Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a great way to revisit one of last year’s best gaming experiences
If you thought that the launch line-ups for the PS4 and Xbox One were underwhelming, there’s some consolation in the slow, but sure emergence of games from the assembly line. After EA’s rehashes of their popular franchise titles, it’s now the turn of Square Enix. Tomb Raider: Definitive edition sees Lara Croft in a familiar but all-new avatar, raiding tombs, exploring jungles and such, at significantly higher resolutions than her PS3 and Xbox 360 doppelganger. And her hair looks great.
The reason for Lara’s awesome, super realistic hair is just one of the many graphical enhancements that the developers have imbued on Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, but let’s look at the content additions first. Unfortunately for those of us who have already played the game before (more so if for the PC players), the developers were instructed to not add any significant chunks of story material or drastic gameplay enhancements. What we get from the Definitive Edition is this: one single extra tomb to explore, multiplayer content in the form of extra playable characters, maps, items and weapon attachments which don’t add a whole lot to the experience. In terms of bonus content, there’s the Tomb Raider comic (a digital copy from Dark Horse, no less), a mini art book (also digital) and ‘The Final Hours’, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the game. All in all, it’s a decent amount of content if you’re into the game’s multiplayer, but not enough content if you, like a lot of people, don’t plan to invest too many hours into it. From a graphics standpoint, however, there are a lot of interesting additions.
Let’s start with Lara’s locks. Now powered by AMD’s TressFX 2.0 technology, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition sees individual strands of Lara’s hair exhibit an incredible amount of detail, moving with the wind and behaving in an eerily realistic manner. The newest version of TressFX (2.0) is supposedly far less demanding on the hardware, resulting in less stress on your PS4 or Xbox One. What’s more, it is actually superior to the version of TressFX implemented in the PC version, which was prone to odd ‘floating’ behaviour while being generally buggy. Another addition is the direction taken by Square and the team at Nixxes Software, who were behind the next gen port, to slightly alter Lara Croft’s features, bringing her closer in appearance to her voiceover artist, Camilla Luddington. New facial animation gives Lara even more believability as well — a variety of expressions such as fear, puzzlement and anger are more convincing than before.
Apart from the wonderful 1080p resolution and superior frame rates of the PS4 version (which hovers at around the 60-mark), it appears that a lot of effort has been put into the remake — of both the subtle, and ‘in your face’ variety. Lighting tweaks and colour balance adjustments make for a more realistic and better overall visual aesthetic, while the addition of sub-surface scattering results in better reflections of light off wet surfaces in particular. Foliage (complemented by several shadows being cast by larger trees) feels incredibly dense, resulting in a jungle feeling like, well, a jungle. The action-heavy chases sequences feel more frantic and chaotic than ever thanks to the improved frame rate and debris.
In terms of sheer visual fidelity, a souped-up PC (which is likely to cost as much as two or three PS4s) will come out the winner in a direct head-to-head, but Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is no slouch. It looks great, packs some features that even the PC version doesn’t have (TressFX 2.0, SSC, Kinect & Playstation Eye voice commands, and controller based speaker on the PS4) and is a great way to revisit one of the best games of last year.