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Improvements in updated 'Tomb Raider' come at a price

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"Tomb Raider" provided one of the best single-player experiences of last year, and now Lara Croft's premiere adventure is returning on the new PS4 and Xbox One in "Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition."

The package includes multiplayer DLC, some new outfits for the main character, one extra tomb and an improved look that takes advantage of the new hardware's power -- updates that bump the price back up from $30 to $40 to the standard $60.

'Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition'
3 stars out of 4.
Pros: Stunning updated visuals, still one of the best games of 2013, good use of the DualShock 4.
Cons: Lame multiplayer.
Cost: Steep at $60.

Most of 2013's awarded games were released long after "Tomb Raider" was played and forgotten. The "BioShocks" and "Last of Us-es" of the gaming world set an eclipse over Crystal Dynamics' masterpiece. "Definitive Edition" is a welcome reminder that this game can stand with the classics that inspired it, such as the "Batman: Arkham" and "Uncharted" series.

The graphical update is fantastic. "Tomb Raider's" lush, sprawling environments and character models are some of the best on the current-gen consoles. The new tech can handle textures such as detailed mud and sweat on each character in stunning detail.

Lara's journey urges players to explore and rewards players for it, all the while keeping them focused on the main story. This is something that many games aspire to achieve, but rarely execute with such ease. Weapons can be upgraded, and Lara gains new skills as the game progresses.

This re-release adds some clever tricks with the PS4's DualShock 4 controller. For example, the lightbar flashes white when Lara fires a gun to mimic a muzzle flash, which is particularly noticeable when played in a dark room. The controller's light also flickers red and orange when Lara's torch is lit.

The PS4 version uses the DS4's speaker to play ambient noises throughout the game. The controller will pump through Lara's footsteps whether she's in a damp cave or crunching over a corpse's bones. The speaker is commonly viewed as a gimmick, but it aids in the game's immersion.

Voice commands have been added for both the Xbox One and PS4 versions, but the PS4 needs to have the PlayStation Camera connected. The map can be accessed by saying "map," and weapons can be swapped by saying "bow" or "shotgun." They work well, but standard controller use is more responsive.

The "Definitive Edition" package still drags along its lackluster multiplayer offering. Even last year, I considered the game's multiplayer arenas to be a waste of time for both the players and the developers. A year hasn't changed much of anything -- arenas and gameplay are untouched. If you didn't like it the first time around, this aspect can be ignored.

"Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition" would be an absolute must-buy if it were priced between $40 or $50. Even the inclusion of some single-player DLC would increase the value. The added cost is for updated graphics, as well as maps for a multiplayer mode that wasn't great last year.

"Tomb Raider's" single player holds up extremely well, though, and is arguably better the second time around. If you never played the original, I'd suggest picking up the "Definitive Edition," but it's a steep asking price for those revisiting the game.

Max Parker covers video games for the Post-Gazette as The Game Guy. Follow him on Twitter at @GameGuyPGH.

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