A year after she first made her mark on Xbox One, Lara has finally come home to PlayStation. Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is a perfect way to welcome Lara back into the PlayStation family and it represents a complete package in every sense of the word. The main campaign is every bit as exhilarating as it was a year ago and the additional content is delicious icing on a near flawless cake.
As it was last year, the campaign and narrative in Rise improves upon 2013’s reboot in a way unseen since Uncharted 2 and Assassin’s Creed II. Combat has been refined with the division between exploration, puzzle solving and gunplay adjusted for the better. Like Uncharted 4 which followed it, Rise favours combat free gameplay for much of the duration. While not as reliant on conversational story telling, free roaming exploration and climbing puzzles as Uncharted 4, Rise succeeds in striking the right balance.
The new story chapter — “Blood Ties” — exemplifies this like no other portion of the game. It may have been in response to how well received the non-combat sections of Uncharted 4 were or it may simply be a natural evolution of Tomb Raider’s gameplay, but in any case “Blood Ties” is a delightful diversion. It deepens the mythos of the Crofts, especially Lara’s mother and father and it feels as though we, the player, are learning their history at the same time as Lara. Exploring the dilapidated Croft Manor in order to prove Lara’s ownership is a nifty premise, but in reality this is a carefully curated love letter to the Crofts. Fans of the franchise will be giddy while making their through the dusty corridors and although the entire chapter is an extended treasure hunt, the breadcrumb style is more than compelling.
“Lara’s Nightmare” on the other hand is the complete opposite. A brand new Expedition, “Lara’s Nightmare” is essentially a horde mode in which Lara has to fight wave after wave of zombies attempting to overrun Croft Manor. In both new modes that make Croft Manor their home (no pun intended), the Manor itself is really the star of the show. It manages to provide a haunting backdrop to a melancholy tale in “Blood Ties” and at the same time in “Lara’s Nightmare” it’s a terrifying maze, threatening to trap you at every turn.
Much like in the campaign, the combat in “Lara’s Nightmare” is excellent. It’s even more impressive when compared to the quiet moments in between. Combat is the punctuation to the exploration’s flowing narrative. The ebb and flow of combat and exploration is designed in such a way that never does one seem a burden. Rise is a title that manages to capture the player so completely that it’s a real challenge to put the controller down. Hours speed past in the blink of an eye. Meals are forgotten, chores go undone and contact with the outside world becomes a thing of the past.
Visually, Rise doesn’t appear to be much different from the Xbox One version that debuted in 2015, although textures do seem a little crisper and lighting seems somewhat improved. Most notably though, the framerate on PS4 is much steadier than the original release, only dipping slightly one or two times when action was at its most hectic.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is as close to flawless as video games get. It was damn near perfect a year ago and it’s even better now. The extra content only improves upon an already generous package and PS4 players who have been dying to get their hands on Lara’s latest outing can now get out there and raid tombs to their heart’s content. This is the ultimate Tomb Raider experience on current-gen. Anyone who’s already played it will get a kick out of the new stuff on offer and those who’ve yet to experience it are in for a hell of a ride. Welcome home, Lara.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a promotional disc as provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
Tomb Raiding - 8/10
Rising - 9/10
Translating ancient Greek - 8/10