Impressions: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
More than just a pretty face…
In 2013 when I played Tomb Raider on the Xbox 360, it’s fair to say, I was engrossed from start to finish. Crystal Dynamics had created a compelling story and beautiful world, far exceeding what the franchise had previously accomplished. I never once considered that the game needed any visual improvement, and yet, I’m not going to complain. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a great game for anyone who wants to relive Lara Croft’s origin story or desires to see what a quasi-next-gen Tomb Raider looks like.
One of the visual improvements in the Definitive Edition is an all-new Lara character model, complete with new hair (thanks to some fancy TRESS FX technology which allows her hair to flow “naturally” and not look stiff). Environments have been given a makeover as well with increased emphasis on improved weather effects and textures. The lighting and shading within the game’s environments are also a refreshing change and provide additional emphasis on the depth and scale of Lara’s surroundings. Only on a couple of occasions did I notice some strange lighting effects (for example: Lara’s torch casts an unnatural light beam every now and again). However, moments like this are rare and are not indicative of the visual success that is the Definitive Edition. Perhaps my favorite new feature is the 1080p resolution and the 60 fps at which the game displays. The crisper visuals and more fluid motion are welcome changes especially when lining up jumps and scaling walls, or scoping-in for a headshot from 50 yards away.
When it comes to storytelling the Definitive Edition is identical to the current gen title. In case you haven’t experienced it yet, this origin story is committed to focusing on Lara and how the traumatizing events that are unfolding around her affect her psyche. Her personal story is certainly one that is both captivating and tragic. It seems the harder Lara fights, the deeper she finds herself in overwhelming chaos. Seeing Lara weep over a fallen friend and experience the overall hopelessness of her situation was incredibly moving. However, as sad as I was for Lara, I found myself not able to connect with her one-dimensional crewmates. The only way we learn more about these characters is if you take the time to collect their journals around the island. Still, there isn’t much to learn about them in the journals and the only incentive to collect the whole set is the salvage points you are provided with.
Collecting salvage and upgrading weapons was one of the best new features to be found in the Tomb Raider series. It’s quite simple really: by collecting salvage you are able to forge weapon upgrades. These upgrades basically make your arsenal of weapons faster and deadlier. By successfully completing optional tombs and other challenges you are awarded skill points so Lara can truly become more prepared to face the increasing difficulty as you progress through the game.
There is no doubt that this truly is the “definitive” experience of 2013’s Tomb Raider. With that said, you are not missing out by playing it on PC, Xbox 360, or PS3. The PS4/Xbox One version is still a welcome and exciting game and you shouldn’t feel foolish if you cough up $60 to get it. Lara’s journey is a compelling evolution from victim to warrior. One can only hope that this births a renassaince for the gaming industry wherein we start to see more strong, capable, and intelligent female leads. If this is any indication of the things to come, we are in for a real treat.