Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
System(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics
ESRB Rating: “M for Mature” for blood and gore, intense language and strong violence
The Tomb Raider reboot was one of 2013’s best games. Its definitive edition is one of the best games available in 2014 currently. Yes, it’s early in the year, but I’ve seen the release calendar. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is one of the best things you can do with your next-gen console.
The Miseducation of Lara Croft
When we first met Lara Croft back in 1996, she was already a superhuman video game hero. This adventure takes her back to the beginning. She’s unsure of herself and whether she will live up to her family legacy. In typical Croft fashion, she ends up on a mysterious island hunted by a murderous cult.
This allows her to go from an archeologist that doesn’t think she can do this to the Tomb Raider we all love. She learns to hunt both animals and men, becoming the savior of her ragtag group of survivors. Bear Grylls would be very, very proud.
Of course, we’re not superstar survivalists. You’re going to fall your death occasionally, or be mauled by wolves. The death scenes are very graphic, and are the main reason for this game’s mature rating. I’m fine with that. Death shouldn’t be pretty, and video games often gloss over that. No one will accuse this game of desensitizing us to violence. The 30th time I watched Lara die was as uncomfortable as the first.
Lara puts points into a skill tree ensuring your Tomb Raider will be different than mine. She can choose from three types of skills: survivor, brawler and hunter.
Survivor governs abilities such as salvaging and retrieving arrows from enemy corpses. Hunter deals with Lara’s proficiency in wielding a bow, shotgun, pistol or rifle. Brawler, as you’d expect, is about fisticuffs and dirty tricks if you choose to use them. Hey, this young lady is fighting for her life and her friends.
She can apply these skill points at any one of the game’s numerous campsites. These also serve as fast travel points to explore this huge island. As you unlock better equipment and skills, you’ll want to go back and do some more exploring. You may just want to hunt animals, or just gaze at how pretty everything looks. This is a game you can happily trot to explain why you paid $400 or more to upgrade to next gen.
Tomb Raider is an excellent, must play game. In nearly every aspect, what Crystal Dynamics has done is the way things should be done. But then I have to stop and talk about multiplayer.
This trend of shoehorning multiplayer into every game isn’t going away, and it should. Assassin’s Creed is about the only action adventure series to pull this off. I would never say that only shooters should have multiplayer. But I’d be perfectly happy if no more action and exploration titles try it in 2014.
A title in which everything else stands out as Game of the Year quality only makes the ho-hum multiplayer stand out more.
There’s no doubt the game is gorgeous, but so was the original. As we’re seeing happen with most early titles, the PS4 framerate is slightly better. I’m not going deep into a framerate debate here, but I know lots of readers are interested in knowing that.
Voice commands are now included, and I’m glad to say I found them easy to use. But there are some unintended glitches.
The PS4 version recommended I use the word “handgun” to switch from bow to handgun. I discovered I only had to use the word “gun” to switch, which is quicker and easier. Neither way was more convenient than using the controller to do so, in my opinion. Lara’s enemies occasionally use the word gun, unintentionally causing me to change weapons. Until developers figure a workaround for these kinds of problems, voice control won’t be the primary way to game. I’m in no hurry for that transition.
It includes all the DLC available for Tomb Raider, but I wouldn’t consider any of that a must have. There are different outfits, a new tomb to explore and new maps for multiplayer. Only the most dedicated Lara fans are going to spend much time in that multiplayer, for reasons I previously mentioned.
This game inspired a lot of debate. There was the “rape” controversy. There are complaints from fans who don’t feel there is enough tomb raiding going on. Square Enix actually called the game’s sales (around three million) underperforming. Don’t let any of that scare you away, though. It’s a superbly crafted game and if you have enjoyed any of Lara’s previous adventures, you will find a lot to like here.
This young lady and her friends are in constant danger. There’s rarely a moment to catch your breath. You’re trapped on a island, which is full of wild animals. Then there’s a psycho cult. Then you’ll need to climb a rickety radio tower, and it keeps going. I come away from most good games wishing I was the main hero. In Tomb Raider, I left with the knowledge that if my friends depended on me doing half that stuff we’d all die quickly.