Every texture on Lara has been upgraded and subsurface scattering was also added to her skin, so that when the sun hits her skin it goes under it, giving it a beautifully realistic soft glow. When she's tense or scared she'll even start to perspire, causing her skin to have a sheen on it. When she gets wet, so does her skin and her clothing. Even the mud and her blood have been given graphic boosts, making for a much grittier version of the heroine in some sequences.
AMD and Crystal Dynamics' TressFX, the technology behind Lara's realistic hair in the PC version, is also coming to the Definitive Edition, and will be the first next-gen game to feature the luscious locks. To bring TressFX to console, it had to be completely overhauled and now it looks better than ever. As Lara's running through the game, her hair flows in the wind naturally.
All the objects Lara carries have been given a physics treatment too. What might have seemed like simple touches on paper turn out to be incredibly detailed in action. Seeing Lara's axe swing at her hip, each individual arrow jiggle around in the quiver, her bow bob back and forth as she runs, and even her necklace dangling around adds an exquisite level of realism.
There's no doubt that Lara looks incredibly realistic in The Definitive Edition, but what's even more impressive is how much better the island of Yamatai looks. Crystal Dynamics treats Yamatai as a character, and as such it has received a ton of upgrades.
Every texture has been boosted to the maximum 4K resolution, and the developers did a lot of work with the shadow maps to add much more depth to each part of the world. The wood on buildings looks weathered, trees feel fuller, there are visible cracks in the walls, and rocks and cliffs are much craggier this time around thanks to their new specular maps.
In order to make the island feel alive with environmental storytelling, the wind now changes dynamically. It breezes through the grass, leaves, and trees differently and depending on the strength of the wind they'll sway at different rates. Bushes and water also react to Lara, so when you run through brush it bounces off her properly and when you step in pools they'll splash. Extra lighting effects add yet another level of realism, with lifelike shadows and Godrays gleaming out between the leaves.
A cinematic near-depth blur has also been added, so when things are too close to the screen they'll get a bit fuzzy, which makes you not only focus on the crisp environment around you, but it also adds more depth to every scene. Conversely, the draw distance has been increased to the max so you can now see farther, all the way to the horizon depending where you are.
Vibrant fire embers are now dynamically lit and have refractive lighting, so you can even see the heat waves emitting from them and their reflective glows on the wall. Rain kicks on randomly too, and when raindrops hit water pools they ripple on the surface. During storms, cracks of lightning will light up the whole sky with raindrops, something that wouldn't have been possible on last-gen.
When all of these wonderful touches are put together, you really get the sense that this world is alive and that there's a real person trying to make her way through it.
On top of the many visual improvements, the Definitive Edition includes tons of prime Tomb Raider extras. For those who love finding treasure, all of the DLC comes bundled in, along with digital versions of the Tomb Raider comic, an art book, and the six Final Hours developer videos. In short, the Definitive Edition is a Tomb Raider that feels like a proper next-gen game and not a port-up. Its $60 asking price is perhaps a bit steep if you've already played it on a current-gen platform, but if you missed out on Lara's reboot last year, it's almost certain to be worth a look now.