Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (PS4)

If you grew up as a young lad during the PSOne era of gaming you'll no doubt have spent some quality time getting acquainted with Miss Lara Croft's naughty physique, and her noteworthy archaeological  adventures. Prior to the release of the original Tomb Raider series no one in game development had ever touched base on such an adventure as the ones Lara Croft embarked on. Not only was she the female version of the well known "Indiana Jones", but she was more badass than he ever was. This gun toting hottie put away many historic, and prehistoric threats during her treasure seeking days, and always walked away to tell the tale. From a guys standpoint Lara was the video game epitome of sexy. She was a virtual goddess that captured the attention of many like minded guy gamers. I for one fell for her unreal beauty, and even once attempted to make a bogus nude code work. By the way, thank you friend for bursting my bubble with that one. You know who you are ...

In modern day gaming on the PS4 Lara Croft returns boldly in a way that not only changes her overall appearance, but that also aims to change the way that the gamers will think of her. In this newest iteration titled, "Tomb Raider (Definitive Edition)" we find the once buxom young lass more intellectually mature, and more properly proportioned than she ever has been depicted. Both Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics worked together to create in essence what was to be the first gender friendly version of Lara Croft for a broader audience who might be interested in sharing in her adventures. In doing so the developer made her more realistic, and more human than the gun wielding badass that we'd once knew her as. She had real fears, and real concerns as she faced the threat of death head on in a continuous fight for survival. In her latest quest for fame, and fortune lady Croft ventured out upon the sea via the "ENDURANCE" with an unlikely crew in order to unearth an ancient Japanese legend. Upon arrival of the intended destination though her world as well as her crew's was turned topsy-turvy as they began to realize things are not always fun, and games in the world of archaeology.

Of course the game wouldn't be as perilous, and adventurous as it was if Crystal Dynamics didn't add the ship wreck, and a dire situation that they did amidst all the tapered down amount of treasure seeking. After venturing out to an area of the sea known as the "Dragon's Triangle" Lara Croft, and her crew members end up stranded on an island that is anything, but uninhabited. In fact upon desertion Lara finds herself in a fight for her life, and the lives of those who had chosen to go on the adventure alongside of her. Scattered about the island's coast, and inland the group of castaways try again, and again to reunite only to be divided by over, and over again by the threat of other islanders.

This is where you, the gamer become Lara Croft as you walk in her shoes taking on her worries, fears, and confronting dangers while you try to make it out of the expedition alive. As Lara you will find that pretty much everything you know of the classic series of games still applies here, basically. The pulleys, levers, and traps are all still very much in place. What's different is the added upgradeable survival, and weapon based gameplay as well as the means by which you travel about the island. As you search the island for your missing comrades you will happen upon a wealth of information, and hidden items. You'll also find hidden tombs, and relics scattered about the ancient Japanese terrain. Some of the hidden items you'll come across include salvaged material which can be used to upgrade weapons, and tools as well as new weapons, and tools themselves.

The new upgrade system works in one of two ways. For the weapon, and tool upgrades you'll be busting miniature crates for salvage material, and applying them at the day, or night base camps/camp fires. In the way of more permanent human skills/traits you will be earning skill points via the treasures you unearth, and will be applying said skill points at the base camps in order to improve upon your survival, and hunting abilities. Things like being able to aim more accurately with your bow, and finding more salvage material in the corpses of killed animals, and enemies is all a part of the skill tree upgrades. You will use your scavenged weapons, and tools as well as your improved abilities to continue your trek across the forsaken island, and hopefully live to tell the tale in doing so.

Aside from the more straightforward, and costly upgrades you will find that the new, and improved Lara Croft grows stronger as she does the adventurous things she does. Like an FPS (First Person Shooter) Lara Croft will earn XP (Experience Points) as she hunts, hides, and makes her way across the island's vast territory. This earned XP will allow for newer upgrade opportunities as you continue to play through the game.

When it comes to menu, and land navigation you'll find that Lara has with her a special gift that allows her to notice objectives via highlighted landmarks. By pressing "L1" the world around Lara will turn to shades of grey with only the destination, and objects of interest being highlighted in a yellow light. This inherent ability narrows down any need for tedious searching, and allows you to traverse the lands with ease. As you upgrade your skills you'll even be able to see things like the animals of the island in a highlighted manner for hunting purposes. If you like the treasure map way of treasure hunting you'll also find that once you gain access to a map the relics, and hidden items will all be noted on that map as you go along. To access these area specific maps all you have to do is press in the touch pad, and there you are. Maps will definitely come in handy when trying to find all of the secrets hidden within a location.

For those of you worried about saving your progress the game does that for you automatically when you reach certain points within the game. Things like the night, and day base camps/camp fires will trigger such a save, and will not leave you starting all over if you need to take a break. I should also mention that the base camps act as a means of quick travel if you wish to bypass the walking method of getting where you need to go. Once you reach a certain point in your playthrough you will be able to return to past locales via "Quick Travel" in order to gather any items you missed by using tools that you might not have had before. In retrospect the base camp/campfire is where you'll be conducting a lot of your in-game business before actually setting out to make progress. Always keep in mind that as Lara Croft your adventures still take in account the percentage completion of each location. By locating, and collecting all the items hidden throughout your trek across the mysterious island you will in return have completed the game 100%.

Definitive Edition extras ...

In the way of extras "Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition" carries with it some noteworthy bonus content that you'll not want to miss out on. You'll find that the multiplayer is now complete with 8 maps/map packs, and newly accessible weapons. The singleplayer campaign also has it's own bonuses in the form of 6 different outfits that can be accessed, and equipped at the day camps scattered across the game's locales. Things like a "Predator" inspired jungle outfit (with mud face paint), and an "Indiana Jones" inspired Aviatrix getup are just some of the options you'll find in the new attire offerings. For those of you looking for extensions of in-game content you'll also find two digital features including a digital comic book, and a digital art book that's in place for your viewing pleasure via the "EXTRAS" menu.

About the multiplayer ...

While I did not get to sample the multiplayer for myself due to an odd in-game message stating that the game was downloading content I did do some research for those of you interested. The multiplayer carries with it competitive, and co-op gameplay in four different modes. These modes include the traditional Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch as well as the newly introduced Cry For Help, and Rescue. The Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch modes are pretty much self-explanatory leaving the remaining two modes of play a mystery. My guess (and it is a guess) is that "Cry For Help", and "Rescue" are team oriented efforts in which teams of a certain number must work together to complete the objectives at hand. They may be something along the lines of "Capture the Flag", or something of that sort.

As one would likely expect in a multiplayer mode such as these you will be able to select things like map preferences, and character preferences. While maps are a given from the start the selectable characters are less so. In order to unlock characters you will need to earn the appropriate amount of points via scoring feats in the multiplayer matches. Things like kills, rescues, and other methods of scoring will no doubt factor in to the point earnings. Weapon upgrades, and attachments will also cost you points, but by continually playing, and honing your skills as an adventurer/survivalist you will eventually be able to equip your favorite character with the best equipment available. As far as maps go there are 8 of them made available to the gamer for free if they have the "Definitive Edition". These maps reflect the locales of the core game, and are game type/mode specific.

About the graphics & sound ...

It's a proven fact that the "Definitive Edition" of "Tomb Raider" does indeed carry with it an overall visual improvement. Not only is the game displayed with 1080p graphics, but it also runs at the highest speed (60fps) of the current generation of consoles. The game looks gorgeous, and while Lara is a slightly different make, and model than her PS3 predecessor she still looks good doing what she does best. On the side Crystal Dynamics has also included several accessible outfits with which you can dress lady Croft as you see fit. Sadly the "Nude" costume I'd hoped for does not come included in the set. In the way of sound you'll find included a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that is just as stunning as the gameplay itself. Hearing the game, and watching it play out for the first time was truly an awe-inspiring event to say the least.

Now for the verdict ...

Without a doubt PS4's definitive edition of "Tomb Raider" is the copy you should own. Not only does it look, and sound better, but it plays better as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of the core game, and liked the fact that there was an online multiplayer in place for me to take advantage of later on. I loved seeing Lara's more human side, and loved experiencing the many worries, fears, and concerns with her. Lara Croft is still the beauty I grew up admiring, and is still the badass that I have grown to know her as. Through thick, and thin Lara continues to fascinate me with her virtual adventures, and will no doubt captivate you as well. I definitely think Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job with this reinventing of the Lara Croft of old. I just hope I'm able to share many more adventures with this leading lady in the years to come ... hopefully there will be a nude code, or outfit at some point (hint hint).

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