Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Everyone knows who Lara Croft is. First created in 1996 and released on the original PlayStation, the Croft story has taken leaps and bounds forward with every new console generation, when a new console is announced, a new Tomb Raider is not too far behind either. With the PlayStation 4 (if rumours have it) coming to the end of its natural lifetime, we get the next release in the recent 'trilogy' of games, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider.
Following on with the narrative from 2013's Tomb Raider and 2016's Rise Of The Tomb Raider, set two months after Rise, we find Lara heading towards the legendary city of Paititi, by way of Mesoamerica and South America. Usually within the games Lara is the one to try and stop a cataclysmic event someone else has started but in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, you find yourself trying to stop the Mayan apocalypse, that Lara has kick started alongside the evil corporation Trinity, who are close on Lara's heels.
Right from the get go Shadow Of The Tomb Raider immerses you right back into the world of Lara Croft. The opening missions get the player set up with the controls, which haven't really changed, thankfully, over this trilogy of games. The controls are intuitive and are really easy to get used to, although I did find it difficult at one point to change between regular arrows and flame arrows at one time sensitive, point. If you've played any of the recent Assassin's Creed games you'll be aware of the skill trees and increasing skill points that help you develop Lara's skills throughout the game. Some skills can't be purchased though, you have to find them in the world around you, which is a nice touch.
The game sets out its stall early with fantastic set pieces coming at you thick and fast. Towards the start of the game, you are caught up in a flash flood that powers through a Peruvian village. Destroying everything in its path, graphically the PlayStation 4 shows what it can do with excellent water graphics and the sound design keeps you on the edge of your seat. I found myself holding my breath at more than one moment and at the end of the sequence as you are hanging off the edge of a building there is a moment where a side character dies (no spoilers here) and it is genuinely shocking and heart breaking. Like any good film, you've been playing a game for less than 30 minutes and you are already emotionally involved in the characters and its storyline.
Absent from recent Assassin's Creed games are the detailed tombs, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider doesn't try and change the main drive of the game ala AC, you are Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and there are tombs EVERYWHERE. Side tombs aplenty as well as main ones, mixed in with taxing puzzles to keep your brain cells crackling. It isn't a perfect game though, some of the tombs are ridiculously dark though regardless of how high you turn up the brightness, in a few spots I was stuck.
In the Cenote section you face off against Mayan warriors akin to something like the Uruk-Hai from the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy films. The game design is vivid and well detailed, the walls are dripping with blood, skeletons and viscera cling to the walls while the warriors appear from the walls ala the Xenomorphs in Aliens ("lets roooccckk!!"). There is even an on semi - rail section where you have to escape the tomb while being chased. You have to time jumps and turns to the second otherwise you are caught.
Combat has improved by simplifying how you interact with NPC's. Hiding in undergrowth or even better, covering yourself in mud and sticking yourself to dark walls, is a revelation. Pressing R3 brings up extra sight where you can see whether NPC's can see each other or not, red for visible and yellow for hidden. The stealth sections are up there with the best of any Metal Gear Solid game. It's simple and effective and helps you either stealthily move around enemies or pick them off one by one without interference from others.
Overall, the game is a revelation, it's the nearest you are going to get to a perfect Tomb Raider game and that's no hyperbole. It's sweat dripping environments whether in a jungle in Peru or deep in a tomb covered in blood or swimming through water filled caves filled with dead bodies made me feel like I needed to take a shower after each gaming session. Regardless of the age of the series, this game is keeping up with modern games and surpassing them in every way.