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Lara Croft is a popular character in gaming. She’s known for her appearances in the Tomb Raider games, dating all the way back to the original PlayStation. Her games are action packed, featuring treasure hunting story lines and fighting dinosaurs. Of course, Lara as a character has never really be featured for her, well, personality. You probably already know this, but from the beginning, she was designed to be, uh, how to put this nicely. Well endowed? I mean, she’s packing heat, but I’m not talking about her guns. Well, I am talking about her guns, but not those guns. The poor woman was designed with disproportionate bosoms so big that they would make Dolly Parton blush.
She’s never really been examined as a character, more just eye candy in the setting of a treasure hunting story. Last year a Tomb Raider reboot came out that took the community by storm, and now that same reboot has come to the PS4 in the form of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Finally, Lara Croft comes to us as a beautiful, but realistic woman with a real character and a really intense story. Oh, and the graphics are incredible! I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s start with the usual process, shall we?
The opening cut scene in this game is enough of an argument to show that this particular Lara Croft may be younger, but this will be her best adventure yet. The game opens with a young Lara on an expedition with some friends, and a film crew. The ship is wrecked by a storm and when Lara awakes, she’s hanging upside down in a cave, surrounded by dead bodies and candles. I’m not making this up, the game is rated M for a reason. Within seconds, Lara is impaled on a rebar and you have to pull it out of her. Yeah, that never happened in the old games.
The story of Tomb Raider is the origin of Lara Croft as a treasure hunter. She begins the game as a capable woman and soon finds herself surrounded by hostile soldiers on this island they are trapped on. She must find her friends and escape, but as with anything, it never goes as planned. Lara begins innocent, but before long she must kill and the way her character develops and changes through these massive hardships is extremely well done. Unlike last Tomb Raider games, she is human in this one. She is fallible and vulnerable, and it makes for an amazing character.
I don’t want to spoil the story, as that is arguably the best part of the game. That being said, Lara’s character is the strongest, while the supporting cast is a mixed bag. Nothing is bad per se, but they can be a little goofy or stereotypical at times. The same goes with the enemies, but again it never falls below a level of smirking. The story introduces supernatural elements later in the tale and while these aren’t entirely needed, they do fit with the Tomb Raider theme of larger than life. At least in this one, Lara’s character is not a physical embodiment of that theme.
Tomb Raider has struggled over the years with various control schemes and camera angles. With the latest release, the game has stuck with a standard third person perspective and controllable camera. That being said, when certain scenes kick in, the game will happily wrench that control of the camera in return for giving you a great view of the scene at hand. It’s a give and take, but overall it’s the best control scheme and camera I’ve seen in a Tomb Raider title.
Contrary to it’s name, there is little actual Tomb Raiding in this new version of the game. Tombs are relegated to side missions that you can undertake. The game isn’t open world in the strictest sense of the word, but it does offer a lot of freedom to explore large areas and find collectibles. The side tombs feature environmental puzzles similar to the rest of the game and provide rewards and artifacts at the end of each one. These side distractions are surprisingly deep and I would hope to see more of them as a focus in the next game.
On top of a semi-open method of exploration, Tomb Raider also features light RPG elements. Amidst your jumping, shooting, and platforming, you’ll be able to find salvage to upgrade your weapons, and earn skill points as you level up to upgrade Lara herself. It’s all easy to understand and use and adds a layer of depth never before seen from the series. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock various weapons, traversal abilities and more. The game is always introducing new elements to keep you hooked.
The actual gameplay on the PS4 version of the game is amazing. With an improved frame rate of sixty frames per second, the game runs significantly better on the next generation hardware. This means that firefights are more intense, set piece moments pop more than ever, and the overall playability is massively improved. There’s still the occasional glitch or weird jump, but the controls for the most part are fluid and responsive.
Tomb Raider was a good looking game on the PS3. On the PS4 it is absolutely gorgeous. Besides the improved frame rate, the game has also received a graphical overhaul and it shows. Lara’s character model has been entirely redone for the new hardware and the detail is staggering. Her eyes dart around in terror, her hands and arms shake when she’s cold. Her skin shimmers with blood and sweat. Even her hair looks more realistic, the way it flows in the wind and falls across her shoulders. The game looks even better than the original PC version running on Ultra settings by comparison.
The PS4 also features Light Bar elements such as a flickering orange and yellow light on your controller when Lara is holding a torch. The Light Bar also flashes when she fires a gun to simulate the muzzle flare. In addition if you have a PlayStation Eye Camera, you can use optional voice controls. These controls are cool, but it’s very sensitive, so if you’re playing with friends you may want to turn this option off.
It is also worth noting that the game runs at a higher frame rate and resolution on PS4 than on Xbox One. Not sayin’, just sayin’.
The Final Verdict
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is absolutely worthy of it’s title. This game was a fantastic step for the series when it came out originally and on the PS4 it truly shines as not only an awesome experience, but also as an early example of the power that this new console provides. This new version also includes a bonus tomb, all the multiplayer DLC, and skins for the single player. Whether you’ve played it once, or three times, check this version out. You’ll be glad you did.
Tips for Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Back again, and once more our fans have spoken with resounding and profound tips for the readers of this humble review. I've taken your Facebook tips, laughed at your jokes about Laura Croft's body, and compiled a list of (useful) tips for those ready to jump into the game. Here are the top ten things to remember when playing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.
#1 - Salvage and loot whatever you can.
Tomb raider is one of those games where you feel like you're going to have a kleptomaniac heart attack. You may not care about collectibles or upgrades, but this game will wrench everything from you and tell you that you need to survive. When that survival mode kicks in, you realize that everything matters, more so than ever. Case and point, loot everything. Boxes, animals, anything you can get your hands on will yield something you can use to better your character and therefore your experience. This is my number one tip for a reason.
#2 - Hunt animals for experience and salvage.
Going off of my point above, this game features a hunting element. You'll come across all kinds of animals and even though you may want to just leave them be, I implore you to destroy them before they can utter their respective animal noise. Am I evil? No, I'm a survivor, and these animals will give you precious experience for level ups and salvage for upgrades. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust indeed. Don't let them go to waste.
#3 - Explore the side tombs as you find them.
Here's a fun fact, it's called Tomb Raider, but you barely see any tombs in this one. There are some however, and they act as side areas. You can hear a distinct bell chime when you come across one, and you'll usually see some sort of symbol or drawing painted near the entrance. These little side areas feature some clever puzzles and yield distinct rewards. Not to mention, they make you feel like you're, ya know, raiding tombs?
#4 - Here are some good skills to upgrade first.
You see all these options for skills and you think, wow, I wish there was something or someone who would help me pick, because otherwise I'm just going to sit on this screen until I suddenly have an existential breakdown and cry myself to sleep. Relax, we've got you covered. Make sure to get get advanced salvaging, bone collector, and pain tolerance first. Sounds like a recipe for creating Bear Grylls or perhaps the Hulk, but no, the result is far more attractive and doesn't require drinking your own pee. (hopefully you know that reference)
#5 - Gather the GPS caches.
You'll come across these collectible USB drive looking things that are only visible by their sparkling indicators. These collectibles are useful as they unlock more detailed map layouts for you, in addition to fulfilling collectible quests. Two birds, one stone, and a heck of a lot of USB flash drives.
#6 - Hidden treasures and documents are everywhere.
Tomb Raider has some awesome cut scenes, and yes, I'm referring to more than just Lara's new character model being front and center. That being said, this game has a lot of collectible treasures and hidden documents. When you find these, inspect them to hear more about the game's world and back story. You'll even hear the character who wrote it narrating through your Dualshock 4 speaker!
#7 - Save your ammo for the real enemies
I think Finding Nemo was on to something with the "Fish are Friends, not Food" deal, and while I don't think I've seen many fish in Tomb Raider, the phrase applies very slightly to my next point. Anything that isn't fish, but moves around is either food or your enemy. Case and point, the phrase really does only apply to fish. Doubly so for me since I'm allergic to fish. Anyway, use your bow in the game to fight animals, save the bullets for human enemies as it works far better on them.
#8 - How to deal with in-laws and heavy enemies.
Full disclosure, I don't think anyone has a solid method for dealing with your in-laws. That being said, I can help with the heavy guys. The best tactic here is to start from afar with your rifle, and when they inevitably lumber close, switch to your shotgun. Very similar to Atlas' advice in the first Bioshock game; "Zap 'em and whack 'em, the one two punch!"
#9 - Explosive barrels are a blessing, and a very painful curse.
We as gamers will always see an industrial red barrel as something eternally filled with a liquid that reacts violently to gunfire. That being said, any and all instances of real life people shooting red barrels is completely unrelated. In Tomb Raider, these barrels are seemingly everywhere and can be used to create a sudden presence of fire near and on your enemies. Convenient, yes, and these should be used when seen. However, every rose has it's thorns and these are a doozy. Enemies will shoot them when you're close by so keep this double edged sword in mind before it gets you in the back, and then roasts you like a Christmas Ham.
#10 - Keep an eye out for weird collectibles
You know what I think when I see a banner with an enemy vigil on it? I'll burn that sucker and really get their britches in a bunch! No, I don't think that, but I do think the word britches is fantastic and needs to make a comeback. In all seriousness, keep an eye out for collectible objectives such as burning banners, lighting effigies, or hopefully if your lucky, collecting teddy bears. (Disclaimer: The last example does not exist in the game, Tomb Raider.)
Final Score: 9/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 01/14/2014