Having been a big fan of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot, I was actually very excited at the announcement of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Not only would this version have all the additional content like character skins and multiplayer maps, but, according to Crystal Dynamics, this version was rebuilt for the next-gen consoles. In other words, this is not a simple port. The game’s FAQ website goes into further detail to address the various differences.
Are the graphical improvements really that great? What other “next-gen” features are you including?
Yes, we think the graphical improvements are pretty great. The team didn’t just up-rez the game. They pulled it apart and rebuilt it with new technology, finally allowing us to reach the vision for Tomb Raider that we always wanted.
You can see the sweat, mud, and blood on Lara. Her eyes are much more expressive and her hair realistic. We also improved gear movement in Definitive Edition – her axe will sway and necklace will react to movement as Lara traverses the island. The Endurance crew has been spruced up, too.
As for the island, we’ve added weather and lighting effects, extra vegetation, improved physics, reactive water surfaces, and more. Yamatai is now alive with motion. When Lara stops, the world keeps moving. We didn’t just improve the rain; we reworked it until it felt torrential – like another enemy out to get Lara.
If you want to get geeky, our gameplay is now in full 1080p, we have subsurface scattering on our characters, real-time particle lighting, Tress FX support for Lara’s hair, upgraded reactive water, full world simulation, and more. We’ve also completely rebuilt Lara’s head and face model from the ground up with a denser topology giving improvements on features for eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, etc. All of her textures are higher resolution as well.
As for other next-gen additions, The Xbox One allows you to use Kinect to change weapons, attachments, and navigate the menu with your voice. You can also rotate and inspect relics with hand gestures, and find new viewpoints by leaning into the world. The PlayStation 4’s Dualshock 4 controller lights up red and orange when using the torch, and quick flashes when Lara is shooting. The PlayStation 4 version also allows you to stream Tomb Raider to the PlayStation Vita.
Crystal Dynamics could have simply ported the game over from the PC, but instead they spent the time to provide the best possible experience. Remakes like Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are the kind gamers should be applauding. That, however, isn’t what I have been seeing.
Rich from ReviewTechUSA recently released s video where he calls the game a “fraud”, ranting about how it’s not worth its sticker price. He isn’t the only one saying this, but his video is the one I’ll be focusing on. Not only does Rich ignore what we’re being told by Crystal Dynamics about the improvements made to the game, but he comes to this conclusion without having seen any real footage of the game (besides the trailer), let alone played it himself.
Finished watching? If you can’t, it’s understandable. While I don’t always agree with Rich, I usually enjoy his videos. This one, however, was really difficult to sit through. At the very least, Rich and others should have done some research concerning these graphical improvements before touting the superiority of the PC version. Leah B. Jackson, an associate editor at IGN, who has played the original Tomb Raider on a high-end PC, says that the Playstation 4 version is actually much better looking.
The first thing I immediately noticed is how different Lara’s head and face is in the Definitive Edition, which was a little surprising considering how iconic her new look has become. Her face mesh has seen an increase in density and as a result, the significant amount of new polygons in her face make her comes off as much more emotive and lifelike.
Every texture on Lara has been upgraded and subsurface scattering was also added to her skin, so that when the sun hits her skin it goes under it, giving it a beautifully realistic soft glow. When she’s tense or scared she’ll even start to perspire, causing her skin to have a sheen on it. When she gets wet, so does her skin and her clothing. Even the mud and her blood have been given graphic boosts, making for a much grittier version of the heroine in some sequences.
AMD and Crystal Dynamics’ TressFX, the technology behind Lara’s realistic hair in the PC version, is also coming to the Definitive Edition, and will be the first next-gen game to feature the luscious locks. To bring TressFX to console, it had to be completely overhauled and now it looks better than ever. As Lara’s running through the game, her hair flows in the wind naturally.
Just like with the information provided by the game’s FAQ, Rich ignored Jackson’s first-hand impressions. I’m not saying that gamers shouldn’t be skeptical of gaming news outlets like IGN, but I’m having trouble understanding why so many are willing to trust the opinions of people who haven’t even played the game. Rich and others who are attacking Crystal Dynamics for releasing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition should have waited until they had a chance to sit down and play the game before criticizing it.
As bad as Rich’s video is, IGN’s “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – PS4/PS3 Comparison and Analysis” video, which was released the next day, makes it look even worse.
Once again, Crystal Dynamics stated in the game’s FAQ that they had gone back and rebuilt it for the next-gen consoles. From this comparison video, it’s clear that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition isn’t simply an up-scaled version of the game released last year. Yes, the TressFX hair simulation technology is being brought to the console form the PC, but, as stated in both Jackson’s article and this video, it’s been improved. Next-gen consoles are also getting upgraded textures, subsurface scattering and improved particle physics. These are graphical effects that weren’t available even to the PC version of the game. Simply put, this is a rebuilt game, not something those with high-end PCs have already experienced.
In the end, what one does with their money is their own business. If you enjoyed Tomb Raider and want to get Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, it’s your choice. I have already pre-ordered the game myself because I do wish to experience the “definitive version” of my favourite game of 2013. Don’t allow Rich or anyone else voicing an ignorant opinion make you regret what you want to do with your own money.
UPDATE: Raymond Croft (@RAYMUSIK93 on Twitter) has a post up on his Tumblr page defending Crystal Dynamics and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Raymond also posted two pictures (which he sent me and I posted below) that do a good job demonstrating the graphical differences between the PC and next-gen versions of the game.
While far from perfect (I would have preferred much larger pictures), they are still good enough to give us an idea of the graphical differences between the PC and next-gen versions of the game. While similar, there are a number of noticeable improvements, most notably the lighting, in the next-gen version. Until Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry does a proper comparison, this will have to do.