In this review we’ll have two of our writers with hands-on time who both have a review on Rise of the Tomb Raider. Below you’ll see a text review from Robert Workman and a video review from Mike Robles. Hope you enjoy this one-of-a-kind review from two members of our team. – Andrew Peggs (Senior Editor)
Robert Workman: 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot was an absolutely effective one, a rebirth for Lara Croft right when she needed it the most. After all, she had been through a LOT over the years, starting with Core’s initial debut, the middling “whatever this is” that was The Angel of Darkness (that eventually closed the studio), and Crystal Dynamics taking the helm for a series of adventures.
But it’s with the reboot that we really discovered just how vulnerable our heroine would be. The developers removed her large boobs in favor of a soul, and we felt every crushing, exciting moment with her, all the way until the end, when she found out just what she was capable of. And that, folks, is how you start an adventure anew.
Now the question is how do you continue it. Fortunately, Crystal Dynamics – in partnership with Square Enix and exclusive partner Microsoft – have answered that with Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game that digs even deeper into Lara’s complicated feelings, while still ramping up the kind of action that would give Nathan Drake the meat sweats. Lara finds herself trying to fulfill her father’s legacy of a hidden treasure, while at the same time dealing with an organization known as Trinity, which hopes to discover it first.
There are plenty of nice twists here and there, but we’ll spare you the spoilers and let you discover it for yourself. It’s just fantastic, though, that Crystal Dynamics still knows how to tell a hell of a story with a character that is almost two decades old in this industry. Gone is implausibility, and in its place, we have feeling for Lara, and what she’s going through when it comes to fulfilling what Papa Croft couldn’t do.
Camilla Luddington’s performance helps drive the game to such emotional heights, as you feel every bit of her triumph and despair through thoughtful conversation pieces and movements. She really puts on a show here, and signifies the character for herself – sorry, Angelina Jolie, but you’ve been put to shame.
As for the game itself, it shows a number of improvements over the original, especially when it comes to weapon play. Depending on what items she finds in the environment (which are easily highlighted using your tomb raiding sense), she can build anything from Molotov cocktails to nail bombs on the fly and take out a group of enemies rather effectively. If you prefer, general combat still applies very well, even if you’re left in the wide open a little too long if you’re choking someone out. Stealth also plays a part, but this is a game where you can play it as it is and still feel a compelling experience as a result. That’s a neat trick, especially considering what the first game was capable of doing.
Part of that is through the prowess of the developer’s design. You really feel the thrill-a-minute action of the game, whether it’s avoiding a death trap, making your way across creaky ledges or escaping a collapsing chamber with crackerjack timing. The controls never lapse for a minute, even giving you more chances of survival than you’d expect with dramatic slo-mo moments. And even though the death scenes are painful – especially when getting mauled by a bear, ouch – the checkpoints are more than fair, so you don’t have to lumber ten miles to try again.
The game once again returns to an open-world design – eventually, after the first stage or so – where you can explore and not only find your way to new missions, but also extra ones, like Challenge Tombs where you can find additional treasure, provided you’re smart enough to figure your way around. These, along with hidden artifacts and other goodies, add extravagant replay value to the game, so you have a lot to go back to once the main journey, which will take you approximately five to six hours, is complete. It’s really cool, and you might just learn a thing or two about archaeology. Take that, Dr. Jones.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also looks fantastic. The settings really provide a huge range of scope for exploration, whether you’re running through the ruins in Syria, or across a Soviet base filled with danger. There’s hardly a glitch in sight, and while the camera can occasionally be a pain, it’s not enough to throw you off at all. The animations are excellent, too, and the level design, particularly in the Challenge Tombs, is overwhelmingly good. You’ll want to explore every nook and cranny just to see what you can find, even if it is in the underbelly of what appears to be an uninhabited mine.
Again, the voicework, particularly Luddington, is spot on, and the adversaries have some fun with it, too. The musical cues perfectly fit in with the action, providing the kind of atmosphere that keeps up with its on-screen character. The sound effects are good as well, so don’t worry about Ms. Croft sounding like she’s off in the least.
Along with the Challenge Tombs featured in the game, you’ll also find some replay value in the Expedition Mode. While this scraps the somewhat pointless multiplayer mode introduced in the original, it actually makes competition better as you face off with friends in “speed runs” as it were, trying to finish challenges in the quickest time possible.
As a result, you’ll earn cards that you can apply to your character during runs, including more interesting ones like making enemies explode and enlarging your head. It’s an entertaining mode, and while some may miss the direct competition, this more than makes up for it. And how.
In the end, there’s very little wrong with Rise of the Tomb Raider – and hardly anything in its way in terms of being declared one of the year’s best. Sure, the deaths continue to be painful (stupid bear), and you may have mixed feelings between going with stealth or full-on action, but the game as a whole is a wonderful experience, even surpassing the original adventure that put Lara back on the map in 2013. It’s that kind of sequel that deserves your utmost appreciation – kind of like a treasure in itself.
Mike Robles: Rise of the Tomb Raider is an amazing game. Mike is here to tell you what loves about it. I would say more, but then there’d be no point in watching the video.