Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration (PS4/PSVR)

rise-of-the-tomb-raider-review-banner-yr10

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Xbox 360
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • PlayStation Move None
Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Title: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (18.09 GB)
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
There has been an ongoing battle online about the significance of influence between Tomb Raider and Uncharted, with combatants on either side claiming that one game influenced the other.

It’s silly to think that Uncharted exists without some sort of appreciation of Lara Croft’s exploits, and it’s equally ignorant to believe that Lara’s latest entries do not borrow from Nathan Drake’s over-the-top action sequences.

But here’s the thing, they’re both amazing and there’s even reason to believe that they are very different games. Rise of the Tomb Raider is only similar to the Uncharted games in its spelunking tone and familiar wall-climbs and gunplay.

Outside of those similarities, Rise of the Tomb Raider, much like the previous game in the series, takes on a very action-adventure approach to the Indiana Jones genre that both actually borrowed from.

And what it does, it does with absolute finesse and excellence. This is a tough one to put down. The moment you do, you start to think about that next task you needed to accomplish and end up hopping back into the adventure.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

This is in no small part due to the role-playing approach for the current Tomb Raider series. There is a major satisfaction in learning new survival skills or upgrading your favorite weapon. Every one of those upgrades compliments a gameplay style. Hell, I found the bow and arrow to be an absolute favorite, despite the availability of rifle variations and upgrades.

But leveling Lara is only half the reason why this sets itself apart from other similarly themed games. While Rise of the Tomb Raider follows a linear storyline, you are encouraged to take on side quests, earning you not only experience, but also perks and weapon upgrades.

… adding vertical hiding places to your options …
These quests are optional, but a little deviation from the main course can earn you some great loot. And speaking of loot, side quests aren’t the only things available to distract you from your ultimate goal.

Hidden tombs litter the environment, gnawing at your curiosity and promising even more treasure and experience. Completionists will take great joy in some of these puzzles and rewards.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

In previous reviews, I have stated how poorly I fair when playing stealth-based games. Again, I enjoy playing them, I’m just terrible at staying hidden. However, there is something significantly satisfying and effective about the way this game handles stealth, something that made me actually succeed and enjoy playing the ninja card.

Perhaps it’s the availability of the aforementioned bow and arrow that makes distant silent kills possible. It can also be attributed to the fact that Lara can easily scale trees and rocky outcroppings like Bruce Dickinson at a Maiden concert, adding vertical hiding places to your options.

I’ve never quite enjoyed sneaking around as much as I did with Lara. Even the times that I was actually discovered, I could silence someone with an arrow, and swiftly relocate to a new hiding place before the other baddies noticed the body.

Optional PlayStation VR Content

One other aspect of the game that I must comment on is the “survival” element. While it may not compare to games completely dependent on survival gameplay, there was a certain satisfaction in the collection of elements to create my own arrows and can-bombs, especially when I was running from the enemy and crafting some arrows as I escaped. This also applies to healing salves, both the creation and application.

I don’t want to delve much into the narrative here, as there are plenty of twists and turns and great characters to discover. Story elements are presented in high quality cinematics using in-game characters. The results are dramatic, and at times, evoke emotional responses from the player. I held no love for the antagonist here, and felt a stronger tie to Lara then I have had in past games.

Extra missions are available in this edition, including a zombie romp through Laura’s mansion and a quest to save your father’s estate from greedy bankers. These side stories are a great distraction from the main quest and explore a bit more of Lara’s character. Yes, even the zombie mission.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Veterans of the Tomb Raider reboot might complain a bit about the “Zelda-syndrome.” That is – the fact that Lara unlearns everything she learned in previous games. But by the time you complete the game and max out most of her skills, you can’t really imagine her becoming more of a badass than she already is.

Speaking of Zelda, Rise of the Tomb Raider has enough hidden goodies to keep you coming back to old locations in order open that previously unavailable chest or break down that hidden passageway. I’ve always enjoyed that element of the Zelda series, and it definitely adds to the longevity and entertainment here as well.

… brilliantly designed and animated …
Visuals:
The Tomb Raider reboot has definitely taken some cues from Nathan Drake’s games and that is absolutely fine, because as I said, it has taken it a completely different direction.

That said, this game is a beauty to behold when standing still and in motion. When you consider the open-endedness here, there is so much detail in the environment. This is something to factor in when certain epic cinematic events take place, like bridges crumbling below you or rock slides. It makes these events more unpredictable when you don’t feel you are being lead down a path.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Character models are brilliantly designed and animated. I especially love how Lara reaches back to her hair and squeezes out some of the water whenever she emerges from a swim. Interpolation between animations also works very well here, making the transition from running to sneaking into a bush both fluid and believable.

Audio:
Rise boasts a robust combination of musical score and top quality sound effects to capture your auditory senses. Everything from the sound of distant gunfire to the unnerving effect of howling wolves in the distance serves to compliment gameplay. Even the sound of a scurrying rabbit plays a role in your survival.

… an absolute contender for Game of the Year …
The voice acting here is also of the utmost professional quality, which of course is a great thing, because any less and the dramatic storyline might fall flat.

Online/Multiplayer:
Unfortunately, at the time of this review, there was no one online to join me in experiencing the co-op endurance mode.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Conclusion:
Few games occupy my mind long after I’ve powered-down the console. Lara’s latest adventure satisfies so many gameplay styles and nudges your exploration curiosity enough to dare you to come back for more. It is visually stunning and sports more than enough gameplay options and side quests to entertain you for a long time.

In terms of value, and worth for your hard-earned cash, this game will earn its keep in your collection. While it might be almost a year old for some, PlayStation 4 owners will find an absolute contender for Game of the Year here.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook