Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration PS4 Review

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a third-person action adventure game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Lara Croft became an iconic videogame character in 1996 when the first Tomb Raider game was released for the PS1 and received much attention for starring a female protagonist, while the original game was followed by four sequels on PS1 which saw Lara Croft gain even more prominence across the entertainment industry. During the transition to PS2; Angel of Darkness saw the series lose its way somewhat, although it did massively bounce back with a series of successful titles including Legend and Anniversary on PS2 which were later re-mastered for PS3 in a trilogy story arc that also included Underworld which had previously released as the first Tomb Raider game on PS3. The character and the series are certainly no strangers to spin-offs as there have even been a range of side projects such as Game Boy Advance spin-off games that are not considered to be connected to any of the story arcs found in the home console games, alongside isometric home console games titled Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for PS3 in 2010, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris on PS4 in 2014 and a further isometric game albeit in a turn-based fashion named Lara Croft GO which released for mobile devices in 2015 before being ported to Vita and PS4 in late 2016, while there have even been two films with a third film set to release in 2018 starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft. However, it was the terrific Tomb Raider reboot which has resulted in the Tomb Raider series and Lara Croft’s character being at the peak of their popularity and quality. Therefore, can Rise of the Tomb Raider celebrate Tomb Raider’s and Lara Croft’s 20th anniversary by building upon the momentum and overhaul in gameplay seen in the Tomb Raider reboot?

The story revolves around Lara Croft doing her best to follow in her father’s footsteps by travelling the globe to find and confirm a Prophet who her father believed was real, but everyone doubted the existence of as nothing more than a myth; due to the powers of healing, resurrection and immortality, while Lara must face a deadly enemy group named Trinity that wants the discovery for themselves.

There are further modes beyond the story available through the expeditions feature including chapter replay which allows players to revisit previously completed chapters of the story, while chapter replay elite provides a chance to revisit the same chapters albeit with the twist being the ability to keep your upgraded skills and equipment. Score Attack mode allows players to replay through each chapter in an attempt to set a personal best score by completing the chapter as fast as possible and collecting blue flames along the way to not only earn points, but also retain or improve your multiplier; which is an important gameplay element when considering that every chapter within Score Attack mode offers a bronze, silver and gold star for reaching a particular score, while every chapter also has a par time to beat.

PS4’s 20 Year Celebration release for Rise of the Tomb Raider features all-new content to celebrate Tomb Raider’s and Lara Croft’s 20th anniversary with a variety of additional modes. Endurance mode tasks Lara with staying one step ahead of Trinity during hunts for artifacts, although she must maintain her hunger throughout the expedition by eating berries or meat and warmth from making a campsite fire until the required artifacts have been collected in which case Lara needs to light a beacon to call in a helicopter to escape the area. However, there will be enemies and wild animals that you encounter along the way, while having to negotiate some dangerous weather conditions and an accelerated day-night cycle is active. A total score will be derived by factoring in the duration of Lara’s survival in addition to how many artifacts and crypts have been found and enemies killed.

Lara’s Nightmare is set at night with a howling wind and in true horror movie style; all of the lights are turned off with exception of a flickering candle here or there which produces a Resident Evil style atmosphere. Lara simultaneously has to defend Croft Manor and survive as hordes of the undead approach with their single collective goal being to kill Lara. Players will discover weapons scattered throughout Croft Manor which need to be collected to increase Lara’s chances of survival, while ammo will need to be scavenged from defeated enemies, alongside a master key to unlock more rooms.

Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch tasks Lara with entering the Wicked Vale in the forestry within the deep wilds of Siberia to search for a missing man; where legend has it that a witch named Baba Yaga is haunting the forest. No man dares to enter Wicked Vale, especially after an entire Soviet expedition team had disappeared without any indication of how or why, therefore Lara must solve the mystery.

Cold Darkness Awakened sees Lara setting out to prevent an experimental weaponised research facility from continuing their tests to convert civilians into Trinity super soldiers. Therefore Lara must infiltrate a Soviet Research Base, find the source of the chemical weapon and destroy the machines distributing the toxin before it overwhelms the surrounding area as well as making sure the research facility will never be operational again. Nadia and Sophia provide help by highlighting any weapons and prisoners they find from their aerial vantage point in a helicopter.

PS4’s 20 Year Celebration release for Rise of the Tomb Raider features a PlayStation VR experience titled Blood Ties in which players can explore Croft Manor through the eyes of Lara in first-person. It is a very immersive experience, although it does not contain compatibility with Lara’s Nightmare and there is not really any action in the same sense as the story or other additional modes. There is no PlayStation Move compatibility, although there are two control schemes with the free mode allowing players to move using the DualShock 4’s analogue sticks, while comfort mode projects a transparent Lara Croft to show where in your surroundings you are about to transport to, alongside the ability in both control schemes to utilise the DualShock 4’s gyroscopic motion sensing functionality to manipulate objects such as documents to search for clues as to the location of the mastery key to open up more rooms and find the safe combination. If you do not have PlayStation VR, then you can still explore Croft Manor via a third-person perspective in Blood Ties.

There is a wide variety of collectibles with their own purposes such as collecting archival maps unearths secrets on your map which can be highlighted in blue and referred back to when searching for them. The most intriguing collectibles include relics, artifacts, documents and caches of ancient coins with documents particularly providing backstory, while reading documents and observing artifacts and murals will improve Lara’s proficiency in foreign languages such as Ancient Greek, Ancient Mongolian and Russian. Connecting the collectibles to a progressive understanding of foreign languages is an excellent gameplay design choice as each foreign language has a proficiency level which allows Lara to uncover ancient secrets depicted on Monoliths as her proficiency level reflects her confidence in that particular language.

Expedition cards are essentially gameplay modifiers that can be chosen within any expedition mode with cards providing advantages or disadvantages for the player or the enemies you are facing respectively, while further cards implement fun changes such as big head mode or rainbow trail. Expedition cards are gradually unlocked through completing chapters within the story campaign and completing expedition missions, while card packs can also be purchased from the in-game shop utilising credits which are earned from finding relics and progressing in the story as well as completing objectives, missions and expedition challenges. Players can select up to five challenges in any unlocked chapter of chapter replay, chapter replay elite and score attack with the quantity of credits earned depending on the difficulty of the challenge.

Character design is as good as it ever has been in the Tomb Raider series as Lara Croft is every bit the female iconic, heroic character that she always has been since the original Tomb Raider in 1996. Lara’s costume can be changed at camp sites including a variety of modern costumes that are tailored to specific weather conditions and purpose of the mission including hunter, tactical and armour outfits. Classic costumes provide a tribute to many memorable levels of almost every Tomb Raider game with the current movement and physics applied to Lara’s character model as she was from each particular game such as her usual attire when at home in Croft Manor, the outfits worn in Tomb Raider II, the catsuit from Tomb Raider: Chronicles and more besides. Every Tomb Raider game needs a believable enemy to go up against and Rise of the Tomb Raider certainly delivers in that aspect as Konstantin is a ruthless villain that leads Trinity, exacting total aggression on anyone who opposes him and his group. Trinity is a tough enemy for Lara as they have an entire army worth of armoured and unarmed soldiers, alongside experimental super soldiers.

Environment design features picturesque vistas from deer walking in the snow to a breathtaking horizon of mountains, while environments sometimes possess alternative routes that lead to an optional objective when fully explored. Intricately realistic environmental elements such as snow slowing down Lara’s movement speed which is a notion that is tested to its limits when a wild, aggressive bear starts chasing after Lara who is unfortunately surrounded by thick snow, while the bear has lengthy strides to overcome the snow; whereas Lara has to keep to a very narrow path and make precise jumps from slightly raised platforms. Puzzles are strewn across the environments such as figuring out how to increase the water levels in order to reach higher platforms, while acrobatics, precision jumps and aerial traversal are all returning mainstays of the franchises environment design, although far easier to judge than in the earlier days of Tomb Raider on PS1. Tombs feature traps such as the ground giving way with spikes positioned underneath or a mechanism with spikes attached to it that swings in mid-air which is activated by a pressure plate; resulting in the action entering a stylistic slow motion as Lara has to react quickly to avoid incurring serious damage from surrounding traps.

There is a range of weaponry that Lara is progressively equipped with to fight off her enemies. Lara initially has two climbing axes to help her climb in treacherous conditions and a pistol to shoot spike trap mechanisms and enemies who are shooting at Lara with the intent to kill as they aim to remove their one obstacle from claiming the archaeological discovery. As Lara progresses through her adventure; she will obtain more bows and pistols as well as rifles and shotguns, while gas cans, Molotov cocktails, grenades and more besides can be thrown at enemies. When Lara has run out of ammo or an enemy has got too close during an ammo reload; Lara can also rely on melee attacks including a tactical knife and climbing axes. Every weapon has their unique attributes such as the crossbow’s damage, draw speed, hold time and rate of fire. Weapons can be upgraded such as reinforced limbs allows for increased string tension and faster arrow speeds which causes more damage to enemies and string nocks on the bow, allowing for quicker loading of arrows and a faster rate of fire. Climbing axes can be upgraded for close quarters melee combat by adding a hide wrapped handle for one-handed grip that prepares climbing axes to be dual-wielded when knocking down armoured enemies, while improving the purpose of climbing axes by sharpening the edge in order for it to slide into narrower gaps which provides more leverage for increased movement speed. Strong boxes can be opened by Lara’s climbing axe which reveals a weapon part and upgrade tools, although all weapon parts must be found before the weapon is unlocked at base camp.

Another large area of weaponry is the ability to craft weapons from materials such as cloth, herbs, hide, salvage, mushrooms, hardwood, feathers, oil and more besides with the first instance of crafting involving Lara creating a crossbow to stealthily defend herself. Crafting is not just about making a weapon to use in self-defence though as Lara can gather herbs and cloth to heal her wounds, while certain tools such as rope arrows can eventually be crafted with enough resources which is an excellent design choice as it results in Lara not being able to enter some caves until she has crafted a rope arrow and returned to explore the area once more. There are also ten major items of equipment that makes Lara’s gathering of resources and ammo significantly easier such as a medium sized, sturdy hide quiver that increases storage capacity for every arrow type; a compact hide pouch which increases storage capacity for resources; a leather sling that increases the quantity of shotgun shells carried; a large reinforced ammo pouch that increases storage capacity for pistol ammo. However, equipment items need a lot of resources in the first place, while fundamental skills are required to be learned via assigning skill points before even being able to consider which equipment item you would prefer to initially craft.

Players can earn XP by collecting documents, relics and artifacts, completing story objectives and side missions, defeating enemies through combat or stealth kills and more besides which is important for levelling up as each new attained level results in gaining a skill point. Skills are spread across three categories including 15 skills within brawler, 17 skills for hunter and 17 skills within survivor. Brawler skills include thick-skinned results in Lara receiving less damage from enemy gunfire and melee attacks, although the skill is cumulative with the much later heart of stone skill; dodge counter in which unarmoured enemies can be incapacitated from a well-timed press of triangle; and more besides. Hunter skills include arrow retrieval for a chance to recover arrows from enemies Lara has defeated with a bow; breath control to increase the period of time for steady aiming during bow charged shots; scavenger increases the quantity of ammo looted from defeated enemies; and much more besides. Survivor skills include rapid crafting for faster crafting of throwable objects and ammo when running to evade enemy attacks; resourceful combatant provides greater XP for killing or knocking out enemies with crafted handheld objects; avid learner produces an XP bonus for finding survival caches, documents and relics as well as completing challenges; and much more besides.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s remote play performance is superb as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. The control scheme has been optimised with care and attention as shooting Lara’s weaponry and aiming has been re-mapped to R and L respectively, while shooting special ammo has moved to the right of the rear touch pad with healing moving to the left of the rear touch pad. Meanwhile, Lara’s survival instincts is mapped to the bottom right of the touch screen, swapping shoulders when aiming is re-mapped to the bottom left of the touch screen and zooming when aiming has moved to the bottom right of the touch screen. Every control scheme optimisation has resulted in one of the very best, most immersive, atmospheric and entertaining remote play experiences on Vita.

The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to shoot base ammo or throw an item; holding R2 to craft base arrows; holding L2 to aim or submerge in water; pressing R1 to shoot special ammo; holding R1 to craft special ammo; pressing L1 to heal; pressing X to jump or climb; pressing square to interact with objects, use a climbing axe for grip on tough terrain, throwing a grapple axe or reloading; pressing O to scramble, roll, drop or swim; pressing O when aiming to dodge; pressing triangle to perform a melee attack or finisher; pressing up on the d-pad to select bow or cycle special arrows; pressing left on the d-pad to select a shotgun; pressing right on the d-pad to select a rile; pressing down on the d-pad to select a pistol; pressing L3 to sprint or shoulder swap when aiming; pressing R3 to focus on Lara’s survival instinct or zooming when aiming; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to adjust your aim or look around the environments; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays the map and inventory, while the light bar produces a lighter shade of blue during dark environments in which Lara must rely upon her glow stick and bright white when reading scrolls and manuscripts, alongside vibration which reflects the physical exertions on Lara’s body during heavy landings after a high risk jump, when the ground gives way resulting in a serious impact or getting into fights with enemies.

Graphically, Tomb Raider and Lara Croft has never looked this amazing before as particle effects will shimmer in light, cinematic water effects look real as Lara fights against currents and beautifully immersive environments are complimented by amazingly detailed character models even down to the movement of Lara’s hair in tandem with what she is doing in that very moment and animations such as climbing up mountains, shimmying across ledges and using climbing axes to grip onto icy surfaces. PS4 Pro support produces three modes of settings that each showcases a different side to the technical prowess of the enhanced PS4. The first mode runs at a resolution of 1080p albeit with an unlocked frame-rate of 45 frames-per-second upwards, while the second mode is 1080p at a locked 30 frames-per-second, although a variety of visual upgrades including lighting, reflections, texture shading, density of particle effects and pixels, multi-pass rendering and more besides. However, just as technically impressive is the third mode in which 4K provides unparalleled clarity as far distant textures on the horizon that would otherwise naturally become low resolution; are now brought to a status of equal parity with the foreground as every detail on the horizon can be seen for as far as the eye can see.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, story menus, expeditions menus, online leaderboards, shop menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds are focused on Lara Croft’s office with research for her next adventure displayed along the wall, while archaeological books are stacked on book cases and Lara’s trademark backpack is positioned next to cardboard boxes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider possesses an extremely talented cast that all deliver superb performances throughout performance capture for every scene and voice-overs for not only scenes, but also documents and audio recordings. Camilla Luddington returns to provide performance capture and the voice-over for Lara Croft having previously portrayed the role in the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013 and starring in TV series such as Californication, True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy, while Earl Baylon returns as Jonah Maiava. Michael Maloney voices Lord Croft in a series of audio recordings having previously voiced Avallac’h in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Varis in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, while Charles Halford who performs in the role of Konstantin having previously voiced Knight Gavil and Winlock in Fallout 4, Lonnie in The Walking Dead: Season 3 and Gorilla Grodd in Injustice 2, alongside Philip Anthony-Rodriguez portraying Jacob having previously voiced Sturges and Scott Edwards in Fallout 4 and starred in TV series Grimm.

Sound effects include crumpling of snow as Lara treads through thick snow, walking, running, jumping, swimming, shooting a gun or crossbow at enemies, enemies firing back at Lara, reloading weapons, performing a melee attack, crafting items and more besides. Ambience adds life to the surrounding environments such as waterfalls, crackling from a campsite fire, crumbling of a weak surface on the ground or within a wall and weather conditions. Bobby Tahouri composes a soundtrack of adventurous and equally foreboding music which creates an appropriate atmosphere as players do not know what is coming next; having previously composed music for Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark and additional music for Iron Man and Game of Thrones. The DualShock 4 speaker has one of its most immersive purposes in any PS4 game as it produces gunfire from Lara’s weaponry that is specific to each weapon such as a pistol, machine gun or crossbow.

The trophy list is one of the biggest in history as it includes 125 trophies comprising of 64 bronze trophies, 1 gold trophy and 1 platinum trophy, alongside additional content including Endurance which contains 13 bronze trophies; Baba Yaga which has 13 bronze trophies; Cold Darkness which contains 7 bronze trophies and 3 silver trophies; Croft Manor which has 8 bronze trophies and 2 silver trophies; and Endurance Co-op which contains 13 bronze trophies. Easier trophies include the Reading the Past bronze trophy for translating a Monolith, while the majority of trophies involving combat such as the Fall Guys bronze trophy for killing 10 enemies by shooting them in the leg and the One-Sided Conversation bronze trophy for stealthily killing an enemy during a conversation. Harder trophies include the Ultimate Survivor bronze trophy for completing the game on survivor difficulty and the No Stone Unturned gold trophy for achieving 100% completion. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 30 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list, while a further 12 to 20 hours should be enough to 100% the trophy list including all of the additional content.

There are five difficulty levels including adventurer, tomb raider, seasoned raider, survivor and extreme survivor in which adventurer difficulty provides an aim assist and enemies have lower health and inflict less damage, while tomb raider difficulty disables aim assist and returns enemies to normal health and damage. Seasoned raider difficulty reduces occurrences of health regeneration to only being outside of combat and enemies having increased health, damage and senses, while survivor difficulty entirely disables health regeneration, further increased health, damage and senses for enemies and more challenging enemy types will be present resulting in the hardest combat in addition to upgrades and equipment being more expensive and requiring resources before being able to use a camp. Extreme survivor difficulty removes all checkpoints which means players will have to survive from one campsite to another before saving or go all the way back to the previous campsite upon making the slightest mistake in jumping, aerial traversal or combat.

Online co-operative multiplayer comes in the form of endurance co-op mode which is identical to that of its single player equivalent, although it is a more entertaining mode when both players can help each other gather resources to stay alive and assist in finding artifacts. Remnant Resistance mode requires online connectivity as it allows players to create and play their own missions and share them globally with players for everyone to be able to play each other’s missions; comprising of five stages worth of objectives with four objectives per stage such as gathering intel involving enemy attack plans, collecting ammo, scavenging supplies, recovering relics, rescuing hostages and more besides. There is some further customisation depending on the expedition cards you have unlocked including having Lara take on a group of enemies that are infected, soldiers or elite, while Lara’s outfit can also be chosen, the amount of weapons and weapon types at her disposal, alongside weather conditions and time of day or night.

However, there is no local co-operative multiplayer which would have been perfectly covered by a local co-op variant of endurance mode. There is also no local or online competitive multiplayer which could have pitted one player or team against another in which one side is lead by Lara and the other is controlled by Konstantin with both sides reflecting their intentions from the story as they fight for a true find in the world of archaeology.

There are extensive online leaderboards focused on overall scores, friends scores and personal score for every chapter of the story with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); score; time; and deaths, while Cold Darkness and Lara’s Nightmare contain the same categories, alongside Endurance mode and Endurance Co-op mode which features days in place of time and artifacts instead of deaths with players positioned within each of those leaderboards based upon their respective scores. Expeditions level’s online leaderboard is significantly more detailed in its range of categories including a total comprising of bronze, silver and gold stars, completed challenges, completed missions, artifacts retrieved and bases destroyed with players positioned within the expeditions level’s leaderboard based upon their respective totals.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s replayability is staggering as players will find a variety of further modes and challenges in expeditions beyond the story, hours worth of extra gameplay in all of the previously released downloadable content that is bundled in, alongside collectible relics, artifacts and documents, unlockable cards, retro costumes from previous Tomb Raider games, online co-operative multiplayer in Endurance mode, creating and sharing missions in remnant resistance mode, online leaderboards and much more besides that will collectively have players returning for dozens of hours.

Analysis
• Title: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
• Developer: Crystal Dynamics
• Publisher: Square Enix
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/2 (Online Endurance Co-operative Mode)/User Generated Missions in Remnant Resistance Mode
• Hard Drive Space Required: 21.90GB (Version 1.06)

Jason

Jason

Jason plays all genres of games and enjoys all different kinds of experiences that the games industry has to offer. Jason’s favourite PlayStation exclusive franchises throughout various eras include: Crash Bandicoot, God of War, Gran Turismo, inFamous, Killzone, Little Big Planet, MotorStorm, Resistance, Spyro the Dragon, Uncharted, Wipeout and various games that never became big name franchises. A special mention goes to Black Rock’s superb Split Second: Velocity as it is rather unbelievable that it will never receive a sequel.Jason now mainly plays modern PlayStation games on home console and portably, but occasionally returns to the old retro classics on the 3DO, PS1 and PS2 such as discovering Cool Spot Goes to Hollywood 20 years after its original release on PS1. Jason is happy to see gaming coming full circle with updates for retro classics such as Alien Breed, Superfrog and Crash Bandicoot.

So what do you think?

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