in this game is spoiler once you beat it the island becomes dead. It need boarderlands style DLC or more to do on the island like Far Cry 3 or GTAV. The story was enjoyable though.

Avatar image for heartindarkness

stopped at silly story i liked it !!!

Avatar image for marmotzero

@heartindarkness Yeah, I really liked the story too. I turned the video review off after he said that.

Avatar image for grey_fox1984

Just started playing the PS4 version.... oh man does it look nice.... Not a lot of reviews seem to be comparing the differences between the PS4 and Xbox One versions though, I'd be interested in a more detailed comparison. I hear they look quite different.

Avatar image for Glitterpig

What the hell is this "Laura" crap? its "Lara" Dickhead.

Avatar image for jayjay444

@Glitterpig "Lara" is her nickname "Dickhead", Laura is her real name.

Avatar image for OneStrong2

@jayjay444 @Glitterpig
You should both smack yourself you're even having this conversation.


Avatar image for grey_fox1984

@jayjay444 @Glitterpig ....yeah, that's not true dude- Lara is a different name, it's not short for Laura. That's like saying the name "Ryan" is short for "Bryan".

Avatar image for jayjay444

@grey_fox1984 @jayjay444 @Glitterpig Thanks dude I was trying to troll a troll and now I have no ammunition, thanks for ruining my fun:(

Avatar image for Jacksonfaction

Went through it on xbox360. Too easy and too short. I have played through every Tomb Raider except the "oh so fokin`horrible Angel of Darkness", and first two remain the best of the series in my book.
Still, this was okay, looked good and played ok. As did Underworld too while being also way too easy and short. =)

Avatar image for gamespotpanayis

@Jacksonfaction "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" was my favourite.. back to a proper puzzle game and with two players was great to play with my son.

Avatar image for pip3dream

@Jacksonfaction Legend was my favorite TR game!

Avatar image for NTM23

Darn, I had planned on buying this yesterday, and it was nowhere to be found. I asked Target; Fred Meyer and even asked and went to GameStop, but no one had it... I hope someone has it today, if not, definitely tomorrow.

Avatar image for pip3dream

@NTM23 I just bought the digital download - why not? It's so convenient.

Avatar image for pszone

sad to say I already got it for my ps3 and I wail until down price pre owned .

Tomb Raider More Info

  • First Released Mar 4, 2013
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 5 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Tomb Raider lets players experience an intense and gritty story of the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from frightened young woman to hardened survivor.
    Average Rating5050 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Tomb Raider
    Developed by:
    Feral Interactive, Crystal Dynamics, Nixxes Software, United Front Games
    Published by:
    Square Enix, Feral Interactive
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language