New Year, same old games - Rise of the Tomb Raider (Version Tested: PS4 Pro)

I feel it's only fair to point out that I've bought every single one of the Tomb Raider games, and moaned about most of them...
...yet I'm still drawn back in time and again. Why? Well because I have this insane belief that maybe one day Crystal Dynamics might distil the essence of the original game to a point where they make something that has me hooked right until completion just like the original Tomb Raider did.

"Rise of the Tomb Raider" is not that game. "Rise of the Tomb Raider" which first appeared well over a year ago on the Xbox One as an exclusive, sold miserably, then fetched up on the PS4 and other platforms quite some time later on, is a game that so dearly wants to wrestle back Lara's glory from the Uncharted series, but roundly falls into all the same punji traps, before dying miserably with a turkey-like wail of ineptitude.

First off, the game has been enhanced for the PS4 Pro, and it even comes with some rinky-dink VR stuff for the PSVR. But the proper campaign kicks off much as its predecessor did, with Lara pratfalling from one scene to the next in a never-ending cavalcade of hilarious accidents, designed to get you up to speed as a sort of tutorial.

Once you're finally back on level ground, Lara proceeds to swing towards the game's other gameplay mechanic, introducing you to possibly the world's most tedious crafting, followed by the world's most tedious upgrade and ranking mechanism, before letting you loose into the world's most tedious armed combat sections.

It's pretty, she's pretty, so why the heck are you not happy?
Tedious? Well I spent most of the game upgrading when I had no other choice in order to proceed. I spent the game wishing the combat would just SOD OFF AND DIE and then most of the game admiring the poor sod who had to go and helpfully whitewash all those climbable bits all around Lara's game world just so the poor dear knew where to climb to next.

Puzzling - what there is of it - is added as an afterthought. Gone are the moments from previous games where you gather clues to solve a grand mechanism to open a forbidden temple. Now it's down to you clambering about, shooting or firing arrows at enemies while swiftly coming to the conclusion that you should've stayed in Croft Manor.

I was determined to finish this, despite the clamouring from other games that all wanted attention (in fact replaying Uncharted 4 at the same time as this really did show how far ahead Naughty Dog's team have leaped in terms of storytelling, game mechanics, puzzling and sheer jaw-dropping spectacle compared to Tomb Raider).

Sorry, I'm going to have to murder you but it's OK I've already butchered about a zillion others. Oh and some wolves. 

Ultimately the game got to a point where it annoyed me so much that I just could not go on playing, even though I knew I was right at the final scene. Stealing a boss fight from Resident Evil 5, shoving you in there with next to no ammo, and expecting you to pick your way around an enemy who only had to hit you a couple of times to polish you off, but could withstand an ice axe to the head really pressed all the wrong buttons for me and that was that. At least until a couple of days ago when, with a fresh mind after a damned good sleep I went back in and saw the boss off in two strikes. Funny how games get you like that sometimes.

So Rise of the Tomb Raider slides back onto the shelf, a pretty game sluicing away all its potential down the drain of malcontent towards the end with some very lazy design. The lure of exploring a derelict Croft Manor that's about to be repossessed is a side quest that made me wonder whether I'd have the tenacity to put up with any more of the game. Simply put, with the teetering pile of shame not growing any smaller, life's just too flipping short.

Hookability: Determination to finish isn't the same as enjoyment on any level. Seldom few game developers / designers understand that fundamental rule of what can make the difference between an OK game and a really great game.
Lastability: The campaign is long. But you'll wish it wasn't by the end. It really drags.
Playability: The controls are excellent, intuitive and the game really does play like a dream - it's just a damned shame it's more or less a shooter above all else
Overall: I'm still waiting for that Tomb Raider game to once again make me sit up and take notice. This so isn't it!


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