It’s the start of gaming blockbuster season and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider faces some strong competition with Spiderman on PS4 and games like Assassins Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption II out in the next couple of weeks. It is undoubtably a crazy busy time of year for games and the long awaited follow up to Rise Of The Tomb Raider that throws all realism out the door for an apocalyptic adventure with a dive into Lara’s family history that delivers a thrilling story with intense action scenes and memorable moments that conclude the trilogy with style.
The game opens with probably the most intensive action sequence I have seen in a game in recent times. The vibration in my dual shock controller went crazy as a plane is completely ripped apart with Lara and Jonah inside, the scene pulls back to several weeks earlier when Lara is chasing Trinity in Mexico during the Day Of The Dead festivities. It’s a sombre and beautiful start to the game that eases players into the world of tomb raiding. Along for the ride is Jonah, her self-proclaimed best friend and “cook” who often gets lost along the way leaving Lara to do the majority of the difficult puzzles and fighting alone.
When two ancient relics are hidden in different parts of the world, Lara must retrieve them before Trinity does as it is said to start a worldwide apocalypse. The story does a fantastic job of showcasing Lara’s awkwardness in social situations and forced interactions and then compare to her solo adventures in which she seems at complete ease with herself. It is a quality of the character that hasn’t been explored as well as it is here and is one of the best parts of the game.
Apart from the high stakes action, the puzzles are noticeably more difficult this time around. There is never a clear path or hint to show you what to do next and at times it can become quite a bit more challenging than it needs to be. That being said you can easily change the difficulty through the settings menu at anytime back and forth to suit the different missions. Although this may seem like the cheaters way out, there is also handy YouTube walkthroughs to help you figure out the puzzles that you just can’t figure out and then feel like an absolute moron when you see the simplicity of it.
Graphically this game is a visual feast, every location is gorgeously detailed and particularly when swimming underwater. A large portion of the action happens underwater this time around and much care has been given to make the 3D swimming and world come alive as you travel through these areas. You collect plants for extra health, fend off surprise attacks from eels and piranhas and swim as fast as you can to trapped air pockets in caverns. Locations in Peru and Mexico are gorgeously intricate, particularly when played on a PS4 Pro in Higher Resolution mode. You can choose this in the options menu and alter between Higher Frame Rate.
The music and sound effects in this game enhance the creepy atmosphere with the gun blazing Trinity, creepy mask wearing cult that randomly appear screeching in your face and earth shattering natural disasters that keep the game moving when you are getting too comfortable in your surroundings.
Moving around the world has never been more exciting, with the addition of not only swimming but grappling and overhang abilities open up the world of tomb and cave exploration. All of these different modes are executed well and help the world feel open and lived in. It is also these modes that really help it feel like an exploration game, the only complaint is the lack of reward for exploration. Sure there are crates to open for small amounts of XP, but nothing worth spending time investing in.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is the perfect finale to the rebooted Lara Croft who has ushered in a whole slew of new fans. This game slides between the real and supernatural, almost to a horror-like level that delivers a solid entry in the series. With a well balanced story, varied action and different platforming options, Shadow is worthy of both your gaming dollars and time. Beautiful attention to South American and Mayan culture is an integral part to the game, particularly the care and detail is worth the exploration in certain parts of the game. While the puzzles can be quite challenging, it is all in the balance of a perfectly orchestrated Lara Croft adventure.
Review by Alaisdair Leith
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.