‘Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’ upgrades the look of an already established series

4/5 Pitchforks

For all intents and purposes, “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition” is identical to the previous generation’s release. The story, gameplay, sound, multiplayer and yes, retail price, is unchanged. The determining factor on whether this game is worth the price of admission is if you’ve already played it on another system. If you haven’t played “Tomb Raider,” you missed out on one of the surprise sleeper hits of 2013. If you have played it, you’ll know exactly what to expect with the exception of graphics and animation. That might actually make you do a double-take.

The story behind “Tomb Raider” is a prequel designed to reinvigorate the franchise and breathe new life into a diminished action star. The younger, less experienced Lara Croft is on her first expedition out of college. She’s trying to prove to her deceased father, her crew, and most importantly to herself that she has the stones for chasing down lost ancient kingdoms.

Lara and her crew are stranded after being shipwrecked on an island known as Yamatai in the Dragon’s Triangle somewhere near Japan. The island is inhabited by the scummiest thugs ever assembled and some mysterious ancient samurai demons. The island also tends to trap its visitors and not let them leave.

 

 

Developer Crystal Dynamics puts the rookie archaeologist adventurer through the wringer by inflicting as much physical pain as possible. Miss a jump, and Lara could end up snapping her neck on a rock or being impaled on a shard of bone. Seeing Lara battered and bruised throughout the story lends to her comeuppance as a maturing action heroine, but it also makes her out to be somewhat invincible as she pushes onward and slaughters wave after wave of bad guys. It’s a tad over the top, but Crystal Dynamics does successfully reestablish Lara as a strong female lead in an industry that lacks them.

The definitive edition also makes her the most attractive lead thus far on next-generation consoles. The overhauled graphic fidelity is instantly noticeable to anyone who’s seen the previous version. The TressFX technology (yes, that’s a thing) allows Lara’s hair to look and move infinitely more realistically than any video game to date. The power of the PS4 and Xbox One means a 1080 pixel resolution and better frame rate for the PS4, which runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second whereas the Xbox One version does not. In short, Tomb Raider looks phenomenal. The island is much more alive than I remember. The details are stunning. This is the kind of game that shows off the graphical potential of the new consoles.

Tomb Raider’s unchanged gameplay is rock solid with a focus on action. There is less tomb raiding than some fans of the series may like, but the combat remains fresh throughout the game thanks to the progression system and some freedom to combat situations. Lara has a variety of weapons at her disposal and the ability to upgrade them, empowering her as the enemies continue to get tougher as Lara delves deeper into the island.

Not everything is as perfect as Lara’s hair. There were some glitches that forced me to reload checkpoints that weren’t an issue with the previous version of the game. The story also tends to drift towards the end as it gets even more outlandish than it may already seem.

The multiplayer is still forgettable even though it does look much better. This version of the game also includes all of the downloadable content previously released, but it is all for multiplayer.

There have been so few new releases since the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One that gamers are practically starving for something new to play. Tomb Raider is definitely worth playing again or for the first time with its jaw-dropping graphical fidelity.

While the story may run a tad too long, “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition” is surprisingly good as Lara Croft is allowed to grow into her role as a lead action heroine.

Reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike