Publisher – Square Enix
Developer – Crystal Dynamics
Release Date – 28/01/2014
Platform Reviewed – PS4
The release of Tomb Raider on next gen consoles has certainly divided opinion. It is not uncommon for game developers and publishers to spoil us with their ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Game of the Year’ editions. Full of extra content previously only available via download, all wrapped up in one neat little package. Generally they have sold rather well and yet this title has been met with such distain from certain quarters. Perhaps it’s the timing of the release or the chosen platforms which has warranted the extra attention. Sceptically you might say the publishers are taking advantage of the typical barren release schedule after the festive period, especially considering the PS4 is in its infancy. Whilst we all clamber for the great and the good that our new consoles promise we have on offer here a game that is still fresh in the memory, all be it with a few extras, should we really be interested?
For those who don’t know, Tomb Raider is a reboot of a franchise that certainly lost its way in recent years. Here, we explore Lara’s origins from a seemingly excitable academic to the ferocious adventurer she has become today. Shipwrecked on a mysterious island, separated from her comrades, Lara must learn what it takes to survive. It is certainly a much darker and more harrowing tale the fans of franchise may be accustomed to. The physical and psychological torment Lara endures will leave a lasting impression. It is at times brutal and unforgiving.
The story is set on a breath taking island once populated, centuries ago, by inhabitants called the Yamatai Shrines, temples and statues scattered throughout the land remind us of time long since passed. Accompany this with remains of WW2 bunkers, crashed planes and shipwrecked vessels. Broken and rust ridden, shanty towns and makeshift machinery. It all blends together to make this a believable and unnerving place to be. It feels isolated and forgotten. From the claustrophobic caverns to awe inspiring vistas, harsh and sudden changes in climate, and especially as darkness comes it is all very intimidating.
Thankfully not long into our adventure Lara finds a bow. Used at first to hunt animals for food it is soon that we turn this onto our enemies. A strange cult has taken hold over the island and now call this place their home. They are instantly unforgiving of Lara’s presence and will remove her by any means necessary. Pistols, rifles and shotguns make a welcome addition to the armoury along with the climbing axe, all can be combined to make killing swift and savage, especially at close range. As the story continues, improvements can be added to the weapons which adds variety and flexibility to the combat.
Whilst the combat is handled with a certain flair, it is the recognisable climbing sections that shine. Lara’s agility and bravery are certainly put to the test. Movement feels fluid and spontaneous, it is more forgiving than previous titles, there no need to be as precise as you may have needed to be in the past. Scaling vertical rock faces, shimmying along ledges and death defying leaps all feel natural and intuitive. Deserving of a mention are the rope arrows, these can be used to make rope bridges which encourage exploration and help traverse the environment. Lara fells like a true adventurer.
Due to the extra hardware available a few noticeable improvements have been made to the interface. If you have the PS4 camera attached you can use gestures or your voice to control certain actions, map navigation for example. Dialogue and sound effects are played through the Dualshock speaker. The touchpad can be used to light or extinguish torch or indeed cycle through various types of ammunition you may have available. Some of this works really well whilst others seem superfluous.
To add some longevity to the title there is the compulsory multiplayer mode. With only four game types on offer it will certainly not set the world alight. Free for all and team deathmatch make an appearance along with two team based modes that are very similar to most games on the market. There is something lacking here, you get the impression it was an afterthought and would benefit greatly from having more time and care spent on it.
Yes, the visuals are an improvement from the previous consoles. Environments are very pretty, weather and lighting effects are handled very well, it’s just not a massive leap that you may be expecting. Particular time and effort has been spent refining Lara but, she does not look quite right. The facial expressions, especially during scenes where Lara speaks, looks as though she is wearing a mask. I heard it said that it seems that she has suffered from using an excessive amount of Botox, this sums it up perfectly. The rest of the cast have been neglected somewhat and it painfully obvious. The story is interesting to some degree, it is full of clichés however. With games such as ‘The Last of Us’, they have shown us how characters can be written, here they follow a supposedly tried and tested formula and it’s cringe worthy. They sadly missed the mark.
Even sadder and the biggest mistake of all is the price. There is simply not enough here to warrant purchasing if you have played through it before. The extras on offer are nowhere substantial enough. An extra tomb, which will take at most 10 minutes to complete, a couple of weapon attachments and some extra maps for the sadly lacklustre multiplayer is quite frankly not enough. The game is just as good as it was a year ago but, no better. Perhaps this why cynics have called this release a shameless cash in and, to be honest, it is hard to argue.
Reviewer – MrBadDog
Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is out now for PS4 and Xbox ONE
PS4 Version Used For Review