Tomb Raider: My First PS3 to PS4 Upgrade

Tomb Raider wasn't the best game of 2013 (It was clearly The Last of Us, in case you were wondering), but it was definitely my favorite. Certainly it was the first game I had played to 100 percent completion in a long while. It was just so engaging. That script by Rhianna Pratchett, the tombs, the feminist battle-cry that was Lara Croft's quest all served to make a really engaging game. I played it through three times before putting it away.

Then I got a notice that Square Enix was upgrading the title for a PS4 release and I was intrigued. I wasn't part of the initial upgrade titles at launch so I had no idea how one stood against the other, but finally here was a game I knew intimately to compare the two systems against each other.

First, a downside. The PS4 Tomb Raider offers voice control, which is handy considering that the PS4 is the first console I ever bought that came with a headset. Want to see your map? Say, "map" and curse all the Dora the Explorer cartoons you've been forced to watch in your life.

Aside from the opening the map, though, the voice features are bloody useless. Even then I'm not convinced that it's any easier or even cooler than simply pressing the touch pad. Certainly it's almost no use for switching weapons in the heat of battle. Don't get me wrong. Saying, "handgun" and arming said handgun is a little cool, but it is immeasurably slower than simply using the d-pad. Considering that most of the time you're switching weapons it's the heat of battle the delay makes the feature relatively pointless.

Of course, we do have to discuss the graphics. To set a marker, I want to explain something that will set the tone of this part of the discussion. I have only been impressed by the graphical improvements from console to console with three games. Those games were Super Castlevania IV, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, and Final Fantasy XII. In all three cases I saw an inarguable advancement between them and what came before. Other than that I feel we have made only miniscule graphical quality in the last decade, and are entering an arena where quality is more based on the artist than on the technology.

Still, I was impressed with Tomb Raider after the initial sense that it wasn't all that much different than its PS3 version. The fact that this is the first time I was playing it in HD as intended helps because the PS4 came with an HDMI cable. The actual gameplay isn't all that much more impressive until the first time you wander the daylight. Then, you see the world more lush and alive than you ever thought possible.

The cut scenes as well have the sharpness and the polish that the PS4 offers, and the story does in fact benefit from it. I'm not sure if it's enough to justify buying the game all over again if you already have the PS3 version still working for you, but it's surely worth picking up if you skipped the first time.

There's also the added bonus of downloadable content already being loaded. I never bothered with DLC the first three playthroughs, but then there I was in the Tomb of the Lost Adventurer. It was definitely not something I encountered on my first couple of times through the game, but 15 minutes in there it was as a pleasant surprise.

I do believe that this is, as described, the definitive edition of this new chapter on Croft's story. It won't blow your mind, but it will take you places.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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