Back in 2013, Crystal Dynamics released what was arguably the Game of the Year in Tomb Raider. The critically acclaimed reboot of the nearly two decade old franchise was a much needed breath of a fresh air for a series that as of late, had seemed to lost its way. A year later now in 2014 with the power of the next generation consoles, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics has decided to utilize this power to give fans of the game the superior version....the Definitive Edition.
The Origin of Lara Croft
Tomb Raider tells the origin story of our renown protagonist, Lara Croft. Lara is setting off on her first expedition to seek out the lost kingdom of Yamatai. While abroad her ship Endurance, Lara and her crew is struck by a vicious, violent storm. The Endurance crashes and separates Lara from the rest of her crew on an abandoned island. Lara soon finds out that this abandoned island is indeed Yamatai and it isn't so "abandoned" as it seems. Lara is set out on a unforgettable adventure to uncover the mysteries and secrets of this lost kingdom as well as survive long enough to find a way off Yamatai. As good as the plot of Tomb Raider is, it is not what stands out most during her adventure. The development of her character is what is the most amazing about the story. At first Lara is an innocent, ambitious archaeologist graduate, but as the game goes on you witness her slowly but surely go through a transformation to become the Lara Croft we have known and loved all these years. The first early scene when Lara is forced to take someone life is an extremely emotional and intense moment for Lara and you can tell that it takes a toll on her as a person. Her transformation from the person she is in the beginning, to the person she is forced to become throughout the game is an amazing thing to witness. The mysterious island of Yamatai as well as the character growth of Lara easily makes Tomb Raider one of the best stories of the series.
New Lara With New Tricks
Crystal Dynamics has completely revamped the gameplay mechanics in Tomb Raider. Combat is incredibly fun. Lara has very useful weapons in her arsenal but none as great as her bow. Lara's bow and arrow is the first weapon you will get your hands on and more than likely the most used one. The bow is a great way to silently pick of enemies without alerting the group before going guns blazing with a more direct approach. To compliment her bow, Lara also has handguns, rifles, and shotguns. All of her weapons can be upgraded using points you obtain through salvaging items in Yamatai. Weapons can get silencers, more ammunition, faster fire rate, etc. You can also upgrade Lara's hand to hand skills in order to dispose of enemies quicker and more gruesome. Upgrading is a great way to encourage players to explore the world and salvage more items so you can eventually turn Lara into a walking armory.
At the end of the day, Lara isn't a gun toting, one woman, killing machine...she is a tomb raider. So of course she climbs mountains, finds treasures and raids tombs. There is plenty of that and more in this reboot. Lara climbing skills has never been better. Lara traverse obstacles quickly and with confidence. Using your climbing axe to climb walls has never been more intense. One mistake on your part can and will send our hero falling to her death. There are also plenty of collectibles to find and tombs to raid. The map is broken down into sections with every section showing you what is in the area. It doesn't always tell you where everything is. This is great because it encourages exploring. You can't just look at your map and go to where collectible is. You have to do what Lara does best...explore. The Survival Instinct vision is very helpful thankfully. Using Lara's Survival Instinct ability will allow her to highlight important areas or items near her for a short period of time. There are hundreds of collectibles to find and it will surely take even the best tomb raiders hours upon hours to uncover all the secrets hidden on this island.
Obviously there are tombs in this game. As you go through every area, every so often Lara will stumble upon optional tombs that she can explore. These tombs are riddled with puzzles that must be solved before obtaining those rare treasures Lara seeks. At first these puzzles are very simple but as you progress through the game you will raid tombs that have multiple puzzles inside them and will stump you for a while before you finally understand what must be done. Kinect voice commands and motion gesture features are also utilized. You can use your voice to do things such as bring up the map, switch weapons, resume from the pause screen etc. The motion gestures can be used to look at artifacts you find in the game by moving your hands to turn them around and inspect them. Unfortunately like other games the Kinect functionality is the type of thing you will probably try out at first and after a while opt to just use traditionally controls.
What Makes This So "Definitive"
For the first time in the Tomb Raider series a multiplayer mode had been implemented. If there is anything that should be passed up in Tomb Raider it is the online play. As refreshing and unique as the singleplayer is, the same just can't be said here. It's simply generic at best. There are your typical game modes such as Team Deathmatch and Free for all. Then you have "Cry for Help" and "Rescue". In Rescue , one team called the "survivors" must take supplies to certain points on the map while the other team tries to get a certain amount of kills on them. In Cry for Help, the survivors must get batteries by defending radio beacons from the opposing team while they are being "hunted". These last two game modes are unique from your typical multiplayer modes but not lasting. After a few times playing through both, there still seems to be something lacking and ultimately the whole multiplayer leaves you wanting more.
One word can describe the visuals of this "Definitive Edition......magnificent. The whole game looks absolutely stunning. From the moment the Endurance crashes on the island, until the moment the credits run across your screen, your breath will be taken away by the beauty of this game. Paying attention to detail is an understatement for how great Lara looks this time around. Hair physics, lighting, character models, colors, everything is top grade quality. Wind will blow Lara's hair around and also will bring dust in the air and blow leaves around on trees. Snowstorms and rain limits your vision and the beautiful sunlight will blind you. You can see the mud building up on Lara's body as well as sweat dripping from her face. The whole game is crystal clear as well boasting a native 1080p resolution. Performance wise, everything is smooth. Tomb Raider runs at a steady 30 frames per second and doesn't have any noticeable dips at all. Also this version of Tomb Raider comes with all the previous DLC for the title. This includes some lackluster multiplayer content but also gives you an extra tomb to raid in the singleplayer. The score for the game is just as great as the visuals. The soundtrack immerses you into this superb cinematic adventure and the voice acting is just as great. This Definitive Edition is just that...definitive.
Final Verdict 9/10
+ Lara's Transformation
+ Engaging Combat
+ Jawdropping Visuals
- Underwhelming Multiplayer
- Gimmicky Kinect Functionality
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition capitalizes on the success of the original version by using the next generation technology to make one of the sexiest looking games to date. Tomb Raider got the reboot that this series needed and more. Whether your accumulating a body count on enemies, raiding tombs, or simply sitting back and enjoying how gorgeous this game looks, we can all agree on one thing...Lara Croft is back.