With the mess of remakes, prequels, reboots, and do-overs over the past couple of years, it’s been hard to appreciate just what kind of opportunity gamers have been given when it comes to the subject of the HD remake or upscaled edition of an older game. Last year’s Tomb Raider was a rebooted property I wasn’t so sure about at first, given how “vulnerable” the indomitable Lara Croft had been altered to become. Though I was never that enamored with her original, well-endowed self, I understood how iconic it had become. I grew up with that Lara. But the games never truly gripped me. I found them clunky, frustrating, and unattractive.
As I grew older, however, I became fascinated with games like Uncharted, and Naughty Dog’s style that so many attempted to emulate. Crystal Dynamics had done fantastic work thus far when it came to Lara Croft’s many adventures, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I truly found something to love about the character and her narrative. Now that it’s finally made the jump to next-gen with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. The only question is: is it worth picking up again, or maybe for the first time?
If you’re experiencing it for the first time, you’ll certainly want to make the plunge. If you’re coming back around for the polish and additional DLC, the price for entry may be a bit too high. It’s a fabulous game with excellent window dressing, but it’s best left for first-time buyers.
The vulnerable yet indomitable Lara is stranded on the island of Yamatai, with only her wits and the tools she can find strewn about the island to keep alive. Luckily there are plenty of bad guys scattered around to provide ammo and a means with which she can find salvage and food to eat. Lara is shaky at first, but slowly learns about herself, her own limitations, and what she’s capable of. She becomes handy with a bow, able to put up with extreme situations, and the loss of good friends and allies.
The narrative can be a bit heavy-handed at times, but it’s genuinely engaging enough to get players to invest themselves in Lara, to believe in her. She’s not the same devil-may-care protagonist she used to be, and it shows. Every time she falls to her death, finds a sharp stick through her chest, or suffers from a broken neck you feel it. You’re pushed to keep going, because Lara is determined to make a name for herself and save everyone she possibly can. It’s surprisingly poignant, if a bit frustrating that Lara is so weak at the beginning, but very much a game worth playing through if not for its tight mechanics, jumps, and incentive to explore every single nook and cranny.
The aesthetic is noticeably improved as well, with jaw-dropping landscapes and dirt, mud, scrapes, and all the blood you can imagine caked onto Lara’s filthy clothing as she struggles to survive. It’s a smooth ride all the way through as well – you can tell this was built for next-gen, with noticeable improvements in frame rate and a general “polished” feeling to the entire endeavor. There’s nothing necessary about the changes that have been made here, but they flow so nicely it’s hard to imagine going back to a lesser version of the game. In addition, new costumes, additional DLC and a new tomb to explore, as well as a digital comic and multiplayer DLC are included for the ride. But as expansive as all of this is, and as gorgeous as the updated graphics are, this is still very much the same game that released back on 360, PS3, and PC.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is certainly worth your next-gen time, especially if you never took the plunge when it first released. But the marginal amount of content included and visual upgrade is only truly worth it if you were an enormous fan of the original game or are looking to go on the adventure for the very first time. Otherwise, you can pick up the original Tomb Raider on the cheap and have just as boundless of an experience. Splurge if all of that is important to you, knowing that you’re spending the money on a worthy game, but save for the future if you’ve already experienced one of Lara’s greatest hits.