You wouldn’t think a port of a game from the previous generation, even a commercially and critically successful title like Tomb Raider, would evoke much analysis. However, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is harrowingly focused on visuals, promoting no changes in the gameplay mechanics or adding new content. The Xbox One and PS4 port is Crystal Dynamics’ first step towards crafting a next-gen Lara Croft, starting with a 1080p resolution and higher resolution textures. It eventually came to light the Xbox One version was handled primarily by United Front Games (Sleeping Dogs) while Nixxes Software BV, which developed the PC version, was in charge of the PS4 version.
So while both games seem geared up for the next generation, there are severe differences in how they actually perform. Even when measured against the PC version of Tomb Raider, the Definitive Edition shows several areas where it it’s actually weaker.
First the obvious: Lara Croft has a brand new look in the Definitive Edition. Her eyes are sharper and significantly larger, with the corners more visible than before. The bridge of the nose also seems less prominent and significantly more balanced. You’ll get the impression of change but the actual difference is very subtle. This allows for more expressive emotions and changes the overall character of Lara in many ways. Rather than looking like a constantly disparate individual trapped in unfortunate circumstances, her expressions are more hard-set and determined.
Lara’s hair has seen a significant upgrade as well, with TressFX 2.0 being employed for dynamic movement and interaction with the elements. It’s not as detailed or fluid as the PC version but toes a fine line of grunge and shininess.
When it comes to measuring the differences between the Xbox One and PS4, you would think it would extend beyond the resolution and frame rate. But that’s the key difference: Both versions have their own frame rate fluctuations, hindering the game in certain circumstances.
The PS4’s 1080p resolution stays consistent throughout and makes the game significantly sharper while the Xbox One alternates between 1080p resolution during gameplay and 900p resolution during cut scenes. It’s jarring, for sure, but that’s not even the biggest problem especially since it only happens with a few select cut scenes.
The PS4 version’s 60 FPS frame rate highly variable and will dip in strenuous circumstances. You will catch glimpses of 60 FPS when there’s less action going on but it does cause an odd shuttering effect at times, perhaps due to the overall refresh rate. The Xbox One version is stuck at 30 FPS but can fall very low as well, making for rather odd reactions while playing.
It isn’t just the frame rate where the PS4 version is one-up over the Xbox One. A quick comparison between the two versions reveal better bokeh depth of field, higher resolution textures and sharper weather effects on the PS4 version compared to the Xbox One. Even the finer details in wave simulation, foliage and environmental objects look better on the former. There hasn’t been a significant overhaul in terms of lighting but you will notice more realistic illumination on the PlayStation 4.
It should be noted that compared to the PC version, both the Xbox One and PS4 excel in terms of implementing more weather effects and denser foliage. They stumble when it comes to the details though since the PC version comes across as more detailed and fleshed out overall. Lara herself appears more realistic in her skin tones on PC, since the PC version makes use of tessellation while the Definitive Edition does not.
Post process anti-aliasing is in effect with fast approximate anti-aliasing (FXAA) and the vegetation is more interactive than on the PC. Both console versions use motion blur as well though it’s not as prominent as you’d think. Though both the PS4 and Xbox One versions are detailed enough, it feels like both development teams are still working the hardware kinks out, with the PS4 version excelling due to sheer power more than anything else.
Overall, the PS4 version of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition offers the most comprehensive next-gen introduction of Lara Croft, flawed as it may be. The higher resolution textures and superior draw distance, not to mention the frame rate, just feel better on the PS4. Both games are identical in terms of gameplay, save for varying effects the frame rate has while playing, so it’s not like one version is skipping out in terms of content.