Lara-king about in Siberia

by Shane Dillon

YOU know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men and tech/games editors …
I had a piece on virtual reality (VR) in the bag, but a last minute change of plans involving an upcoming extensive look at Sony’s new PlayStation VR headset (see preview, right) meant substituting another player onto the pitch – this review of Rise of the Tomb Raider (PlayStation 4, Cert 18, c. €60).
Eagle-eyed and sharp-witted Gazette readers will recall that this isn’t Lara Croft’s first outing with this game in the Gazette, as she and it previously graced our pages just over a year ago.
However, following her year-long sojourn on Microsoft’s impressive XBox One console, that timed exclusivity has now expired, setting Ms Croft (right) free on the PS4.
Not only that, but she’s packed all kinds of extra goodies into her satchel, bringing with her all of the extra downloadable content, additional features and bonus items released on the XBO platform over the past year, creating an ultimate package.
As before, the very successful reboot of what had become a tired, stale franchise sees a young Lara choosing to set off on her first proper adventure, with snowbound Siberia playing host to much of her adventure as she chases a McGuffin extraneous plot device, pitting her against Trinity – a group of religious fanatics trying to complete a mission started centuries earlier.
Lara runs, climbs, jumps and swims her way through one icy locale after another, constantly on the look-out for loot and items to gradually upgrade her abilities and weapons alike, such that it isn’t too long before she’s more like Rambo Croft, laying waste to the local wildlife and not-so-local bad guys with aplomb.
It’s a very pretty game; not quite up there with Uncharted 4 – then again, what is – but it’s quite a looker in its own right, packed once again with the same gradual unlocking of skills and character/weapon upgrading which made her precious adventure so enjoyable.
However, it’s the extra content that really puts the icing on this particular frosted cake, with a more than generous amount of features and extra story beats bolted on to create a subtly different game than before.
While these extra features don’t change the core essence of the game, having them all in one neat package elevates it substantially above the XBO original release, helping to validate a return to the game.
In extra content, completionists will enjoy nosing around the somewhat dilapidated Croft manor, while a de rigeur zombie mode, of sorts, further ups the ante for Lara’s action credentials as she zips about the family homestead, gunning down hordes of the undead.
Not terribly ladylike behaviour, perhaps, but worthy of the Croft adventurer name.
With its great mix of frantic action and quieter moments, a nicely scripted and believable Lara Croft (courtesy of Rihanna Pratchett’s, daughter of Terry, input as lead writer), great graphics and its comprehensive set of extra material, Lara’s latest has raised the bar yet again for the reinvigorated series.

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