For many, the revival of Lara Croft’s story in Tomb Raider was one of the best videogame titles of last year. Given the videogame’s success (though reportedly still considered a disappointment by publisher Square Enix) it was perhaps inevitable that a second release would be granted, but it was a clever marketing decision that sees it arrive while the release schedule for new hardware remains thinly populated, especially given the lack of backwards compatibility on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The videogame plays exactly the same on the new generation consoles as it did on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with a visual quality that closely reflects the PC release when played on a high specification system. Players take on the role of Lara Croft as her story begins anew; her journey from wannabe archaeologist to survivalist is not an easy one and the player is in the driving seat throughout the adventure. It’s a darker, grittier Tomb Raider than we’ve ever seen before, and one that sets a good pace for the upcoming sequel.
The core gameplay is a combination of physics puzzles, platform challenges and heart-pumping combat. The former is graced with some impressive use of elements such as fire and wind, while the latter claims a standard of cover-shooting that excels beyond the typical lock-in mechanic. Tomb Raider does a lot of things right, keeping the player moving with a tempo that rivals most Hollywood action movies, and yet it’s wholly depressing atmosphere never once becomes overwhelming.
As will surely be the case for many Xbox One titles, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition has had Kinect features added to its repertoire. However, in a fashion that will again undoubtedly become common practice, not one of these features adds anything to the experience. Being able to change the currently equipped weapon through voice control is less reliable than a flick of the d-pad and examining artefacts with your hands in place of analog stick control offers far less feedback. Unnecessary and unwarranted, and surprising given that it hasn’t even been given a bullet point on the back of the box.
In terms of the multiplayer however, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is simply a transplant of a gameplay mode that was always considered an afterthought. It’s never going to become a mainstay of your online competition regardless of how much of the original downloadable content (DLC) – in this case, all of it – is included in the retail package. It’s fun in small doses, but a few evenings is all it will take before most will decide to move on.
There’s no denying that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is one of the best looking videogames currently available on the new generation of consoles, however some of the flaws of the original release have made their way into this second issuing also. For example, the TressFX technology used to animate Lara’s hair is fantastic in it’s execution but the gloss shimmer of her ponytail breaks the suspension-of-disbelief far too frequently. It’s easy to believe that every dip on a river or pool could refresh her locks, but the fact that the many hours or trawling through blood and dirt between offer no signs of matting is a questionable progression.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a fantastic adventure. From start-to-finish it’s a videogame that is made to be experienced, unlike earlier Tomb Raider titles which were designed to challenge. There is the occasional tricky puzzle or boss fight, but nothing that will stump an experienced videogame player for any length of time; instead Tomb Raider is meant to be played by all with an interest in the franchise, and in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Square Enix hope to bring that revised familiarity to an even bigger audience.