Following on from the success of the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise and its subsequent Game of the Year editions, Square Enix have decided to try something a little bit different and release the game once more, this time in the guise of a Definitive Edition on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Reviewing a title that to be fair most of you will have played, heard about or read existing reviews of is a slightly tricky beast. The core of the game itself, multiplayer and all, is completely identical to the 2013 release, so rather than rehash old ground I’ll simply point you to craigehs’ spot on review of the original release of the title on this very site and move onto covering what the definitive edition is all about.
Taking its cues from the Game of the Year edition, the Definitive Edition has all previously available DLC integrated into game. This takes the form of over half a dozen new multiplayer maps along with some additional weapons from the Hitman franchise for use in Multiplayer. The single player game benefits from some alternate outfits for Lara along with a couple of extra tombs to, um, raid. I’ll be honest though, the DLC was a pretty weak offering in the first place, the single player tombs are about 10 minutes of gameplay and the multiplayer maps do little other than offer a recycled venue from the main game to die horribly on. Curiously one piece of DLC is missing; the ability to play Multiplayer as Zachary Levi, although I’m not sure anyone will really miss it. Digital versions of the art books and comics that came with the swankier physical editions are now also included and can be accessed via an in-game menu.
The main selling point of the Definitive Edition though isn’t the ability to dress Lara up as Amelia Earhart or the chance to read a pretty ropey comic prequel. It’s the chance to play the game in stunning 1080p with massively overhauled textures, lighting and the ludicrously named “hair simulation engine” TRESS FX. It’s here that the Definitive Edition truly shines. I struggle to think of a single title currently available that looks so fantastic or that runs so smoothly. There’s some frame rate differences between the PS4 version and the allegedly inferior Xbox One version, but not once have I noticed any stuttering. The game feels incredibly smooth while maintaining a level of visual detail that, without sounding totally hyperbolic, is nothing short of breathtaking. Several times I’ve found myself simply standing still staring out into the horizon marveling at just how good the game looks. The entire weather engine has been significantly overhauled to add a further degree of brutality to the struggle of Lara’s journey on the island; the tropical storm near the beginning of the game is especially impressive.
In addition to the staggering visual updates to the game, a selection of platform specific features have been included in order to pay lip service to some of the features available on the newer consoles. On the PS4 version the lightbar on the DualShock 4 glows when you use a torch while the Xbox One version enables you to examine artifacts and your environment more precisely through the use of gesture controls. Both versions also include the ability to navigate the menus through voice commands, although as usual you’re much better served simply using the pad.
Quantifying the value of this title is a tricky one especially as there are no upgrade offers available. If you already own Tomb Raider on the PS3 or Xbox 360 you might not feel the need to pay the full price again just to have a really, really pretty version of the game. However if you’ve yet to play any version of it or you really want to run through it again while reminding yourself just why you bought that new console you’ll find few games offering a comparable visual experience. If you still can’t make up your mind, Square Enix have crafted a handy flowchart for just such an occasion.
Rather than a lazy exercise in chucking a last gen title onto the new current gen, sticking the DLC in and calling it a job well done, Square Enix have instead pulled out all the stops and crafted an experience that truly does live up to its definitive moniker and hopefully opens the door for more titles from the PS3 and Xbox 360 era to receive this treatment. Sleeping Dogs, I’m looking at you.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One Release Date: 31/01/14
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Tomb Raider for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on an Xbox One. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.