This review is an updated version of our review of the PC version and the game’s two DLC packs.
Some people might dismiss it as yet another action-adventure title, but I still hold great respect for Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the Tomb Raider series. Rebooting a series is difficult enough, but when you’re talking about Tomb Raider, a series that has such a long and illustrious history, the stakes are that much higher.
Tomb Raider (or Tomb Raider 2013 as some might call it) played it safe in many ways. Drawing inspiration from other games such as Uncharted, the rigid controls and less-than-fluid gunplay were ditched in favor of more freeform traversal and a much more manageable combat system, with an emphasis on melee and Lara’s now trademark bow and arrow.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a decidedly-more next-gen game (mainly when it comes to its visuals), even down its original exclusivity period on the Xbox One. It’s been nearly a year since its release on Microsoft’s flagship console, and following an excellent port to the PC, Rise of the Tomb Raider has finally made its way to Sony’s PlayStation 4, with a few new modes to boot.
Picking up a year after her adventures on the mysterious island of Yamatai, Rise of the Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft on her quest to redeem her deceased father, Lord Croft, who passed on before he was able to prove the existence of a Holy Grail-type artifact that could grant its user immortality. Attempting to cut her down at every chance is Trinity; a mysterious group that not only attempted to silence Lord Croft, but also covered up the events that unfolded on Yamatai, discrediting Lara in the process.
While she’s not confined to an island this time around, Lara never reaches the level of globe-trotting that Nathan Drake does, as she spends most of her time in the cold wilderness of Siberia, save for a brief spell in the polar opposite deserts of Syria. Still, the open world formula that worked so well in Tomb Raider 2013 shines just as bright this time around, as you’ll spend most of your time climbing and traversing the environment, with some gunplay and stealth combat sprinkled throughout.
The biggest addition this time around is the crafting system, which allows Lara to craft different types of ammo, explosives, and outfits. Rather than combing the landscape for salvage, there are plenty of different types of collectibles to find, ranging from feathers and animal hides to mushrooms and herbs.
While Rise of the Tomb Raider utilizes the same Foundation Engine that powered the 2013 reboot, the enhancements and upgrades made to the engine over the last couple of years cannot be understated. Now sporting a physically-based materials system (which seems to be the new ‘next-gen’ graphics trend), the in-game environments spring to life, as they are lit in a much more realistic manner, in an attempt to mimic the physical properties of real world materials.
Image-based lighting has also been implemented, and coupled with the advancements in hair simulation and the new tessellation options, Rise of the Tomb Raider is simply put one of the best-looking games on the market, whether you’re enjoying it on the Xbox One, a high-end gaming PC, or the newly released PlayStation 4 version.
Speaking of which, you’ll be glad to hear that the PlayStation 4 handles Rise of the Tomb Raider with aplomb. Targeting a locked 30 frames per second at a rendering resolution of 1920×1080, the game looks fantastic in motion, and compared to the Xbox One version, the PlayStation 4 turns in a slightly more stable performance, with less dips below 30 fps.
Visually, this new version is similar to the original release from last year; while you will find some differences here and there, the game is largely the same across both Microsoft and Sony hardware. Of course, this could change with the upcoming release of the PlayStation 4 Pro, as the game will be taking advantage of the more powerful hardware.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of either the Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch or Cold Darkness Awakened expansion packs, they are a little easier to stomach this time around since they’re included for free. These two pieces of content won’t appeal to everyone, but they’re certainly worth giving a go.
On the other hand, the 20 Year Celebration version also comes packed with three brand new modes, each providing an interesting diversion from the meaty single-player story (Xbox One and PC owners can get their hands on this content for a fee, or free of charge if they own the season pass). The most interesting addition is Blood Ties, a slower-paced affair that sees Lara investigating her family’s secrets and legacy as she searches through Croft Manor. This mode is devoid of any combat or climbing, instead choosing to focus on expanding on the game’s backstory and characters. Unlike the harsh environments Lara often finds herself in, Croft Manor is decidedly more subdued and atmospheric, which provides a nice change of pace for those coming off the game’s story mode. This mode is also playable in first-person mode by using the PlayStation VR headset, though we were unable to test the mode out at this time.
For those who like a little more action, Lara’s Nightmare might be up your alley. Dropping Lara into a version of Croft Manor that is overrun with zombies, you’re tasked with dispatching the undead, and if you’re a completionist, a few challenges provide some incentive for replaying. The last new addition is an online, co-operative version of the Endurance Mode that was released late last year. Tackling this mode with a friend adds a fun strategic element, and it’s rather neat to see co-op making its way to the main series.
Nearly a year after its original release, Rise of the Tomb Raider still stands tall as one of the best titles of this console generation. While there won’t be much incentive for existing owners to pick up this version, the PlayStation 4 version is an excellent entry point for those who have yet to undergo Lara’s latest adventure.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
If you have yet to play Rise of the Tomb Raider, the 20 Year Celebration edition is a must have for anyone interested in Lara Croft's latest adventure.