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Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

by on October 13, 2016
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Editor’s Note: 11 Month after the release of the Xbox One version, followed by the PC version in January 2016, tested by Luciano Rahal, the team got to review the PlayStation 4 version of the game, right in time to honor the 20th anniversary of the Tomb Raider franchise, written by Muhammed Al Bukhary which reflects on the overall score, and final verdict. 

Right off the bat; an exclusive deal between Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft have driven a wedge between Lara Croft and the PS4 owners. For one long year we have not seen hide nor hair of Lara Croft, the period in which The Rise of The Tomb Raider remained exclusive to the green brand. However, time past and Lara has finally graced the blue brand, her arrival coinciding with the 20th anniversary of her first outing, Crystal Dynamics fully commemorated the occasion, and justify amended the year long no-show of Miss Croft on PS4, by providing PS4 owners the most comprehensive, (and yes) definitive experience of Rise of The Tomb Raider. The 20 Year Celebration edition comes stuffed to the brim with new contents, combined with already impressive myriad of contents and previously released DLCs. This had me sing the praises of the highly replayability value of this iteration, make no mistake, Rise of The Tomb Raider is the deepest and the richest  TR to date in terms of replayability, as you can easily invest 50 hours plus hunting for relics and completing fun challenges.

Speaking of contents, Crystal Dynamics dig dug deep into the past and the rich legacy of Tomb Raider, and unearthed slew of contents guaranteed to please the long time fans of the series, the most prominent of those are 5 classic Lara skins, and fully explorable and playable Croft Manor, in addition to beefed up “Extreme Survivor” difficulty setting, and the integration of online co-op to the Endurance mode.

Shifting gears; here are two new modes that take place in the Croft Manor:  Blood Ties and Lara’s Nightmare. The former of which is an exploratory,  single player chapter where you don the cape of a detective; figuratively of course, and explore the spacious halls and rooms of the manor, interacting with environmental objects, gathering clues and evidence to answer the challenge of Lara’s uncle of the ownership of her family’s inheritance. Although short, I appreciated it’s “a la Resident Evil 4” over the shoulder view perfectly married with quite (combat-free ) pace, and it’s old school gameplay of finding the right tool to progress . the gorgeous Croft Manor is a mother lode of secrets and legacy of the Croft Family, throughout the diary notes and audio recordings gathered within it’s stunningly detailed location, you uncover further details about the motivation of Lara’s Father and the reason why he desperately  sought the relic of immortality, it is a great opportunity to further deepen the tight knit relationship between the player and Lara. With the introduction of this mode, Tomb Raider is one of the inaugural titles that support the PlayStation VR, as of the time of writing this review we did not had a chance to experience  this chapter using the gadget, but as we know; the notion is clear, and that is to immerse the player into his/ her surroundings and given the slow paced, explanatory nature of the mode, the gadget fits in harmony with this chapter.

Rise of the Tomb Raide - VGProfessional Review (17)

On the other hand, the latter of the two modes: Lara’s Nightmare takes place in a gloomy version of Croft Manor, infested with hordes of demons. In contrary to it’s sister, this mode is a fast-paced mode that completely ditches the exploration aspect of the former and embraces a sort of trigger-happy gameplay. What great is that this mode is fully customizeable with cards, after I have gone through it, even though it is short and lasts for few minutes; I can say that I really enjoyed this mode. To make the most of this intense, hard-hitting mode;  I highly recommend playing it in higher difficulty settings, you will be constantly peeling your eyes trying to observe your surroundings, and pricking your ears trying to locate the source of the disembodied groans of the demons, all in all I liked this mode, it never disappoint.

One of the cool new features is without a doubt the addition of co-op gameplay in the already excellent Endurance mode, (prior to sharing my thoughts about my experience with this mode, I have played the single player mode in order to fully and accurately point out the impact of the incorporation of  online co-op in this mode )and I have to say, playing it alone is a blast, however, playing it alongside a chum of yours is super neat.

On a slightly different note; be it the chilling snowy terrain of Siberia, or the sun soaked wilderness of Syria bedazzled with ancient ruins, the ethereal beauty of the game’s graphics will take away every gasp of breath from your lungs. Admittedly; although the graphic is incomparable with the graphical prowess of the PC version, I haven’t noticed much of a difference from Xbox One’s graphics, the game runs smoothly without a hitch in 60p.

The Ps4 version is a double side coin, on one side; from a first time experience standpoint, I highly recommend the PS4 version to those who have never experienced it before, in addition to the the previously released DLCs,  the contents are thick on the ground. Conversly; on the flip side of the coin, the contents are “thin” on the ground for those who experienced it before on Xbox One or PC, and for the long time fans expecting more from a “20 Year Celebration” version. Granted, I liked both new modes under the Croft Manor roof, the classic skins and all, but both of Family Ties and Lara’s Nightmare comes short of fullfiling our expectations, it is not that I do not appericate the efforts of Crystal Dynamics digging deep into the legacy of the series and digging out a number of contents, but I believe ( Given the year long period between the original release of the game on Xbox and PS4 version) they could brought much greater fan-services.  I do not recommend it to those who played it before on Xbox One and PC, the new contents are fine but not worthy of your hard earned bucks, alternatively; the new contents are available as DLC for Xbox One and PC owners, and included in the season pass.

Rise of The Tomb Raider: 20 Years Celebration is a no-brainer and must have for every PS4 owner out there, the single player campaign is one of the best this generation of games can offer, stunning locals aside, the addition of more tomb and caves, a lot of heights to climb, ancient languages to learn, had further helped the player intimately connect with Lara and feel a bonafide tomb raider, the lightning are guaranteed to please your eyes, and for me, on a personal note; the replayability of this iteration is the superstar that I wholeheartedly thurst it into the limelight.

Five years shy from it’s silver anniversary; this beloved series and it’s heroine have endured a lot, with retro and classic skins, in addition to a slew of fan services,  this version commemorates well the occasion and continues basking in the afterglow of the 2013’s reboot . Rise of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration PS4 version shines brighter with excellent contents thick on the ground, contents both old and new, an amazing package that is a bang for your buck. Make no mistake; Lara have already surmounted a lot of insormountable hights, but with Rise of The Tomb Raider, she proved that she can “rise” to much greater heights.

Lara clings to a rockface and prepares to make an inverted leap, with the Syrian desert in the background.

Videogame industry nowadays is almost like the cinema world, where throughout the years, a key actor or figure gradually disappears, pushed away by the arrival of a new generation of icons, virtual or not. That’s what happened to Lara Croft, the beloved star of the 1990s, giving her place to Kratos, Nathan Drake, or even Master Chief. Following her successful comeback in 2013 and now, the British adventurer is back to becoming one of the prominent figures in the world of gaming, so naturally, her second adventure in this “new formula” was eagerly awaited, and will not disappoint anyone.

Thanks to a reboot orchestrated jointly by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, 2013’s Tomb Raider introduced a twist to what players were accustomed to Lara Croft as a character. Instead of being confident, brash, and almost superhuman, they discovered the wanderings of a young adult suddenly confronted with the violence of the world, and barbarism of men. To see that icon “lowered” to a mere mortal, a vulnerable and fragile human, created a real shock for most fans, yet the game was a success. A sequel was therefore to be expected, but it was expected to live something different, fixing some of the biggest flaws of Tomb Raider as she could no longer rely on its greatest strength: the evolution of the central character in the game. Yet with Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics managed a second time to produce an exciting and action packed adventure, filled with mystery and magic.

In this new adventure, she engages in a mad chase for the source of immortality, an artifact that stirs up lust of a Christian sect called Trinity, for over a millennium. Her journey will lead you briefly to Syria and continue in Siberia, where most of the adventure will take place. If I obviously prefer not tell you the main story, I would nonetheless point out the star of the game, is once again Lara: our young archaeologist has learned so much from the first reboot episode with her adventure with the Yamatai and Solarii, which visibly scarred her for life, but built her courage. Lara is now much more confident, curses her enemies and make more radical decisions.

There’s no longer a feeling if fragility that made her so interesting two years ago, but the new plot is however tempered by a certain naivety which continues to play tricks on her. It’s fun to discover Lara’s personality throughout the game, so radically different from what we knew of the icon that was before the 2013 reboot. This is made to perfection by the perfect modeling of her face, especially expressive in all circumstances, to remind us that, despite its evolution, she remains a human like any others, with her body covered regularly filled with cuts, scrapes and blood, to a chilling realism. In short, the main interest of the game is the new Lara Croft, and we will have get closer to her pain as she search each cave exit, and opens every door that is locked to her.

If in the 2013 Tomb Raider, it was mainly a question of survival, escape the Yamatai while learning more about the famous Himiko Guards and the Storm Queen, Rise of The Tomb Raider follows a much more traditional path for the series. Her hunt for a certain relic filled with miraculous powers, before it gets in the hands of a sect is close to a manichean tale. The Trinity sect and its people (soliders), are in the form of an extremist Christian sect, built with an immense heritage, dating back to the Middle Ages, at a time when they acted directly but secretly under the orders of the Pope. Rise of the Tomb Raider will takes us in this past, with Lara throughout the game progress, learns more about the sect, but especially on the man they sought to eliminate, a mysterious prophet who holds this artifact called the Divine Source. And of course, it’s up to the player to make the effort to find documents or old relic to understand all of this, like a mini archaeological work, ultimately, simple but reminds us that before being a gun blazing badass, Lara is primarily a bookworm.

A millennium mystery, esotericism and a touch of conspiracy theories, that’s what make this Rise of the Tomb Raider such a classic in the franchise. If the story is actually quite basic, the game takes the time to delve into the past to keep awake the interest of the player, and most importantly, it has a staging in line with what was proposed in the previous game, and close to its competitor model, the Uncharted series. Explosions, avalanches, rock falls, landslides, everything happens to the unfortunate archaeologist who often must rely on her agility and newly acquired skills to survive the day. However, it is possible that some players will point the finger on the QTE and scripted element that are triggered throughout the game, but it is clear that it works to perfection from start to finish, and we crave for one thing: what happen once the danger avoided.

Lara aims her compound bow as the tomb burns around her.

Lara aims her compound bow as the tomb burns around her.

The first Tomb Raider allowed us to modify and upgrade Lara’s weapons, and this time, the crafting mechanics goes a step further and adds somewhat a new gaming experience. You will have to survey the region for wood, cloth, animal skins, mushrooms and other material craft special ammunition, fill your quiver or simply enlarge it, or even carve different gun ammunition. If it seemed rather superficial in the first game, the crafting element requires some patience here, at least in the early hours of adventure. When you get attacked by a bear which blocks your way to safety, you wouldn’t think to shoot him with your puny little bow? Lara will go and search for poisonous mushrooms and other components to create poisoned arrows, to weaken the giant bear. Throughout the game, you will unlock new skills that allow you to pick up more materials by identifying nests that could contain feathers, branches and mechanical parts inside chest with the nifty survival instinct.

You can of course always improve your weapons whether it’s your bow, rifle or handgun, but it’s not as easy as before. The mechanical parts in particular are increasingly scarce in this chapter, which will require you to prioritize upgrades to unlock depending on what you could soon face in the game. The choice is not Cornelian since it pushes you to be patient and play well, be adventurous, and curious enough to explore all accessible areas in this semi-open world game.

And this is one of the big things that the previous Tomb Raider reboot amazed the fans. The franchise was a typical action / adventure game, pretty linear, which had you solve puzzles and explore the levels that we crossed to find keys, hidden passageways, weapons… Crystal Dynamics with Rise of the Tomb Raider decided to go for a more “open” approach to their levels and maps, with many small areas to explore, and all full of secrets that you must find. Sometimes you just have to retrace your steps to use a new tool that you just unlocked, as well as several challenge tombs but also caves to explore with caution: if the reward is attractive, know that the challenge is even more fun. Generally, the presence of bones on the floor is revealing in these caves: you may have entered the den of a bear, or a pack of wolves! The tombs themselves are perhaps smaller than the first game, but some are particularly sublime, all bringing wealth to the title and some variety, so you never get bored.

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After the 2013 reboot, Tomb Raider had redefined many things, starting with its action sequences. The gunfight was particularly nervous and this new game that change the situation. Our beloved British is able to sprint at will, and has learned from her experience in Yamatai. The various counters acquired through the skill tree are particularly interesting in action, especially when it comes to finishing an enemy down with a shotgun. The feeling with the weapons is excellent, and the basic recoil and aiming element is downright pleasant. Things get tough with enemies in armor, but one learns to use roll and scramble to find an opening and put a wicked axe hit where it hurts. I would advise all to even start the game on a higher difficulty, to add more tension in the later levels. However, by default the game can be experienced in a fluid and extremely well paced adventure, with not that many “try again” parts.

On the graphical side of things, Rise of Tomb Raider is superb, highlighting what Crystal Dynamics did with Tomb Raider Definitive Edition in 2014. The game is simply beautiful, especially indoors and midsize levels, where we appreciate the delicacy of the textures and rock formations, water effects and above all incredible work done on the lighting. And If Tomb Raider was shocking by the violence of its world, a dirty, bloody and almost too dark theme, Rise of the Tomb Raider returns to something more classic, but so much more effective. It is a real trip back in time that the player experience with Lara, in the footsteps of this famous prophet. We visit many temples and the big adventure, once past the dark gulags of the Soviet era, therefore takes place in the ruins of an absolutely magnificent medieval town.

On the topic of the PC version. By Luciano Rahal

PCMasterRaceRise of the Tomb Raider hit the PC in February 2016, and at first glance, I can comfortably say it is just as good as it is on console. One of the best things you notice as soon as you pass the loading screen is that you can get all the sexy effects, winter feel and stunning sceneries without having the best machine out there in the market.

I have to admit that running the game at maximum graphics resulted in heating and loud noises with instances of choppy and frustrating gameplay. However, once you adjust the graphics to medium settings (or via NVIDIA Geforce Experience), the game became instantly playable without sacrificing any of the joyful treasure hunting experiences.

One of the prominent things to notice are the many visual settings the PC version gives you which makes this predecessor of the game more interactive and fun to play. Taking this a little bit further, I tried alternating between your traditional keyboard and mouse versus an Xbox controller. Although the game offers high scaling fast action paced story lines, I must admit using a controller was by far easier. However, when it comes to survivability and skills in the art of killing, the traditional mouse and keyboard combo remained victorious with flying colors. The sensitivity options and mouse and keyboard coordination remained more responsive and overall smoother.

I am one of the true believer that PCs are just better when it comes to gaming and Rise of the tomb raider did not disappoint. Overall it was a solid performance and the credit goes to the developers that were able to optimize the game rendering it playable on most gaming laptops. Bringing it to PC is truly the right decision for this franchise.

Rise of the Tomb Raider looks great from an artistic point of view, but I will be less categorical technically, since in most open spaces, where details abound, the console shows its effort to push the limit. The textures are less precise, the viewing distance is diminished… In short the game gets tarnished. But fortunately there is not much to hold against the game, as these small sections pass, complemented by in-game cutsenes, where Lara’s animations and attention to details in her hair, face, skin, makes it more credible than any video game heroes emerged in recent years.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was reviewed using an Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4 downloadable copy of the game provided by the Xbox. The PC version was tested with a Steam redeemable code on a PC running a Windows 10 Home, Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor set at 2.60 GHz, 4 GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M and 16GB of DDR3 Ram. The review on PlayStation 4 was written by Muhammed Al Bukhary. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published

What we liked

Console versions

• Visually sublime especially indoor locations
• Lara Croft
• Lighting effects
• The exploration many secrets in the game
• The crafting elements of the game
• The art direction
• A fast-paced adventure from start to finish
• The music, sometimes epic, sometimes oppressive
• The Expedition mode, which extends the lifespan of the title
• The Blood Ties Chapter.
• Lara’s Nightmare Chapter is hard-hitting and intense.
• The Classic Skins play on the heartstrings of the long time fans.

PC Version

• Optimized graphics
• Option to play traditionally with mouse and keyboard or controller
• Graphic customization
• Playable on low range gaming laptops

What is not fun

Console versions

• Some large levels are a bit heavy on the console
• The player can feel a little bit too guided by the game
• Some small bugs
• Perhaps too conventional
• The new contents on PS4 is thin
• Expected more of the 20 year celebration version.

PC Version

• Very heavy if running at full graphics
• No DLCs on PC version
• Emphasis on using headphone audio

Editor Rating
 
Concept
8.8

 
Graphics
9.0

 
Sound
9.2

 
Playability
9.0

 
Entertainment
9.4

 
Replay Value
9.0

Final Score
9.1


Our final verdict
 

Although it is less original in its treatment than its predecessor, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a near-perfect success which corrects all errors of the 2013 reboot. Even if this scenario is not very original, it is a great excuse to enjoy a skillfully paced and crazy adventure. With its tombs, caves and great levels to discover and rediscover with the tools obtained throughout the adventure, Rise of the Tomb Raider finally incorporates exploration aspect that was lacking in the last title. Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best titles released this year and now available on PC.

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