Rise of the Tomb Raider: Review

"Remember those hard hitting gruesome death scenes where Lara would find herself impaled through the face if you made of wrong turn or failed to jump in time. GONE! All gone"

Tomb Raider has come a long way from its early days as a Playstation exclusive. Back then in 1996, Lara was made of around 540 polygons. Now, Lara has more than that just to craft her beautiful rear end. To put it into perspective, the 2013 Lara Croft used over 40,000 polygons.

In 2013, Crystal Dynamics re-imagined Tomb Raider which brought the series into the modern day and revitalized what I believed to be a dying franchise. I never much liked the older Tomb Raider games and I found them to be quite cumbersome and the gameplay just wasn't strong enough to keep me interested for more than a couple of levels. The rebooted Tomb Raider changed all of that. Tomb Raider (2013) became the very first game in a long running series that captivated my attention long enough that I completed the whole game. Not only did I complete the campaign, I smashed through enough of it to unlock the Platinum Trophy.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is set one year after the events of Tomb Raider (2013). The reboot showed us a new kind of Lara Croft, one that was green and not so ruthless. The events of the previous game planted a seed within Lara, and changed her from an innocent "little bird", to a pretty damn good killer. Lara has now become obsessed with uncovering the myths that she once took for granted and will embark on yet another adventure to uncover secrets, truths and deliver us from evil...Amen.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is about three times the size of the 2013 reboot. The extra power of the Xbox One is shown through the tremendous detail that has gone into creating the most important piece to the Tomb Raider puzzle, Lara Croft. Real-time cloth and body physics complement the full body performance capture and give a very lifelike representation of a real to life controllable Lara Croft. A new lighting model has been developed that shows of how rich and detailed materials are within the game world. Now for all of you hair enthusiasts, Lara is back with new and improved hair technology which shows each individual strand of hair exposed to their own different lighting depending on how the hair falls and blows around on Lara's head. Crystal Dynamics claim they have "really pushed the Xbox One to the limits to make Rise of the Tomb Raider the best looking game on the Xbox One". The only issue is that it's not. The lighting is good through most of the game but some areas look as though they were rushed, or just aren't loading properly. Issues can been noticed mostly in darker areas where lightning shines through walls or holes in the ceilings. The lightning effects or flashes often looks more like a glitch in the graphics, rather than a flash of realistic light.

When Rise of the Tomb Raider was first announced, it was promised that the story would show how Lara is forged into a hard killer and grow on that throughout. The only problem is that it doesn't. Lara does get down to business, and as in the previous game she slaughters her way though enemies as fast as the CPU can spawn them. Lara is tough and sometimes comes across as super human but she doesn't ever really come across as a super bad ass with nothing to lose. There are a couple of moments that felt badass but at the same time they felt a little bit out of place considering the way her character is developed throughout the game. It's not a bad thing and doesn't ruin the experience of the game, but I was just expecting her to get a little darker in this one.

The game play is the hero in Rise of the Tomb Raider. It's fun and exciting to unlock and put all of Lara's new abilities to work. Survival Instinct has returned (shows items of interest within the area you are in) but has had some upgrades which mean that there will be a more dynamic feel to how you pick up on hints around your environments. Using stealth has been enhanced to make it a little more accessible for when you want to use it, and not always just when the game wants you to. To assist with your stealth game play you can now create sound distractions by throwing objects like liquor bottles or tin cans to gather the attention of your enemies. Now this works well, when it works. There were a few occasions where I threw some bottles nearby to an enemy to find that he didn't see or hear it. I grabbed another and threw it closed, however the super smart enemy still had no idea that a glass bottle was being smashed at his feet. It would appear that there are a few kinks to iron out. I reloaded the scene and the issue was gone so it's likely no everyone will have that problem. Using Survival Instincts during a stealth attach is a big help. Enemies will glow red when they are in view of other enemies that will notice and be alerted should you attack that enemy. Enemies that glow orange are far enough away that if you slot an arrow between their eyes, no one will notice.

Side missions have been introduced to Rise of the Tomb Raider which is a nice addition. You will meet various characters along the way who will request that you help them with some tasks. These side missions are enjoyable at the least and always reward Lara with a decent upgrade ability. For this reason, I recommend going and punching out some side missions (sidies) so that you can unlock the really cool abilities in the game. Plus, they're not too bad in the fun factor too.

Optional Tombs are also back again and much like the 'sidies' they will also grant you with special upgrade upon completion. This time around, they are fairly easy, like they have been in the past. They do get harder as you progress through the game, but most fans of the Tomb Raider series will likely get them done with relative ease.

Now Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Microsoft timed Exclusive, which means that you can only play it now on the Xbox One or the Xbox 360 which completely alienates other platforms for a period of about a year. The biggest worry I have with with Rise of the Tomb Raider is that I fear that it is going to fail for Crystal Dynamics. Not because it's a bad game that no one will enjoy, but because it's the complete opposite. Making the decision to release Rise of the Tomb Raider as a timed exclusive for Microsoft, means that only the smaller console market will get their hands on this game. Omitting the Playstation 4 from a day one release will very likely hurt sales and Rise of the Tomb Raider probably wont get the recognition that it deserves. In saying that, I really do hope that it has the legs to stand on its own until it if finally released on the rest of the gaming community.

Will people buy an Xbox 360 or Xbox One specifically for this game? Will Rise of the Tomb Raider be a console seller? Not very likely. Unfortunately, while the visuals are stunning and the environments are breathtaking and well crafted, the story line is dull and predictable. Unlike the 2013 Tomb Raider, the characters that are met along the way are sadly throwaways. I never felt any interest in the characters and why they are doing what they are doing. Now that I think of it, it's not explained very well in the first place. So for this reason, gamers aren't really going to see excitement from those that have already played the game. Although I enjoyed playing the whole game, when it comes to the story experience it was pretty flat.

Remember those hard hitting gruesome death scenes where Lara would find herself impaled through the face if you made of wrong turn or failed to jump in time. GONE! All gone. The most graphic part of Lara dying is the thud she makes as she hits the ground after a long fall. Other than that, the themes have been drastically downplayed from what 2013's release had. Remember that amazing scene where Lara found herself submerged in a pool of real blood. When she emerged she was all red and gross and yuck! Nothing like that ever happens again. It's disappointing that Rise of the Tomb Raider didn't hit those notes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was a well anticipated game and it sadly falls short of what made the original a massive hit. It's definitely a larger game that expands on the previous game, but it never quite hits the same note.

Thanks for taking the time to check out this review.


To Top