Version Tested: Xbox One
January is often a dry month in the world of gaming. Developers and publishers realize that most of us are gluttonised during the Christmas period, not just on food but on the plethora of games and bundles that are churned out at the end of the year. Square Enix have decided to take advantage of this relative lull in the market to redefine their popular Tomb Raider title, both for Xbox One & PS4.
As the petty ‘war’ between consoles rumbles on, Tomb Raider throws itself into the mire with claims from many that it runs at 60fps on PS4 and only 30fps on Xbox One. Maybe due to the fact that the two versions were ‘redefined’ by two different studios. While this seems to be confirmed as truth, does it really matter? Graphics are not the be all and end all of games and while I appreciate that all modern games are hoping to achieve a degree of realism and may wish for the highest possible fps, let’s not forget the difficulty in achieving seamlessness at 60fps, as the bug riddled Battlefield 4 demonstrates.
Tomb Raider – played through on Xbox One in this case – is noticeably better than its original form and every bit as enjoyable.
I’ll assume everyone is aware the lifeblood of Tomb Raider is Lara Croft? Even though in previous games she may appear buxom and blocky, that’s more from poor graphical capabilities than a misogynist view, right? The Definitive Edition of Lara is reborn instantly, with us identifying with her dreams through the opening cut scenes depicting her as a driven archaeologist, to a vulnerable girl alone in the wilderness, through to a fearless, blood-thirsty warrior. The transition of Lara throughout the game divides opinion and is one of key discussion points on many a comment-thread.
Lara and her team venture to the island of Yamatai to learn more about the mythical Sun Queen, when their boat is hurled into a storm and wrecked on the coast. Lara is instantly separated from her team and left alone but instantly hit over the head by a shadowy figure before she has a chance to take in the scenery.
Gameplay starts with Lara hanging upside down in a cocoon. Here we are tasked with the first of many puzzles; controls are simple and only explained once, but if you ever seem stuck and start doing the wrong thing, Lara will drop subtle hints to put you on the right track. Once led through the controls, players will quickly see this is no ordinary island; cult carvings and sacrificial tables can be found, along with more human bones than you can shake a bow at. It quickly becomes obvious that Tomb Raider is based on survival.
The ability to solve puzzles is key to survival and escape, and while the game will always force you to follow the story, exploration is also possible and reaps rewards with a surplus of caches and ‘treasures’ to be found. The initial escape shows a startling and somewhat unrealistic adaption in our vulnerable Lara, as she takes fall after burn after punch after puncture and manages to carry on. Ten minutes in and Lara isn’t quite what she seemed, although totally what we all hoped.
As we progress through the game, Lara learns how to adapt to the wild, surviving through hunting and scavenging. In searching for her friends, we encounter the malevolent cult where we discover it’s kill or be killed. Lara quickly shows her training – learnt from her Dad, apparently – and brutality, yet at an obvious price to her soul and struggles to cope with the killing she dishes out, but only for a few minutes.
The Definitive Edition has ironed out a few bugs present in previous-gen versions and makes the game look doubly fantastic, I originally played this on a dying 360 Elite and, at times, it just wouldn’t load backgrounds. On Xbox One, the scenery is in full gleam, traversing rock walls and cliff paths has never looked so good, nor felt so terrifying.
As she travels, Lara learns the secrets of the island and how to save her friends. To help her, we can use base camps to fast travel, upgrade skills on a very simple, yet smart skill tree or upgrade weapons with salvage found throughout the island. We acquire a pistol, machine gun and shotgun to go along with our bow, and gaining upgrades to all these weapons is not only key to surviving, but also key to traversing and exploring the island.
The diversity of weapons allows us to decide how we wish to play the game; enemies can be taken down stealthily, brutally or with all out guns-a-blazing. As referred to in this As We Play, the sudden change from vulnerable archaeologist to bloodthirsty avenger is very sudden, despite Lara’s moans as she performs what my button-bashing requires of her.
As we delve deeper into the game, we discover the disturbing nature of the island and its inhabitants, as well as learning more about the crew we arrived with. Thankfully they’ve left a few diaries around the island to provide information but cut-scenes also depict the personality of the crew, giving hints as to how this story will twist and turn.
What Tomb Raider does very well is its gradual increase in difficulty, as well as unlocking upgrades to weapons as the story progresses. This allows areas to be revisited and previously unavailable tombs will still be accessible and free for us to find the hidden salvage within. The difficulty levels perfectly reflect the story and Lara’s growing ability.
We also have the opportunity to try our hand at multiplayer for the first time in the series and it’s a great side-line to the story. I had no problem online where there are a number of maps to choose from. In each match there are two teams, 4 survivors and 4 scavengers playing Team Deathmatch, Cry for Help or Private Rescue. The two latter game modes are a refreshing addition to the usual modes found in other shooters.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is enjoyable from first to last, survival is brutal, yet rewarding with exploration elements fun and challenging. There are a few holes in the writing and several ‘that’s just silly’ moments but these don’t detract from an overall great gaming experience.
Areas for Development
- Lara’s rise from girl to badass could definitely have been paced better
- Lara is covered in dried mud very early on till the end, despite constantly falling in water
- Character animations can still be improved, i.e. hair/clothing mechanics
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a more complete version of the original title, which in itself was a great game. It’s enjoyable and fast-paced, making it very hard to put down. No previous experience of similar games or older Tomb Raiders is required with tutorial and difficulty levels soundly incorporated. The game environment is dark, twisted and full of suspense and it works very, very well. The game could have benefitted from a touch more realism, but as the first major reinvention of the Tomb Raider series, it’s a damn good effort and no doubt the next Tomb Raider will address any faults found in this game, of which there are few.
Technical Competency – 9/10
Graphical State/Sound Quality – 9/10
Network Stability – 10/10
Overall – 9/10
To read our thoughts on Tomb Raider for Xbox 360, take a look at this