Saturday, February 1, 2014

MiniREVIEW - Tomb Raider : Definitive Edition.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is the PS4/Xbox One up-port of last-year's wonderful Tomb Raider reboot.  A platforming action game with an emphasis on the platforming, Tomb Raider kind of shocked the world with how great it was after over a decade of Lara Croft's slow descent into irrelevance.

With Crystal Dynamics' reboot, Lara Croft is once again synonymous with the best in gaming.  I loved the game on PS3 last year, to the point that it earned a spot in my top five of 2013.  This review from the title's launch last year covers the game's quality and missteps, and remains representative of its value.  Rest assured that this game is great in all the ways that game is great, but if you've yet to experience the forbidding island of Yamatai, know that this is the way to do it. The Definitive Edition lives up to its name.

It boasts what Square Enix is calling "art book packaging."  The game doesn't have a plastic clamshell box - rather like the "collector's edition" bluray versions of Rocky Horror Picture Show or Pillow Talk, the case itself is a small, hardcover book - here, featuring Tomb Raider's concept art and some game-action storyboards.

And at the back, there's your game, snugly secured in traditional disc plastic.

Packaging of this type reinforces the sense that Square Enix appreciates how much we love games - how much reflection and honor we give them - and are prepared to treat the media with the same reverence as capital-G Gamers.

Elsewhere - as we've heard so much this past week - there are some major graphical upgrades over the original console versions, and (in some cases) even the PC version.  You may wish to note that if you have an Xbox One and a PS4, the PS4 is the platform to go for, here, with a far better framerate.

Rendered in straight 1080p with sharper textures, some lovely next-gen tweaks to depth of field (objects near the camera blur slightly as your focus is always on the background or Lara), infinitely deeper draw distance and a far smoother frame rate make this the final word in Crystal Dynamics' reboot.  Like Odin Sphere's PS3 port or Muramasa's Vita version, the additional polish and improved playability make the PS4 port the best way to experience the game on consoles.

One thing Crystal Dynamics may wish to consider for Lara's next outing, though - do we really need the much-touted TressFX?  I'm not sure we do, and given how much of a performance hit it causes PCs running the game, I suspect that horsepower could be better spent elsewhere.

It wouldn't seem weird if this was a day Lara spent fresh from the salon, in which her hair flowed and bounced like she was in a Pantene commercial, but by ten minutes into the game she's crawling through muck and encrusted with filth head to toe - so it's a bit off-putting when her hair gleams in the sun and smoothly ripples in the wind.

Her ponytail wouldn't be doing that.  It would be in the pupal stages of becoming one gigantic dreadlock. I mean, technologically it's cool - it just doesn't fit, here.

Even including its inclusion, the Definitive Edition is a very welcome addition to my PS4 library.  In fact, if I were to declare a "best retail game on PS4" at this precise moment, it would be Tomb Raider.

This is one of the most eminently enjoyable, playable games since inFamous 2 - a game in which one loses themselves in the act of playing - and the already-beautiful island of Yamatai has never been more inviting.

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