30 November 2015

You raise me up

I would be making an understatement if I said Tomb Raider (2013) is one of my favorite games. I have played it through seven times over three different platforms. No other modern age game has got same attention from me. So of course I was waiting for Rise of the Tomb Raider like no other game.

With each trade fair appearance and released video my expectations got either higher ("looks so good, whoa, this time Lara even resembles her performer Camilla Ludddington") or went down ("so many ways to kill people... Lara isn't supposed to be that kind of violent maniac"). It was this kind of roller coaster of emotions right up to the release date. Even Twitch streams I had been following didn't convince me. I saw the game as almost an off-putting mix of mindless killing and lukewarm adventuring.

When all the excitement started; this scene was shown in E3 debut gameplay footage. Oh boy!

But when the game eventually saw the daylight, I had no other options than to get it. Heck, I even chose Xbox One as my new generation console because of Rise of the Tomb Raider! So after all this, was I disappointed? Is it better than Tomb Raider I love so much? There's no way I can even try to pretend how Rise of the Tomb Raider would feel like if one hasn't played the previous game so I must make comparisons.

Rise of the Tomb Raider plays almost exactly like its predecessor. Gameplay is mostly identical and you collect all the different stuff in a similar way, even though this time Lara has a few more tricks up her sleeve, more stuff and resources to gather and hunt down and the tombs are way bigger with very clever environmental puzzles. But the overall nature of the games are completely different.

Two years ago we met Lara Croft who wasn't that arrogant, self-assertive superwoman we had grown familiar with ever since her seminal 1996 debut. In her place was a young, insecure woman who is literally thrown into a hell in a desperate journey to save her friends and herself. Lara was thrown around, drowned, punched, drenched in blood, shit, pus and whatnot. Cutscenes were "filmed" with shaky handheld camera, up close and personal. The game was frenzy and energetic and after a grueling run the gauntlet a survivor was born.

Yea yea, you have dirt on your face but lighting makes it look perfect anyway.

Two years later we meet an adventurer. She chooses her journey in order to prove her late father wasn't barmy and heads to Siberia with Jonah. As a tomb raider is about to rise, a new enemy also rises its proverbially ugly head. Trinity (Templars all but in the name) are after the same Divine Source Lara is desperately looking for.

Everything in the game is more sleek and grand in the scale than previously. Rise of the Tomb Raider is technically absolutely brilliant and perfect in every imaginable way. After this game all those developers who make Xbox One versions of their games worse than their PS4 counterparts are either lazy or incompetent, or more likely both. There's no excuses anymore. There has been few, if none, as polished games in the last years. In fact it's polished almost up to the point of losing any edge and rough characteristics.

Even lynxes are bigger and more menacing in Siberia than in Finland (where I live).

This time Lara is treated like a film star. She's shown in cutscenes always in a favorable light and her Tress FX -powered hair shines in any situation like in hair care commercials. And if Lara happens to have some dirt or blood on her almost Luddingtonesque features, it's washed away during camp stints. It's as if a modestly budgeted action movie surprise hit gets a big-budget, huge crowd-pleasing sequel.

So here we are again at the same question. Was I disappointed? Is Rise of the Tomb Raider better than Tomb Raider? Well, in all honesty I can't answer that but I tell you what. I bothered to get 100% completion on my 1st playthrough of it. That must tell something.

//Planeteer J

P.S. Oh, what about that infamous input lag? What input lag? Stop telling lies and get your facts right, Digital Foundry! In fact, aiming is even steadier this time so it's easier to pop headshots. Yes, Lara's movement has inertia but that's because of a sense of weight to her to better simulate movement on different surfaces.

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