Before I begin, I shall direct you to the last generation iteration of the Tomb Raider review, covered HERE. This is because the plot and gameplay is pretty much unchanged since it’s release on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. That is why I’m only going to highlight the apparent changes in the Definitive Edition.
First of all, Lara has had a bit of a makeover. You’ll have seen pics on n3rdabl3 in the past couple of months of how Eidos Montreal decided to update the Camilla Luddington model to try and capture some more realism with the new hardware available. Lovely as the fresh face looks and with very few complaints, Lara sometimes looks a bit strained. Her lips move with the dialogue but the animation seems to be a little stiff.
There’s a bigger complaint from our editor, who misses the features of Miss Luddington that brought him so much joy. Taking him back with fond mammar… Ahem, memories to her scene of undress from Californication. Less about our pervy staff though and on with the review. I guess it’s up to personal opinion on what you prefer.
AMD’s TressFX technology also gives Lara a more human feel, getting rid of the ‘plastic hair’ that gamers have been used to for years. Hopefully we’ll see this nifty trick used in a lot more games in the future as solid hair always manages to take away the soul of a well designed character.
Second on the list is the graphical update, which isn’t just a few licks of paint like last gen HD upgrades. The backgrounds, character models and scenery have all had a going over and the standard of lighting, texture and particle effects is dazzling. So much so, that when you step into a sunlit clearing in the jungle areas, light shafts spear through the leaves with such solidity that you can almost feel the heat as Lara passes under them. It’s one of those graphical effects that can immerse you in the sensory perceptions of the main character of a game, adding just a touch more depth to your adventure.
Speaking of sensory experiences, I was pointed to the high standard of subtitling in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition by James Knack. I’m unsure of whether these appeared in the last generation version as I tend to play with subs off, but Eidos Montreal have clearly been active in the inclusion of gamers with hearing impairment.
Each character has their own tagged, colour coded subs, making it easy to distinguish who is talking in a scene. There’s also notification on background chatter and effects that signal what’s going on around you. Although it’s not quite reached the point of directional accuracy, for example when hunting, a sub to tell you which direction a deer might have brushed past a bush, it’s a huge step forward in this type of recognition that seems to go unnoticed in the gaming world.
So a huge thumbs up to the developers for this and I hope more of the industry takes note.
On the other hand, the other sensory addition to the game gave me a lot of problems. Namely the voice recognition that allows you to access menus and pause the game at will, just by talking into your headset or console specific camera…
This won’t affect most but as a Scot, I found that none of the commands would work. My sexy Renfrewshire accent couldn’t even get Lara to access the simplest action. I spent a few minutes saying ‘map’ in a clear voice to no avail until I ended up shouting ‘MAP YA BAWBAG!’ with still no result. I then had to resort to being a turncoat and changed my accent to an English one… The map popped up on the first go!
A bit of experimentation with a number of accents all had the same results. French, Australian, German, American, African, Super Mario faux-Italian, squeaky kid, Michael Caine and even Arnold bloody Shwarzenegger managed to pause the game, get into the gear menu and access the damn map, but noooo… Scottish is not an accent that’s recognised by the software. Lucky I know how to use the buttons on a controller then eh? It’s all gone a bit Siri! Fifty points deducted from Eidos for that one and that’s me being nice for the sake of younger readers innocent ears.
If you are anyone but a Scot, it will work, which is nice for you. It’s actually very responsive to just about anyone in the world… The less said the better from me though.
Finally, the Definitive Edition package contains a backpack full of DLC that covers new outfits for Lara, an extra tomb, miniscule though it is and some multiplayer guff like characters, weapons and map packs. that’s quite a lot when you consider how much it all costs on previous gen along with the game itself.
My parting note is to say, that if you already own Tomb Raider on the older platforms, you might want to give this a miss unless you’re a huge Lara fan, endowed with a large bank account or just a perfect graphics junkie. The extra DLC is more for those who are interested in the fine, yet lacking multiplayer mode and the added extras are classy but not worth shelling out £55 for if you’ve got the original.
Tomb Raider is still as absorbing as it was the first time round with almost perfect gameplay, great acting (except for Conrad Roth’s terrible Mancunian/Liverpudlian/Irish accent) and a great welcome back to everyone’s favourite busty relic hunter. If you haven’t managed to play it yet, grab it on your next generation console as its much more polished and the best way to experience Lara’s magnificent and sometimes terrifying journey on Yamatai.