Rise of the Tomb Raider – impressions


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I have literally just finished Rise of the Tomb Raider, the latest game in the famed franchise starring intrepid explorer Lara Croft.  The previous game, simply titled Tomb Raider was a very well made reboot for the franchise and saw our heroine shipwrecked on an island with more than a few dangers and adventures hidden within.  This game has Lara more as the adventurer we know and love and is more a straight-forward expedition to discover the ‘divine-source’ somewhere in Siberia, following in the footsteps of her father before her. 

rise-of-the-tomb-raider-8Developer Crystal Dynamics have created a very polished and detailed gaming experience that has all the climbing, exploring and ‘tomb-raiding’ you could hope for whilst also crafting a compelling, very well written story and believable characters.  Doesn’t hurt that it looks drop-dead gorgeous throughout.  The visuals on display here, with a wealth of effects and an epic scale are some of the best yet seen on XB1, with realistic rain, wind, smoke, fire, snow and water – also the little details to Lara herself from getting wet and mucky in water to a gradual coating of snow and grime on her clothing is quite something.  She also reacts realistically to climbing, leaping and falling or getting hurt that not for a second do you feel like this is just some videogame avatar, but a real, living and breathing person.  Quite an achievement, carried over it has to be said from the previous game. 

It gets pretty tough in combat, where as outside of getting shot exploring and solving puzzles is more about thinking your way through an area.  The combat however is at times fiendishly unforgiving and if you haven’t got enough bullets or you’re a crap aim or you have run out of bandages, you’re dead.  It’s also mostly set in Siberia apart from an epilogue that has Lara exploring a more sunny climate.  Flashbacks to Lara’s past, glimpses of Croft manor would have benefitted from a bit of gameplay thrown in, but the rest of the game is pretty immense with large open areas to explore and find secrets and hidden tombs in … so I can’t say I felt limited at all.  Also stealth, something that was hyped up (stalking and killing enemies in the forest wilderness) isn’t perfect as with the last game and getting spotted is all too easy…so going in all guns blazing is usually the best plan in the end.

screenshots captured directly from my Xbox One

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This kept my interest throughout, and Tomb Raider has always been gaming crack for me – I just can’t get enough of it.  So this met and exceeded my expectations no doubt. 

An essential purchase.

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The casualties of war


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More than at the recent E3 event, the big wigs of the gaming industry, Sony & Microsoft have really pulled no punches when bitching at each other’s announcements.  The big news of course was Microsoft securing Rise of the Tomb Raider as an exclusive for it’s Xbox platforms (XB1 and Xbox 360).  This has pissed off it seems a big portion of the internet with Microsoft rushing to clarify the announcement by saying they paid for a timed deal with Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics … which basically means Sony fan boys may see the much-anticipated title arrive on their platform eventually.  Sony’s response to this?  They offered a statement saying ‘they don’t need to pay for exclusivity in their games’. Oh, and so Xbox owners can expect Uncharted on their machine soon then?  Yeah … thought not.

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It’s all very petty and a bit juvenile.  Microsoft did kind of mislead people by not mentioning the timed aspect of their deal, but then again – aren’t most exclusives timed these days unless they are first party?  Also I don’t really get the uproar surrounding such news as Microsoft need to have a few more trump cards up their sleeves to grab customers in the wake of PS4’s popularity … it’s just good business sense.  Tomb Raider made a real name for itself on PlayStation, granted and also on PC so I can see the frustration, but this isn’t just about several machines all enjoying a piece of the pie – this is a war, and one a big company on the scale of Microsoft aren’t going to lose without a fight.  So grow up everyone and realise that first and foremost … videogames are a business.  If you don’t want to lose out in some way, buy all the consoles.  I love Mario but don’t own a Nintendo console … see me blubbering?  No.  So trust your loyalty to a particular format and deal with the disappointment instead of moaning about it on internet forums.  It actually makes you look a bit silly.

I am interested in getting a PS4 later in the year, and like the look of some of it’s exclusive games (especially The Order: 1886).  I can live without them at the moment as XB1’s announcements are good for my general taste in games (loving the look of Quantum Break’s gameplay), and yes if Tomb Raider had been said to go to PS4 instead, I’d be pissed too.  But then that is why owning both consoles is the way to go this generation.  I understand many will not be able to afford it (and I can’t really) so like I said … stick by your decisions and let the games speak for themselves.  Competition is good for the industry, bitching is not.  Simple as that.

The Definitive Lara


Look what popped through my letterbox this morning…

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Although having played, loved and completed last year’s Tomb Raider on the PS3 … as a long time fan of the series and with a bit of a gaming drought at the moment on XBOX ONE I thought it was a great excuse to dive back into arguably Lara Croft’s greatest adventure.

Taking advantage of the extra grunt inside Microsoft’s new console this new version carries over all the DLC that was made available originally, along with concept art, a digital comic book and in the limited edition I ordered, a very nice digi-pack art book.

The game itself has been enhanced with higher Tomb Raider_2_editedresolution textures, improved particle effects on weather, fire and water etc., better lighting and it all runs in native 1080p.  The XBOX ONE version apparently supports a 30fps frame rate compared to up to 60fps on the PS4 but is reportedly more consistent than the varying frame rate on the rival console … but I think this is only an issue for those that look for such things.  Playing it, and I have only had a short time with the game, it feels very smooth and looks superb – an extremely detailed forest / island environment and bags of atmosphere.

I am looking forward to experiencing Lara’s adventure again throughout (something I normally don’t do a second time) as it was a fun game with a good story and plenty of ‘wow’ moments.  Is it really worth double dipping if you’ve already played the first game?  Probably not but if you’re hankering for a decent game on the XBOX 1 (or PS4) until big hitters like Titan Fall and Watch Dogs arrive … you could do much worse.

The completion list


Here’s a list of the games I have managed to complete.  I get a great sense of achievement out of completing a game, as unlike a movie it’s more about taking part, learning the controls and for the most part, facing a foe and coming away triumphant.  It’s not easy either.  Yet like a movie I prefer story driven games, and get a lot out of a good plot, interesting characters and situations.  Yet finding a game that keeps me playing to the end is tough, so the following list I also consider to be the cream of the crop of current gaming.

Nintendo Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (story finished)

Super Mario Odyssey (story finished)

PlayStation 4

Assassin’s Creed Unity

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Dishonoured 2 (finished play-through as ‘Corvo’)

The Last Guardian

The Order 1886

Uncharted 4: A Thieve’s End

XBOX ONE

Battlefield 4 (finished campaign)

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare (finished campaign)

Dead Rising 3

Gears of War 4

Halo 5 Guardians

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Sunset Overdrive

Titanfall (finished campaign)

Titanfall 2 (finished campaign)

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Watchdogs

Wolfenstein: The New Order

XBOX 360

Alan Wake

Alice: The Madness Returns

Bioshock

Bioshock Infinite

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 1, 2

Crysis 1, 2

Darksiders 2

Dead Space

DMC: Devil May Cry

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West

F.E.A.R. 1, 2

Gears Of War 1, 2, 3

God Of War 3

Halo 3

Jet Set Radio

Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light

Mafia II

Max Payne 3

Portal

Rage

Resident Evil 5

Splinter Cell Conviction

Tomb Raider Underworld

Playstation 3

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Darksiders

Dead Space 2

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Dishonored

Heavy Rain

Hitman: Absolution

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Killzone 2

The Last Of Us

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 3

Portal 2

Tomb Raider

Uncharted 2: Among Theives

Vanquish

Lara Croft in Limbo


I downloaded two very interesting games the other day via XBOX Live Arcade, and even though they were just the trials (you download the entire game, but can only play a small portion before having to buy it to unlock the full experience), I came away thirsty for more!

Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light

This sort of spin-off from the famed Tomb Raider franchise is displayed in a unique isometric almost top-down view-point, but all the old Tomb Raider exploration and puzzling is intact.  Graphically the new look is very fresh and detailed and harks back to PC games like Diablo.  The trial lasts a while too and we get to experience some of the major gameplay, boss fights and different environmental exploration moves and gadgets. 

LIMBO

Getting lots of buzz this one, basically a 2D platformer set in a strange black & white netherworld that is supposed to be some kids dream as you control a small boy and traverse the environments with just the ability to jump and push / pull things.  The world is full of dangers such as bear traps and giant spiders (!), but the look and feel is captivating, creepy and full of atmosphere that like Lara, this is a game I will certainly be purchasing at a later date.