Rise of the Tomb Raider review: Lara Croft gets real

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As with all our reviews we strive to keep this article as spoiler free as possible, but there will be some information those who are ultra sensitive to spoilers may find disturbing.

Cold and huddled behind a box Lara picks up a glass bottle. Hurling it overhead to distract the two mercenaries searching for her she peers out from behind cover. One has gone over to investigate the noise while the other it staring straight in her direction. Taking out her bow she stands up from behind the ice covered box, he sees her, but before he can react an arrow enters his head and sends out a spray of blood. As the lifeless body falls to the ground his comrade turns around, he calls out and aims a gun at Lara. Panicking she blindly notches another arrow and hip fires it in his direction, it pierces his heart as he falls to the ground.

The above snippet is an example of what you can expect from gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider, it also kind of sums up the game. Intense periods of action that occasionally fire blindly, but still manage to hit the mark, for the most part.

Lara ready to rave with a glow stick.

Lara ready for a cave rave.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider an island hardened Lara Croft embarks on an adventure to uncover a mystery her father had been investigating prior to his death. Taking her to remote Siberia, this adventure requires all of Lara’s wits and strength to survive.

From the get go Rise of the Tomb Raider unleashes fast paced action as you scramble along the icy peaks of a mountain in a blizzard before becoming stranded in a seldom explored valley packed full of ancient ruins. The mechanics handles much the same as 2013’s Tomb Raider as you leap and scramble along ledges that almost always  collapse on you. Carrying on from its predecessor Rise has an emphasis on survival as you progress from campsite to campsite in your icy surrounds scavenging supplies and unveiling the story in-between.

The game encourages the player to explore for loot, supplies and bonus tombs, but the layout of the map is far too linear for these aspects to be fully realised. The lay of the land pushes you in one direction, sometimes making the sandbox elements of the game feel like a bolted on extra. It’s a shame as a Far Cry style adventure game with Lara Croft would be awesome, but sadly doesn’t find a place in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

As part of these exploratory extras finding gun parts is a great addition to the game, but to find each weapon you will need to heavily depart from the story and backtrack often. If you’re the sort of player who needs to be a completionist then this will be no problem for you, however I found myself just moving on if I hadn’t found everything in an area. For those who want additional goodies there is a store that Lara can visit.

Rise-of-the-Tomb-Raider-Ice-Screenshot

Maybe invest in a beanie, Lara.

Some of the wares available in the store are handy, but I will just say this. Do not buy the pistol silencer! The sound of the revolver firing in Rise of the Tomb Raider is a thing of beauty. That bad boy cracks and echoes in an all the right ways. The sound of those revolver shots bouncing off nearby rocks is up there with the Beatles in terms of revolutionary sound and by buying a silencer you are pledging to never hear that beautiful noise again. Yes, for some strange reason the silencer stays on every pistol after purchasing and can’t be removed.

Without giving too much away, Rise has a pretty generic adventure plot, in which you look for a legendary source of immortality that, surprise surprise, is also being looked for by an Illuminati style group of baddies known as Trinity. If you squint hard enough you can look past the similarities to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but hey I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, the Last Crusade is an amazing film and Lara is essentially the female Indiana.

The story for Rise has its ups and downs but for the most part it is compelling, which is helped by some twists and supernatural elements thrown in for good measure. Beefing up the main plot are plenty of audio tapes and books you can find. For the most part these are great, but if you do have OCD and want to listen to each new bit of the story you can expect to spend a lot of time reading or listening to voice overs. Especially in certain levels that seem to have a a tape or book around each corner.

The game starts with an emphasis on stealth gameplay as you infiltrate old soviet installations and work your way past Trinity mercenaries. There’s nothing innovative with the way the game handles in this respect, in fact I thought it felt very similar to The Last of Us, but it does the trick and can be surprisingly challenging. Sometimes challenging isn’t what you want though, as was the case when faced with open combat.

Shooting really isn’t a strength of Lara’s, she’s pretty abysmal at it to tell the truth. Well I assume this is the case, because the shooting in Rise is painful to control. When sprung by a guard I would often let him kill me just to retry a quiet approach. This isn’t really a bad thing, I quite like stealthily moving through a base brutally choking strangers to death, but it does become an issue later in the game.

The first two acts of the story are well paced, although the story may be predictable you can deal with it because what’s happening around you is so intense. Some of the action sequences Lara engages in, such as running away from volleys of fire arrows in a collapsing tomb, are an absolute joy to play and look pretty, but in the third act things derail a bit. Switching up from a game that rewards you for being stealthy, the final few levels pretty much turn into Gears of War starring Lara Croft. Stealth is a long forgotten memory as you have no option but to run and gun through waves of enemies.

Booooooo.

“Time for me, an archaeologist, to kill hundreds of trained soldiers.”

When reviewing games I tend to play for absurdly long sessions, so this may just  apply to me, but these waves were a real pain. Any sense of connection to the plot was lost amongst a sea of enemies. The crawl to the finish line really detracted from the story which I was enjoying prior to that point.

Visually Rise of the Tomb Raider is beautiful, the snow looks great, especially when footprints and downed enemies leave deep impressions in it. Lara’s hair is absolutely banging, each time you leave a body of water she dries it off in a tiny animation that helps bring her to life. One of the biggest endorsements for the realistic nature of the graphics in this game were how cold they made me feel. Seriously, just staring at all the snow and seeing Lara shiver made me want to roll into a ball and lie by one of the campsite’s fires.

Okay, plot, gameplay and graphics out of the way, now it’s time to talk about when Rise of the Tomb Raider gets real… I’m 98 per cent sure that Lara drops the C bomb. I know she’s from London, but wow, hearing what was possibly the holy grail of swear words coming from Lara Croft’s mouth was pretty shocking. The reason I’m not compeltely positive Lara said the word is because she gets slapped as it is (possibly) being said, with the “nt” part of the word being the slap sound. Regardless of what was being said, she spits in someone’s face almost immediately after, so she’s still pretty chavvy either way.

Innit.

” L8rs innit?”

Overall Rise of the Tomb Raider is a thrilling ride, but does have its faults.

Pros: Looks great. Exciting action segments. The rebooted Lara Croft is an interesting character. Good stealth mechanics. Lara gets real with her choice of language.

Cons: The story is short at around 8 hours to complete if just going straight for the plot. Linear map layout. Tedious final act. Clunky shooting mechanics.

7/10

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed exclusive and is currently only available on Xbox One and Xbox 360, with PC and PS4 releases scheduled for Q1 and Q4 2016 respectively.

You can call Charlie the C word on twitter @clbraith and don’t forget to follow @load_screen and like us on Facebook.

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