Lara Croft is a name that many will recognize. Whether you played the series from the beginning or if you were one of the people who saw the Angelina Jolie flicks, the name will ring some sort of bell. But for gamers, it’ll be fresh in their minds since it was only a few years ago that we were graced with the critically acclaimed reboot thanks to developer Crystal Dynamics. It’s now 2015 and we are again presented with an all-new adventure that helps shape Lara into the women she is known for. Rise of The Tomb Raider, the latest entry has come just in time for the holiday season, but that’s only if you are playing on Xbox One or Xbox 360 for this timed exclusive. Is the game worth the gamble for Microsoft or did it just hurt gamers more than it entertained?
The series picks up one year after the end of the reboot, following Lara on her latest quest. This time the quest has become more personal for her following the tragic passing of her father, which has become the driving force behind her adventures. The story builds from the moment you hit start, but you will begin to think when enough is enough for Lara? The character is in a darker place this time around, having lost her family and the alienation she causes her friends from the previous outing. Lara is spending the majority of her time exploring, albeit with purpose, but at the cost of everything around her.
The story is solid from start to finish and never feels like it is a sequel, but rather a natural continuation of where we left off. Lara is struggling with what she has experienced on the island, and coping with the loss of those close to her. After experiencing the supernatural events from the first game has given life to one of her father’s previously failed journeys. Lara is now a recluse who has abandoned those around her with only one goal in mind, to discover the lost city of Kitezh. Before she can set off on her journey, a familiar face returns to warn her, plead with her to stop before she loses everything or much worse. Before she has a chance to make up her mind, a man who attempts to take all of her research attacks her. This furthers her belief that what her father was researching is real and so she sets off to find out more.
The story progresses from location to location and allows for Lara to interact with a few different people along the way. The mysterious leader of the locals who knows more about the legend than he is letting on to. Konstantine, the leader of a mercenary group dispatched by shadow organization, Trinity. A familiar face from Lara’s past that may be able to shed some light on her father’s tragic passing. These people will cross paths with Ms. Croft on her journey, guiding her closer and closer to the truth.
The gameplay remains unchanged from the last outing, a nice trend that I am seeing in recent sequels. Gun play and character movement is smooth, allowing for easy transition between targets. New additions to your arsenal include modified arrows and enhancements to your pickaxe. Players will find themselves swinging and climbing between obstacles with ease thanks to these improvements. Enemies are relentless this time around. Unlike the last game, the enemies move with a bit more precision thanks to the military background, making the fight more challenging and rewarding. Thankfully you will have a few new throwables to even the odds. All of these are made using the updated crafting system from the previous game. Players can use campfires like before and they can scavenge and craft on the fly during their adventure.
Graphically, they game looks great! The environments all feel unique and alive, the wildlife thriving all around you. The world feels more interactive with more action going on around you. Wind gusts, flowing water, birds and bears. Everything that is breathtaking to look at is also likely trying to kill you as you progress through the game. The caves and tombs are interesting and intricate, giving players plenty to look at while navigating their deadly terrain. Players will notice more tight corridors that play key roles in different combat situations, making the game a more tense experience than it’s predecessor.
My only gripe is that with the game looking as beautiful as it does, the previous game seems like a much crisp, smoother experience. Performance wise, it is barely noticeable but at times the character model felt grainy in comparison to the model used in the Definitive Edition. Audio was really the only issue I had with the game, having all dialogue going silent at pivotal points in the story. Thankfully I had subtitles on because one of those moments was the final cinematic, which was a bummer and resulted in having to view it again on YouTube.
The game overall is fun and it’s great to see this version of Lara Croft getting more fleshed out, allowing for players to grow with her into the world-famous adventurer. The game is enticing from start to finish, giving players a great adventure/platformer to break up the over abundance of FPS games on the market. While the game has it’s flaws (looking at you audio files!) it’s replay value is high and I found myself going through the campaign almost instantly after finishing the first time. One thing I will say is that with the new cast of supporting characters in this story, and the introduction of the Trinity Organization, the game takes on an almost female James Bond feel that reeks of the same tone as the Daniel Craig films, so it doesn’t hurt that I’m a huge Bond Fan.
Lastly, as I stated earlier the game is a “timed exclusive” for Xbox One/360, with the PC and PS4 versions releasing at some point in 2016. I understand why Microsoft did this, considering that Playstation has the critically acclaimed Uncharted series (which many of the elements of that game went into creating this series rebirth) but I can’t help but wonder if this hurts the developer and fans more? The reboot launched to praise and lots of word of mouth, but this game has launched with barely a peep, which is a shame. But on the bright side, there is a very good chance that when the game re-releases in 2016, PS4 and PC users may come out on top with all DLC likely having been released already and maybe even packaging it into a nice $59.99 bundle much like the Definitive Edition before it.
The game is great if you have an Xbox One, but not enough to drop the money on a new console unless you may have been contemplating doing so for the other games Microsoft has to offer.
3.5 out of 5
Rise of the Tomb Raider is developed by Crystal Dynamics and Published by Square Enix. The game is currently available for Xbox One and Xbox 360 for $59.99.