Thursday, 10 December 2015

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Who is a better adventurer: Nathan Drake or Lara Croft? You have the suave charisma with that bit of luck in Nathan Drake and the survivalist instinct and intelligence of Lara Croft. The Uncharted Series which was influenced by older Tomb Raider titles to the crown for the best action adventure games but in 2013, that throne was challenged by a new, more determined Lara Croft. In 2015 with Uncharted 4 coming next year, it will be fighting to regain the throne because there’s a new queen of action adventure games. 

Developed by Crystal Dynamics and out now on Xbox One, Rise of the Tomb Raider is incredible. If you were expecting the same game as the reboot with more guns, think again. The developers have meticulously crafted a perfect balance between story, exploration, and gunplay. The story doesn’t interfere with the gameplay; Rather, it acts as an excellent funnel to move you between the different moments and areas of the game, keeping the pacing feeling smooth and refreshing. 

The spectacle of Rise of the Tomb Raider has been taken up a notch and is easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve played all year. Those moments when you overcome a climbing section or one that challenges your quick thinking, you are rewarded with a new stunning vista to gaze upon. The developers know they’ve made gorgeous scenery, the cocky little shites because they make Lara comment on it stating how beautiful it all is. Then again, is it really cocky if you know that it’s true?

As I’ve said already, the pacing is fantastic. You go from set-piece, to frantic shoot-out, to exploration, and climbing without ever feeling like there’s a predictable structure in place yet it also doesn’t feel random. It’s thrilling and calmly breath-taking at the same time, so you’re always impressed in one way or another. There’s always a strong urge to keep going to see what awaits you further along. Each section almost feels like a Kinder Surprise and the climax of each set-piece  is like finishing the chocolate and now you get to crack open the next plastic egg too see what you got this time.

The gunplay is incredibly smooth and impressive. Every shooting segment almost feels like a puzzle as you scope out the area and plan an attack. There are so much combat sections that feel like puzzles as you try to figure out enemy placements and items in the area. Most of these combat sections can actually be approached stealthily. What’s most impressive is that mowing down enemies with guns is just as satisfying as sneaking around taking down people and quietly headshotting them with your bow. Regardless of your approach, it feels satisfying and mixing things up doesn’t come at the cost of enjoyment of the gameplay.

What I’m about to say sounds stupid, but for some weird reason it’s actually valid: Rise of the Tomb Raider features much more  tombs for you to raid and they’re all worth it. Even though they are all optional, they’re totally worth exploring not just for the visual spectacle but the satisfaction of figuring out and completing each one. The biggest incentive though are the upgrades to Lara that you can’t get anywhere else. They aren’t useless upgrades either as when you unlock some of them, you’ll find that they are invaluable.

Past the campaign, there is Expeditions mode that extends the longevity of the already large campaign. They see Lara take on section of the campaign in a few different modes including score attack and survival. With all new games, there is a card system that you can buy that will either help or hinder you to reap rewards or make things a little easier. It’s a great compliment to the main campaign that keeps things fresh. Rise of The Tomb Raider is incredible with excellent pacing and fantastic visuals.

Rise of the Tomb Raider does not deserve to be buried and forgotten. It’s a treasure. 5/5.


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Jason Redmond
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