Rise of the Tomb Raider was by far one of the best games I played in 2015. So much so that I it took my Game of the Year. It was one of the games that you hated because you did not have an Xbox One, and those who did own the console, had enough reason to gloat over the game’s exclusivity. Almost a year later and Lara Croft has finally returned to her home console, the PlayStation. The PS4 version, dubbed Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, packs all the content from the Xbox One edition, with a cool new zombie survival mode, and a co-op addition to the Expedition survival mode. Altogether the package is more or less the same, with a few tweaks here and there.
Starting off with the main campaign, the story sees Lara in search for the Elixir of Life, also known as the power of immortality. This is after her father abandons his search for it after his tragic death. Lara is now determined to prove that the world was wrong and her father was right, in order to do so, she begins her search for the ancient city of Kitezh in Siberia. Everything is not what it seems as Lara faces Trinity, a well-funded organization lead by a madman. They just so happen to be after the same thing. To say the campaign is explosive would be an understatement, as the entire experience is one hell of a ride. The set pieces, and plot twists are great. The game has now taken a more open world approach to gameplay, as there are tons of side missions to do, and so much to explore, like catacombs and caves with loot in them. You will hunt down rare predators, which will give you exotic hides to use towards rare weapon crafting. Everything about the experience is just bigger and better.
Each new hub in the story is packed with so much content, secrets, and gorgeous views. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a very pretty game, and although most of it is spent in the snow, it is eye-candy the whole time. Rare weapon parts, and new outfits will keep you on the hunt during the story mode. These are all obtained by completing optional crypts, which are massive puzzle areas, each testing your skill in the game in one way or another. Solving these crypts are fulfilling, even though they might not offer what you wanted, they are so well-designed, that it would a crime not to make sure you visit each one. The weapons parts you get can then be used to craft a set weapon. Be it a new bow that steers towards better handling, or a shotgun with a high fire rate.
Rise of the Tomb Raider has a large emphasis on stealth combat. Sure you can go ahead and blow everyone up with a bomb that you crafted on the spot, but sneaking in and out of bushes, and taking enemies out from above, is much more pleasing. There will however be times when you will need to get your aiming on point, as some combat scenes cannot be completed with a stealth only approach. Enemies get harder as you progress in the game, with shielded enemies, and brutes getting in your way. The games learning curve is gradual, and you will never feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of the moment. The story is hands down the highlight of the game, and it proves that we really do not need multiplayer in certain circumstances. Every location in the game is breath-taking, and the overall gameplay rivals that of the Uncharted series with its massive ecosystems, and fantastic set pieces.
The survival aspect of the game kind of falls flat, as Lara will need to gather medical herbs, wood, and mushrooms to craft healing items, and arrows, but by the time you are at the mid-point of the game, you will have them coming out of your ears. There is much less surviving, and much more exploring, which I don’t have a problem with at all. The survival aspect really comes into play when playing the Expeditions, which are sort of like a side game mode to Rise of the Tomb Raider. In Endurance mode, you and a friend will enter the wilderness with very little gear, and a very empty stomach. You will explore catacombs for artifacts, try and stay warm by the fire, and hunt for food. I really enjoyed this mode, especially in co-op, as it relied heavily on team work. Going into the mode, you can choose some challenges to complete for credits, and other cards that will either buff Lara or nerf her abilities. These cards all have an impact on your credit bonus, so it’s a gamble to choose what you want to go in with.
Blood Ties is a heartwarming DLC that sees Lara search for some sort of proof of her “blood tie” to the Croft family. Her uncle wants to take the Croft Manor away from her, in order to prevent this from happening, she needs to prove that the Croft Manor is rightfully hers. During this 2-hour campaign, you will come across sweet recordings and letters from her parents, which really tug at your heartstrings. To know that Lara’s family are all dead, and to discover their past, really brought up some sadness in me. I know it is just a quick experience, but we have known Lara for years, and we can all feel a little bit sorry for her unfortunate loss of her family.
The strangest new mode exclusive to the PS4 version of the game, is a zombie survival mode called Lara’s Nightmare. Taking place in the Croft Manor, Lara needs to survive waves of zombies as she hunts down skulls. Collecting keys, aiming for the head, and running around like a crazed lunatic. That was just some of the experiences I had playing this mode. As much as the mode adds flavour to the game, I felt that it was terribly designed, and not something I would want to get back into. Unless you have ammo in your gun, you are a sitting duck, and Lara cannot defend herself from any of the undead. This always resulted in my death as you cannot evade them, and when I tried, I would be stabbed in the back over and over again. I could not help but feel that this mode needed co-op to really make it worthwhile. It is tough, and badly designed for a single player experience.
Besides the zombie mode that feels like an afterthought, Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4 is one hell of a package. The core Tomb Raider experience is there, and all the extra features just adds more content to the game’s spectacular experience.
I highly recommend this to anyone who missed out on the Xbox One and PC version, or even just want to replay the game, as this is the definitive edition.
Marco Cocomello: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube