Finally, after what feels like forever, we have the chance to raid tombs once again on PlayStation 4. Lara Croft is back, and for a change, we are off to the jungle!
Please be warned, although I try and talk/write with relative ambiguity, there will be spoilers to follow. Read on at your own peril, thanks…
A world away from my last stop in Guilin on Shenmue 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider begins in Mexico, or on the island of Cozumel to be exact, and like a good James Bond film, it is Day of the Dead. There’s a party to be had, NPCs to question and a bad guy to be shadowed.
It’s a familiar feeling. Being the third title in the rebooted Tomb Raider series, that is expected. The controls are second nature, even if I am not told how to craft arrows or health packs. That might be because it recognises saves from both Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider on my PS4 (it gave me outfits for Lara from both those games), or it’s just because it is confident in it’s button setup. Either way, I figure it out and set off an an adventure to pillage a tomb of it’s treasure.
Although familiar, it is a good feeling being back, and from the very first moments of the first tomb you can see why these games have such a following. It’s spookily atmospheric, unnervingly dangerous and the world feels alive. Not to mention the wonderful lighting. You’ll soon discover Lara’s camera (or photomode) is a HUGE distraction – much like my puppy…
In a nice twist, the first piece of treasure is fairly simple to acquire, and escaping to safe ground doesn’t cause too much issue either. That is, until we are told in stealing said treasure, we have set off a cataclysmic chain of events, starting with a tsunami.
The opening sequences and events of Shadow of the Tomb Raider really set it up for what seems to be a great story. As already mentioned, we know just how good the rebooted games are, so an engaging narrative is important. It also reminds us what a likeable character Lara is, and one you do actually care about. With the scene set, and an adventure to be had, we head for Peru. Sadly, we don’t make it, and our plane crashes in the Jungle…
A lot of the pre-game hype is recognisable from the Peruvian Jungle scenes, most noticeably the Jaguar sequences. Again, like the first tomb, the Jungle feels alive and dense, the dark greens and blues look wonderful, and pathways are quite hard to spot. What is nice, is that the way to go is sometimes through the thick thorough of leaves, rather than a nicely placed mud path. However, after a few run ins with big cats, losing half your mate (yes singular, not plural), and finding the other passenger from the plane, we head further into the jungle to find civilisation.
Human to human combat is good. It is supremely weighted towards stealth. Typically, as soon as you are spotted, you’re dead. What is helpful, is the R3 button. Showing you what enemies are in others’ line of sight, and who you can silently dispatch using your trusty bow. Like before, onscreen prompts let you know when you can perform a stealth kill on a bad guy, and waiting like a predator in the long grass is quite a frill. Gun play also features in combat, but so far, I have stuck with my arrows.
I am a little further into the game than where I’ll finish this piece, as you will tell if you recognise the image above. It seems to be starting to get a little more mysterious and sci-fi, which is awesome.
So, without spoiling too much more, I will say that, so far at least, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has been the most fun I have had with a game released this year. For me, it ticks all the right boxes, the world is amazing, and unlike Rise, not as open – yet – which is a major plus. I cannot wait to continue onwards.