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Rise of the Tomb Raider falls flat

Nov 9, 2015

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Rise of the Tomb RaiderMuch has been made of the revival of the Tomb Raider saga and its counterpart Uncharted. While Lara Croft's early adventures clearly inspired Nathan Drake's exploits, as the Tomb Raider franchise became as dusty as a an ancient crypt over the years, Uncharted put its stamp on the action-adventure genre. New school surpassed old school.

It is quite ironic then with the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider, that the franchise is now suffering from the same weakness that held Uncharted back for a time: that critical balance of action, puzzle solving and platforming.

Although Tomb Raider was one of the best games of 2013 and of the franchise because of its ideal sense of balance, Rise is a harsh tumble backwards. Focusing far too much on platforming, hunting and gathering, Rise feels more like a Prince of Persia reboot or a Far Cry rehash.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderYou will spend quite a lot of your time and energy traveling from one place to another, swinging from flagpoles, scaling walls, climbing onto rooftops and inching along ledges, all of which crumble at the slightest touch, always.

When you are not doing that, you will be meticulously hunting and gathering supplies so you are able to do the simplest things, like heal yourself or acquire more ammunition. Rise's hunting and gathering aspect is not optional as it is in other games like Far Cry, which I recall only crafting a better holster so I could carry more weapons and ammo. In general, I cannot be bothered with crafting systems unless I am immersed in a total RPG experience. Usually, these aspects are not compulsory so you can just ignore them and any bonuses they might grant you. Being forced to bumble around collecting essential resources like you are playing Minecraft or Pokemon is far too distracting.

When not hunting and gathering like a madwoman, Lara is apparently learning one new ability after another with ridiculous frequency. The list just keeps growing and growing and it gets to the point that it becomes quite comical. Possibly the most absurd talent is Lara can shoot a rope right out of her ice axe to swing across any chasm like Batman. How is that even possible? Don't ask. We didn't.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderRise's combat is typically clear an area of bad guys and move on. The really aggravating part is no matter how much you improve your skills, no matter how many enhancements you craft or what new weapons you attain, your adversaries always have the upper hand. Firstly, their firepower is far greater than yours. Taking out individuals is simple but attack any group head-on and you will be mercilessly cut down. Because of that, you are better off taking the ninja approach. Secondly, the battles are frequently held in confined spaces, so you have little room to maneuver. Thirdly, usually there is no place to hunker down or dig yourself in. If there are, they are destroyed within minutes by enemy fire. Perhaps worst of all, during close quarters combat, the camera glitches out a great deal so you cannot properly target your enemies with gunfire or your climbing axe. Also, when you hit the 'X" button to pick up a grenade or more ammunition, sometimes the game decides to reload your weapon instead costing you valuable time. All of these factors combined with poorly positioned checkpoints and a reliance on stealth tactics takes a lot of the fun out of busting up the bad guys.

Echoing the unforgettable plane and train crash scenes from Uncharted, Rise opens with an insane Siberian action sequence with Lara being swept away by an avalanche during a ruthless snow storm. Unfortunately, it is all downhill from there as the game settles into its hunting, gathering, platforming routine.

The story itself is just as frail as the combat. Besides the indigenous people who give Lara a helping hand, Rises borrows a lot from the Tomb Raider films. Obsessed with refuting her father's critics and cementing his legacy, Lara searches for the ancient Siberian city of Kitezh and an object legend has it will grant immortality. Hindering her at every turn is Trinity, a shadowy organization that has an endless supply of helicopters and mercenaries.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderJust like in the 2013 release, there are optional tombs to explore and puzzles to solve and this time you receive some useful windfalls for seeking them out. That is, if you are not worn out by gathering all those plants, sticks, feathers, ore deposits, coins, etc.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a leap, swing in the wrong direction. A hodgepodge of existing titles, it doesn't have its own identity costing the series any ground it had gained. Far too much has been thrown into the mix and the unnecessary crafting system has watered down what was a promising reboot. If there is one lesson the ancient gaming gods have for all developers it is…If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderRise of the Tomb Raider
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Official Site: http://www.tombraider.com/

Rating: 6 / 10

 
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