Rise of the Tomb Raider is the summer movie blockbuster of the video game world. It is not a game holding up a mirror to society or trying to push some deeper message about the kind of people we should be. It is a solid action, adventure game that revels in spectacle and gives the player more than a few wow moments along the way without dwelling too long in any one place. Welcome back, Lara.
Lara’s adventure starts with an age-old quest to pursue a religious item that will grant immortality. Before her father’s suicide, he had also chased this object for his entire life, and he even sacrificed his professional reputation and family to obtain it. With that in mind, Lara is determined to take on her daddy issues and wipe the smug smiles off the faces of the doubting archaeological community.
If she only had to find a lost city that no one has seen in centuries, things would be easy. From the very beginning, she is pursued and harassed by a shadowy organization named Trinity. They also want the artifact for themselves, and they are saying please with a bullet to make sure no one stops them.
The entire story is a predictable trek into remote regions, so that Lara can eventually reach her goal. This is a game about the journey, and the action makes sure it is never boring. The story does feel rushed at the end and a little confusing with some unanswered questions, but it did not ruin it for me.
The gameplay is a familiar but improved version of the previous release. Almost every facet has been expanded and polished. For starters, the game world is enormous. There are specific areas, and some are quite large with indoor and outdoor sections. You are encouraged to explore for rewards and collectibles as you pursue your current objective. They are packed with animals, enemies, tombs, murals, coins, relics, and other items for you to find. If you look at the map, there are tons of icons showing you where your next collectible or mission is, and you can set your own waypoints to help you go directly to anything on the map.
All of this collecting leads directly into crafting, and it is necessary if you want to upgrade or make your own weapons and ammo. The basecamp looks like a boy scout fire and stopping here is where you will select your upgrades. Depending on the upgrade or item, you may need some exotic materials, such as a rare animal skin. Until you have a good amount of items, it can sometimes seem a little too heavy on the crafting, but I was only annoyed with this at the beginning. Crafting materials can be animal, plant, or mineral based, so take it when you see it.
If you do not see it, use Survival Instincts. By pressing the right thumbstick, you can highlight animals, plants, boxes, and other items of interest onscreen in gold. I found more secrets and weapon parts with it. It is also helpful for when you are stuck.
You are also upgradable. As you gain experience, you will start to accrue skill points. They can be invested in three different trees that unlock more options as you add points. Some of these allow you to craft something new, make you tougher to kill, or make you a better killer. Experience is gained quickly, so you will not be left with a lot of empty skill bingo slots at the end of the game.
Lara carries over her skill with the bow from the first game, and I found it to be the best weapon with the most uses. It is great for stealth, and I would recommend the multiple kill skill. When stealth fails and people realize you did not get lost on your way to sell Bibles, it is time to pull out a one of four gun types to blast your way out of trouble. The bow, guns, and the climbing axe are all upgradable weapons and most have multiple versions with different specifications.
Some of these upgrades are necessary to be able to access another area. The game will let you know, and you can come back later. Whenever you access a basecamp, you have the option to fast travel to another basecamp anywhere in the game. There is some backtracking, but I never found it to be terrible. Tomb Raider does not force most of these things on the player.
If you come across a tomb, you should not skip it. I found these to be some of the best parts of the game. They were well designed, and there is usually a simple puzzle to solve. When you arrive at the end, Lara will receive a reward or perk and some experience.
A silly little bug. Tee-hee-hee.
Lara spends most of her time wandering, fighting, and climbing through the world, and it is an amazing world to behold. The graphics are fantastic, and there is a great sense of scale for the buildings. The architecture is fantastic, and there were times I just looked up and around to see the buildings. I have never been to a lost, ancient city, but they looked marvelous to me.
Technically, the game runs very well, and the load times are pretty good. The only issue I had in the entire game was towards the end. I was climbing a tower and looking for any other way to go. I saw a soldier climb up beneath me and go to the right. After jumping and dying there a couple of times, I found myself stuck on an invisible ledge. I was holding onto nothing, and this did not change after quitting and reloading my save. Fortunately, I was able to jump back to the right place.
The only other thing I would mention is that you need to make sure where you are jumping. I often thought I was going one direction, only to find myself plunging to my death in the opposite direction. I think this was more me than the game, but it happened more than I want to admit.
After completing the main game, there is a new mode taking place in Croft Manor in which Lara is trying to discover documentation allowing her to keep her uncle from stealing the manor. It is a much slower experience that gives you insight into her father’s mind, but the main game is much better. There is also an expedition option that allows you to choose from multiple game modes such as score attack, endurance, chapter replay, and other modes. There is even a zombie mode named Lara’s Nightmare.
So, let’s dispense with a burning question more than a year in the making. Was it worth the wait? After Microsoft scored an exclusive deal to hold on to the Tomb Raider sequel for a year, many people were confused and angry. After playing the game, I would tell those people to get a grip. This is a great version of the game with a ton of content and all the DLC shoved onto the disc for the same price. For those of you like to dress up your characters, it even has a ton of outfits for Lara with bonus attributes.
This was an over-the-top, action movie game, and it was a fun ride with lady Nathan Drake Lara Croft. The pacing is good, and there is a lot to do and see in the game. If you like an Indiana Jones action movie or if you liked the first Tomb Raider, I strongly recommend you pick this one up. It does everything a little better than last time, and I cannot wait to go on my next adventure.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a PS4 code bought at the expense of the reviewer. This does not affect the content of the review or the final score awarded. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
*This game was reviewed using a standard PS4, not a PS4 Pro.