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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition PS4 reviewed by Ray Ivey. "Tomb Raider is that rare game that fires on all cylinders."


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The Tomb Raider franchise has been around since 1996, and has spawned at least fifteen games across more than a dozen platforms. It’s also produced movies, theme park rides, comic books and novels. There just doesn’t seem to be any stopping its hero, Lara Croft.

In 2006, Crystal Dynamics gave the series its first major reboot with Tomb Raider: Legend, which was a pretty dandy game.

Then in 2013, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics re-booted the franchise for a second time with a new game simply titled Tomb Raider. That game was retooled for the PS4 and released as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which is the game I’m reviewing.

Let me get this out of the way: Tomb Raider is a spectacular piece of entertainment. It was the first game I played on my shiny new PS4, and it’s hard to imagine a better choice.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is an origin story, and the college student you meet at the beginning of the game is a far cry from the fierce warrior you may be used to when you think of Lara Croft.

This Lara is a smart, opinionated, driven archaeological grad student on an exciting mission with one of her professors and a small group of adventurers. They are looking for a fabled lost Japanese civilization, and possibly getting close to their goal when a bizarre storm overtakes them, destroys their ship, and scatters the members of the expedition.

Whether the island is the home to an ancient god-princess or not, it is very definitely populated by a plethora of wild beasts and some very nasty and unwelcoming humans. Lara has to transform herself from a coddled academic into a survivor, and ultimately into a killer. It’s a tribute to the skills of the game designers that this journey has a great deal of heft and impact. The first time Lara kills someone, you really sense the corner she’s turned.

For the remainder of the game, she must explore the island, uncovering its secrets, all the while defending herself from the bad guys and doing her best to rescue her surviving friends.

All of this is pretty boilerplate, I’ll grant you, but it’s the execution here that shines.

The controls are fluid and intuitive. Lara starts with the basics: walking, running, and jumping. Then climbing, vaulting, rappelling, and of course handling weapons. The difficulty ramp-up feels just right.

Tomb Raider is one of those games where virtually everything works, and works beautifully. Exploration is a joy on each of the game’s large maps. In addition to the main objectives of the levels, there are many optional collectibles to go after, which makes each area a type of environmental puzzle. Also, the game is quite generous with many of the items Lara finds, in that there’s a surprising amount of content that fills out the sad history of the island.

Scattered across the island are a series of campfires which serve as places for Lara to catch her breath and upgrade skills and weapons. Even more importantly, most of these camps serve as fast-travel nodes, making it a breeze to revisit areas you’ve already covered to keep searching for undiscovered treasures.

The combat in the game is equally good. At first, Lara just has a small handgun and a bow, but her arsenal grows as the adventure continues, and eventually includes a sniper rifle, a shotgun, and more.

Each weapon can be upgraded several times using “parts” you find strewn about the game world. It’s fun to have the choice of which weapons you want to focus your upgrades on. In addition to these generic “parts,” you can also find major weapon components which can help morph your weapon into a more advanced model.

I particularly enjoyed using Lara’s bow, and it was a delight seeing her become more and more deadly with it (napalm arrows, anyone?). I frequently avoid bows in games like this, because I find them hard to aim. Not so with Lara’s bows. Throughout most of the game, it was my weapon of choice.

Stealth also plays a large part in the game, and thinning out a cluster of bad guys with a few carefully executed executions on the down low makes the major encounters more survivable. (Yet another reason to love my quiet but deadly bow!)

As you progress through the adventure, you accumulate points that you can spend at the campfires to level up your skills. There are three skill trees: Survivor (scavenging, animal hunting, mapping, etc.), Hunter (weapon skills) and Brawler (melee and hardiness skills). This gives you further freedom to craft the Lara that you want.

Taken together, the weapon leveling system and skill trees truly allow you to make your experience throughout the game your own.

I haven’t even gotten to one of the game’s greatest features: the jaw-dropping graphic design. The island Lara and her companions are trapped on is a visual wonder of mountains, jungles, inlets, rivers and caves, ruins, and shanties. The weather effects are particularly stunning, with wind, snow and rain figuring prominently. The draw distance is staggering as well. The world of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is so stunning you will not want to leave it.

What makes all of these spectacular environments count is how you get to interact with them. The game never forgets its platformer roots, and you’ll be climbing, swinging, rappelling, vaulting, jumping and balancing all over the place. The controls for these moves are solid and intuitive, making it a joy to fully explore every map.

Another thing the game gets right is the voice acting. Camilla Luddington nails it as the titular hero (see what I did there) and the rest of the cast is rock solid as well. I complain about bad voice acting all the time in my reviews, so it’s refreshing to play a game that gets this vital component right.

And speaking of titular, you’ve perhaps heard that the designers toned down Lara’s traditionally pneumatic physique for this entry into the franchise. Lara is still extremely attractive, but gone are the comic proportions of yesteryear. That’s a good thing, as it helps you think of Lara as a real person all the more.

So: We’ve got an appealing protagonist, a fascinating, gorgeous and frightening setting chock full of secrets, hundreds of bad guys to deal with, tons of interesting collectibles to search for, a dynamite performance in the lead role, fabulous combat, and irresistible platforming action. What MORE could you ask for?

Well, the game has one more treasure: The tombs. Ah, yes, it is called Tomb Raider, after all. There are a bunch of tombs to explore in the game, but oddly enough, they are all entirely optional. You won’t want to miss a single one of them, however. First of all, there’s no fighting in them, which can be a nice break if you’ve been working through some rowdy combat sequences. Each one of them is a big environmental puzzle, and the difficulty level gently ramps up as you make your way through the game.

Tomb Raider is that rare game that fires on all cylinders. It does a bunch of things, and it does every single one of them extremely well. If you like Big Ticket action/adventure games, if you enjoyed Far Cry 3 or the Uncharted series, you owe it to yourself to dive into this lavish treat.


Final Grade: A+ 
Stunning visuals 
+ Appealing heroine

Great combat

+ Great platforming

Irresistible exploration

+ Fun tombs to raid

– (I got nuthin’)



Ray Ivey

Ray Ivey

A gaming freakazoid, Ray enjoys games on all platforms. Also loves board games, mind games, and all puzzles. Co-wrote the Entertainment Tonight trivia game and designed puzzles for two Law & Order PC games. Also a movie freak, bookworm, and travel bug. Thinks games of all kinds are a highly underappreciated force for social good, not to mention mental and psychological health.   Ray's favorite adventures include the "Broken Sword" and "Journeyman Project" franchises, "The Dark Eye," "The Feeble Files," "Sanitarium," "Limbo," "Machinarium," "Riven," "The Neverhood," and "Azrael's Tear." His favorite non-adventures include the "Thief," "Uncharted," and "Ratchet & Clank" franchises, all of the Bioware RPGs, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XII.   Ray writes about the movies for the Bryan/College Station Daily Eagle, which is the old-fashioned thing called a "newspaper." He's been on eight game shows. He's taught in seven countries and has visited twenty-one. His favorite classic movie star is Barbara Stanwyck and his favorite novel is "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving.

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