A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition -- a revised version of last year's game -- is the first "Mature"-rated Tomb Raider since the franchise started in 1996. This is because of intense violence, blood, and some gore -- and it's very realistic because of advanced graphics. Lara, the heroine, can shoot guns and fiery arrows, or using blades, to kill humans and beasts on an island. The game also has strong profanity and some drug references.
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What's it about?
In case you missed last year’s return of Tomb Raider – the much-hyped reboot of the successful franchise – you can now pick up an enhanced version of the adventure for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. Developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, TOMB RAIDER: DEFINITIVE EDITION serves as a prequel, of sorts, as a young and inexperienced Lara Croft evolves into a hardened warrior, as she fights to stay alive on a deadly island. In fact, the game begins with Croft tied up and hanging upside-down in a cave, left for dead. Like a Hollywood blockbuster, you must find a way to break free, make your way by torchlight in darkened caverns, outrun falling boulders, and jump across huge chasms – all within the first 10 minutes of gameplay. As with previous Tomb Raider games, there’s plenty of combat, many environmental puzzles and characters to interact with. The plot is good, too, and takes some twists and turns, which give your actions some meaning and purpose. The developer did a great job setting up Lara as a curious and daring archeologist.
Definitive Edition includes last year’s optional downloadable content (DLC) already bundled on the disc (or in the digital download), which includes a few more multiplayer options, weapons, and new characters to play as. Along with the added DLC, this remixed Tomb Raider includes digital versions of the Dark Horse comic, a Brady Games mini-art book, and the Final Hours developer videos.
Is it any good?
The new game’s 1080p HD visuals are, in a word, gorgeous. Played on an Xbox One, you can really see the graphical improvement over the Xbox 360 version. According to Square Enix, the Definitive Edition includes an all-new Lara model, including TRESS FX technology that delivers flowing hair motion, and reworked lighting and shading to showcase Lara’s brutal fight for survival – including realistic-looking blood, sweat, and mud on her face and body. The environment has also undergone a makeover, including better-looking weather, cloth, and trees; all textures have been created at four times the resolution for added detail, says Square Enix.
The action is as good as last year's AAA game, but only after the first few minutes. This is because the beginning includes many “quick time events,” where you’re tasked with pressing a button rapidly or pushing an analog stick in a given direction at a precise time, in order for the animated sequence to play out. Like many gamers, I’m not a fan of these as it’s not exactly interactive – rather, it has all been scripted for you and simply requires the right triggers. Fortunately, the gameplay picks up significantly about an hour in, after the shipwrecked Lara begins to master her bow and pistol skills (against man and beast alike), as well as acrobatically navigating the island and discovering secret tombs.
Also, like the 2013 version, multiplayer is the game’s weakest link, with uninspiring maps and modes. But at least the bundled DLC adds more maps and modes, making it something to play with your online friends after you’ve finished the gripping single-player campaign. If you’ve looking for an engrossing adventure, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition looks and plays better than last year’s version, plus it has the extra bonus material for fans, too. If your budget is tight, however, you can still pick up a new version of 2013’s Tomb Raider for as low as $20 for the PC or under $30 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Note: Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are the same, except Xbox One includes Kinect voice commands.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Platforms: Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions
Social Studies: exploration
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, solving puzzles
Self-Direction: personal growth, time management
Emotional Development: handling stress, self-awareness
- Price: $59.99
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: February 2, 2014
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
- Last updated: April 13, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.