Game Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Release date: 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2015

[This game is one of those ‘timed exclusives’ deals, so it will be coming out on PS4 late next year. I would imagine that will be the (ever so slightly) better version, if you can wait.]

In 2013, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise with a gritty, serious and overall very enjoyable entry for the next generation of consoles. Published by Square Enix, it proved to be a smash hit, with many praising the new take on heroine Lara Croft — and since this was before I begin these reviews, the short of it is yeah, I liked it too. This 2015 sequel-with-a-misleading-name, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is the continuation of this new treasure hunter, now seasoned after the hell she has gone through in the first game. It sees our buxom explorer attempting to clear the disgraced name of her late father by finding the lost city of Kitezh, but to do so she will need to go through the villainous organisation Trinity, led by the dastardly Konstantin.

+ perhaps most importantly, Lara herself is far less annoying this time, and certainly far more sure of herself. She looks and sounds great (not surprising, since she is modelled after, motion-captured by, and voiced by the stunning Camilla Luddington). Big-bad Konstantin (voiced by Charles Halford) is constantly menacing but never overdone
+ the story has a few more twists and turns in it, with familiar faces and some new addition to the cast being memorable as ever. The plot provides solid reasons for any backtracking which needs to be done, and often adds enough new gear/previously inaccessible areas to keep things fresh
+ the world is beautiful. The snowy peaks look freezing, underground caverns claustrophobic, and (yes, they are back) proper tombs are dark and full of cobwebs. The lighting is glorious, and you’ll always be thankful Lara has a never ending supply of glowsticks to crack when things get too dark
+ the climbing is smoother, and this time requires a bit more skill in timing button presses, or pre-planning your ascent with well-placed climbing arrows. Only a few times was it not clear where the game wanted me to go, which led to some embarrassing deadly falls
+ the side activities are still most either hunting or collecting relics. This time there is no limit to the number of animals you can hunt, and their pelts or materials will come in handy for all manner of upgrades. The relics and audio logs provide some world building backstory, which I felt compelled to listen to each time

– there are a surprising number of times where control is taken away from you, for example in instances where the floor collapses. Too often it turns into simply holding ‘forward’ until something happens, Lara gets hurt in some way, then holding forward again until the next custscene, before you get proper control. Why these couldn’t just be a quick cutscene is beyond me
– I noticed many moments where the subtitles had someone speaking, but no-one actually said anything. Whether this was a simple glitch where an audio file didn’t play or not I can’t say, but it just meant that without subtitles, I would have missed a few crucial plot points
– the standard multiplayer has been removed, after appearing in the first game. It has been replaced with an ‘Expedition’ mode, allowing you to replay story missions, or take part in a few other game modes, using ‘card packs’ to add modifiers to the mission. This mode was not my cup of tea, personally, but if you are obsessive about topping leaderboards then you may get more out of it than me

> it’s amusing that Charles Halford voices Konstantin, since he recently appeared as Chas Chandler in the NBC adaption of the DC comics series, Constantine. I enjoy the little things

Should you play this game: Yes. Rise of the Tomb Raider improves on everything the first game did, and adds even more new mechanics, situations and abilities, which is everything a good sequel should do. Do yourself a favour and get this game.

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