Keep Calm and Raid On: Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusivity Panic is Needless

Today’s Gamescom announcement that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox Exclusive led to Microsoft getting absolutely lambasted by fans. The game was announced at E3 and looked amazing, and since it was a sequel to a highlight of a last-gen multi-platform release that was made even better on the PS4, it seemed like the sequel would follow in its footsteps. Now, Microsoft has swooped in — hopefully with giant sacks with dollar signs on them — and made the game an Xbox exclusive.

The trailer focused on Lara’s mental state after flashbacks to the first game’s events, and her psychiatrist is worried that she is shutting herself in. He recommends a hobby since she should be exploring new horizons. How about not killing people? Her traumas have become a mental trap – so see, she didn’t become desensitized to all the murdering she did in the reboot. She’s severely traumatized by it. Now sure, that all makes sense, but my theory is that she sees black helicopters, the white guide button, and Kinect sensors everywhere she goes. In all seriousness, the Kinect did actually help Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. The voice navigation made menus a bit easier to navigate and made weapon switching faster too. While I doubt it’s the whole reason for the game being an exclusive, the folks at Crystal Dynamics may feel that the hardware best serves the kind of adventure they want to tell.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Trailer - Tomb Raider 2 on Xbox One.mp4_snapshot_00.15_[2014.08.12_15.56.02]

Well, for now anyway. I’m sure that in 6 months or a year, they’ll figure out a way to maximize the PS4 and PC hardware for it too — coincidentally enough, after a logical exclusivity period would normally end. Geoff Keighley tweeted about it being a holiday 2015 exclusive, so it stands to reason that come springtime or maybe at E3, we’ll hear about a PS4/PC version. When you’ve got a concept that can be held back by tying its roots into old hardware, you can’t really maximize what the game could be. Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition was a nice glimpse into the future since they did more than just slap hi-res textures onto things.

They added in a lot of little touches like birds flying overhead that made the world seem more alive, and when you’re do so much killing with a pickaxe, it’s good to have a reminder of how serene and beautiful life can be. By focusing on making this a next-gen title, it’s going to look about as good as humanly possible. Since it will at least be a timed exclusive, you know they’ll aim for 1080p/60 FPS gameplay too. Even if they can’t hit that at launch, we could see an Assassin’s Creed IV situation where the resolution is bumped up within a reasonable time frame.  The removal of Kinect raises an interesting question since it added to the Definitive Edition, but the device also sucks a bit of the hardware’s strength as well.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Trailer - Tomb Raider 2 on Xbox One.mp4_snapshot_01.27_[2014.08.12_15.57.20]

Will we see Crystal Dynamics harness the extra horsepower to make a slightly better-looking game? Doing so wouldn’t make a lot of sense in a way, but having the option to go with a better-looking version without the Kinect, or a slightly less-beautiful version with it would be nice to have. If you’re showing the system off to someone, they would probably still be blown away by the graphics and depending on how it’s used, the Kinect integration could be very impressive as well. However, people naturally want the best-looking version of a game that there is, and if it could be created just by nixing the Kinect-enabled features in real-time, that would be fantastic too.

There are a lot of unknowns regarding Rise of the Tomb Raider and we aren’t likely going to get much news about it this week. Today’s bombshell was enough to rekindle interest in the game, even if it’s not altogether positive. Regardless of the platform it’s on, the game is shaping up to be amazing even if it’s just Tomb Raider with a new storyline, the same core mechanics, and vastly-improved graphics. That combination created one of the best 3D adventure games on the market, saved a legendary franchise from the brink of death, and raised the bar with its combat as well. When its follow-up ships this holiday season, everyone who liked it should snatch the sequel up if they have an Xbox One or Xbox 360. If you don’t, then just play the waiting game — you’ll either wind up with a better game, or maybe a bit of a price break in the process.