Let's remind ourselves why Tomb Raider 2013 was good. Lara's genesis story might have been told with all the subtlety of a man shouting "because you're a Croft!", but exploring the maps and hunting down all the hidden objects in on the island was classic exploration adventure. It was the first game in which she felt like a competent shooter, and her expanding collection of tools made traversing the levels a rare pleasure.
One thing we'd forgotten: exactly how battered Lara Croft gets in the opening minutes of the game. Battered unconscious, bound, hoisted up and set alight, she immediately goes on to get a spike jammed through her flank, and her head crushed by a rock thanks to failing a surprise QTE. Just once, you think, you'd like Lara to grab onto a ledge that doesn't dramatically collapse under her weight, sending her sliding down a cinematic incline into a bush of stinging nettles.
So yes, Lara's origin story had its faults - not least the cast of clichés. But they were easily forgiven on an island that's such downright fun to explore. Densely packed collectibles force you to appreciate the levels as a fully realised space, and discover cunningly tucked away paths.
So what's new in the Definitive Edition? Hair is new. Lara's ponytail has been endowed with rich, luxuriant physics. It's honestly like she's just stepped out of a salon - if immediately after stepping out of the salon, she'd been slammed into a sheer cliff face, covered in mud and sweat, then half-drowned and shot. Basically, what you're getting here is simple to explain. A game that looked great on Xbox 360 looks a little bit better on Xbox One, and while it's famously not running at 60fps, there isn't that dependence on twitch reaction that'd benefit from super-buttery frame rates.
Other additions to the new version are more frivolous: the ability to issue voice commands replaces a button tap with the ability to shout "show map". Not the great labour-saving device that Square Enix was possibly hoping. Occasionally, a pair of green binoculars will appear, letting you know that a "personal view" is available. This isn't explained, but after some baffled experimentation, it turns out that moving your actual head can slightly influence the camera. At best, that's just not particularly useful. Meanwhile, artefacts can be spun pointlessly with a gesture. Whee.
Calling this the Definitive Edition is definitively over-stating the case, but nothing that's been added makes Tomb Raider any less of a game. The thing is, it's no greater of a game, either - the cosmetic upgrades are welcome, but non-essential. And everything else is just peripheral fluff. If you've already played it, there's no need to come back. If you haven't already played it, you should probably think about putting that right.
Once you've turned off the gesture and voice control, you've got a product that's a simple facelift to a game that scarcely needed it. It's the better of the two, but the game doesn't really stand up to a full replay this soon.
- That ponytail sure behaves like a convincing ponytail
- You can't argue that it does look a bit nicer
- Lara's fringe now seems hopelessly out of date
- Not a great advert for voice and gesture control
- Would 60fps have been totally unfeasible?