I genuinely believe the Tomb Raider reboot has been one of the most successful franchise revivals in possibly all of gaming – right up there with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. While Nathan Drake currently busies himself with aping the cinematic storytelling and pure fun of Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider has taken divergent approach – becoming grittier, looser and more open, while retaining cinematic touches where it needs. It’s almost akin to a modern Far Cry game these days, but the combination of crafting, survival, tomb raiding, gunplay and platforming have given Tomb Raider a unique voice, one which I’d say it struggled to find in the days of, say, Tomb Raider Legend or Tomb Raider Underworld.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second game in this reboot series, released originally as a timed exclusive for Xbox One – a fact which wasn’t really a secret. The game looked and played great on Xbox One, as Andrew found when he reviewed the game last year, and the same holds true as the game finally comes to PS4 with Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration. While it is the 20th anniversary of Tomb Raider, don’t be expecting a huge amount of nostalgic content (for instance, there’s no collection of ports of the original games or anything), as this release really is more of a ‘Game of the Year Edition’ that collates all the DLC and season pass content from the last year. That said, the influence of the older games is felt through a few of the new additions in this release, such as a few classic low-poly player skins and the opening of Croft Manor as a new level, now available for exploration.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was a cracking game on Xbox One, and nothing has changed in its transition over to PS4. The main adventure of the game follows Lara, evolving after her experiences in the Tomb Raider reboot and chasing down an artifact her late father was obsessed with – the Divine Source. While the story is relatively well written, and definitely well performed by the voice cast, I personally found the adventure a little forgettable and a little too similar to Nathan Drake’s similar icy exploits in Uncharted 2. That said, that’s really my only minor quibble in an otherwise excellent game. Lara’s abilities, which have evolved from the first game to include a rope and broadhead arrows, add new options for exploring the game’s several open environments, which makes discovering the tons of artifacts, documents and secrets hidden throughout the game even more fun. However, I have to give special mention to the challenge tombs hidden throughout the campaign, which range from simple puzzles in a cave, to full-on spectacularly designed ancient ships frozen in glaciers. Exploration is always rewarded, which seems like an obvious component of the Tomb Raider experience, but it’s one that works so well.
With my poorly-trained eyes, no qualifications or specialised equipment and my copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One, I couldn’t really tell any difference in visual fidelity between the two releases. This should come as good news to players picking up the game for the first time on PS4, as it means you’re getting the same amazing visuals and performance as the Xbox One version, and while I’m sure others will be able to more closely compare the two, I wouldn’t worry too much about which console you pick the game up on.
Beyond the core game, you’ll also be treated to a barrage of alerts upon heading to the game’s ‘Expeditions’ menu, as you receive all the DLC released for Rise of the Tomb Raider. That includes all of the outfits, weapons and Expedition Cards (modifiers for the game’s multiplayer and challenge modes), so there’s a huge amount of bonus content right off the bat. As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock access to the two main DLC expansions, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, and Cold Darkness Awakened. Both will run you a couple of hours to complete, neither offering very compelling story content, but some interesting ideas and experiments. In Baba Yaga, some hallucinatory experiences provide creepy scenes, and Cold Darkness Awakened pits Lara against Soviet zombie-like creatures, who rely on sound to track Lara.
The big new additions are the ‘Blood Ties’ and ‘Lara’s Nightmare’ missions, both of which are wrapped up in Croft Manor, which has been added to this Edition to explore at your will. Both missions concern Lara’s Uncle Atlas trying to legally take ownership of Croft Manor. In Blood Ties, Lara goes about combating this in a fairly reasonable manner, as the mission involves hunting around the house for clues to where her father hid his will. There’s no combat in Blood Ties, but there are a lot of artefacts and documents to discover, mostly providing a lot of backstory to Lara’s parents – how they met, what their hopes and dreams were, how they were separated and how Lara grew up. While there is a linear path throughout, you are encouraged to explore on your own and backtrack upon acquiring new objects to access new areas (like a master key for the house, or a crowbar to smash open locked boxes). It’s a nice little adventure through Lara’s past, with some very neat puzzles that require a little bit of brainpower, and the mission is also supported on the soon-to-be-released PlayStation VR – we’ll have more on how that plays upon the headset’s release.
In Lara’s Nightmare, Uncle Atlas takes a different approach to stealing Lara’s inheritance, by sending an army of zombie warriors and floating skulls to kill her. So, a slightly more direct tactic, then. As the title implies, this is all a nightmare Lara is having, with fast-paced action around Croft Manor with waves of zombies seemingly constantly coming after you relentlessly, and plenty of ammo on hand to take them out. It’s a fun, but tough, diversion and a nice little riff on the regular challenge maps and modes in the game.
It should also be mentioned that the fun Endurance mode of Rise of the Tomb Raider has received a co-op upgrade in this release as well. Endurance mode was already a surprisingly compelling component, introducing even more survival elements into the gameplay by dropping Lara into the wilderness, adding hunger and temperature gauges that need to be constantly topped up, and challenging you to find secret tombs and collectibles before lighting a signal fire to escape by helicopter. There are interesting factors at play here – constantly hunting rabbits and deer for food and even the fact that the signal fire to end your run attracts enemies as soon as its lit. Co-op lets you team up with a single friend to tackle the elements, and it’s a cool addition to a game mode I found surprisingly enjoyable.
If you only have a PS4 and you don’t already own Rise of the Tomb Raider, then it’s a no-brainer to pick up Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration. It has everything that made last year’s release one of the most enjoyable games of the year, plus all of the extra content that has been out since then. These individual components may not be incredibly compelling on their own (Blood Ties, while interesting, isn’t a vital part of the story), but the fact they’re included in addition to the meaty main game makes for a very tempting package. Rise of the Tomb Raider remains a sumptuous gameplay cake, and 20 Year Celebration just adds some nice icy frosting for those PS4 gamers who were patient enough to wait.
Rise of the Tomb Raider remains a great action adventure All DLC included Endurance mode is a lot of fun Looks amazing
Story is a little forgettable Blood Ties is only mildly interesting, but may be more compelling in VR