Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review
Final Score 8/10 - Reviewed on ps4 pro
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the latest in the trilogy of the rebooted franchise with Lara Croft. I have been a huge fan of the franchise ever since the first game back in 2013 back on xbox 360. The game was visually beautiful and fun to play. I played it again on “next gen” systems and the graphical upgrades from the 360 to the original Xbox One were noticeable enough. Lara’s hair (probably one of the hardest things to get right) looked significantly better. Then the rise of the 4K consoles brought even more improvements. The second game was built for the Xbox One X, and it looks amazing. It runs at 4K and the game is gorgeous. Lara traverses snowy environment and it looks amazing. Today, I will admit, I’m a little spoiled by the power of my PS4 Pro and my One X, and the graphics they bring. I have lifted my standard for what I expect in AAA games. Games like God of War, Detroit Become Human, Red Dead Redemption 2, will permanently burn into your eyes what games SHOULD look like.
So for that reason, Shadow of the Tomb Raider confused me. I watched trailers, and I was confused. The game didn’t look good. I hoped that the game simply was unfinished and they were being honest in E3 and event trailers. Then launch came, and I couldn’t understand why the game looked WORSE than the first one on 360. It looked really bad. I still do not understand why none of the major review platforms were talking about it. Major sites were still giving it 9/10’s and some were even denying the graphical downgrade existed.
(SotTR Launch Trailer - Tomb Raider Youtube)
But Lara’s hair looked awful and fake. A major plot point of the first half of the game sees Lara traversing a muddy forest scene and it looked BAD. Lara covered in mud looked more like graphical glitches than real mud. The environment looked weird. Walking through mud had weird errors, and water looked the worst. Swimming is a big portion of the game and water looked like glass.
I critiqued the game for including a photo mode for the first time but failing to be deserving of one. The game had more bugs than just visual flaws. The aiming and bow and arrow mechanics felt off. The most broken part of the game was an early “boss battle” with a jaguar. Headshot after headshot, it would not die. I ran out of ammo, and the aim felt broken.
All of these disappointments discouraged me from playing the game, so I put it down for about two weeks while I played other release. This certainly has been a busy Holiday release window. When I came back, I was very much surprised.
It all looked GREAT. Lara’s facial animations and hair looked much better. The environment looked like a current gen AAA game. Mud and water actually looked decent. The game had received patches that fixed many of my early complaints. Aiming felt more smooth, and swimming had added shaders and particle effects.
(SotTR Cinematic Trailer)
I could finally enjoy this game. The game now looks just as good as the first two, and is worthy of its 4K AAA ranking. At launch, after a few hours in, I was ready to give this a 6/10. I was disappointed. Now, with the game updated and patched, I am happy to say I enjoyed every minuted after that. This is one of the best patch jobs I’ve seen. In it’s current state, this is by far the best Tomb Raider game to date. I only wish they had delayed the game a month and launched it in its current state.
The story is really intriguing, and it pulls you in. It makes you want to know what happens. At the beginning, Lara triggers a Mayan apocalypse by accidentally removing an artifact that starts a chain reaction. This eventually leads Lara to a hidden tribal city. You get to explore ancient parts of this city and meet the native people. The final story leads you on a very Indiana Jones chase for artifacts as you fight for the very survival of the world. This story brings in elements of mystics and super natural, while still maintaining an element of realism. Realism for everything except Lara’s superhuman durability of course...
(Shadow of the Tomb Raider Gi Gameplay)
We get to see many different landscapes in this game as Lara travels through the deep jungles, deep dark caves, and underwater environments. Shadow of the Tomb Raider has by far the best environments of any previous game. We also get more ways for Lara to traverse. This game has really good swimming segments, and even better climbing mechanics. There is more than just climbing, but grappling mechanics, hanging, swinging, and even ceiling climbing elements. It makes it one of the most vertical and extensive climbing explorative games to date.
Once the game actually looked good enough, the photo mode is a really great addition, that should be included at launch of all major AAA games these days. A “photo mode” is literally a “no hud, unlocked camera, pause button”. Why this simple feature is ever left out is beyond me. There are so many crazy moments, and high cliff hanging angles that the photos captured in game can be really exciting. Also, post patches, Lara’s character modeling is actually really good, along with facial animations, it makes for great cinematic photos. Speaking of cinematics, SotTR has beautiful transitions between areas as Lara squeezes through small spaces, giving you a really close claustrophobic feeling as if you were actually crawling through a cave yourself.
(Shadow of the Tomb Raider - Gi Gameplay)
One of my favorite elements of this game is how genre breaking it is at times. Some parts are run and gun third person shooter where Lara is shooting up dozens of Trinity agents. Other parts is a heavy stealth focused military gameplay reminiscent of the old splinter cell days. Lara is sneaking around dark environments, assassinating agents, often times in elaborate ways that would make Assassin’s Creed jealous. Other parts of the game are straight up (border line annoying) puzzle segments, where these elaborate puzzles prevent you from progressing. I love a good puzzle, but some of these were just a pain! I didn’t expect the horror survival genre to crop up. Many portions of the game are you sneaking around dark caves fighting creepy zombie like natives. If you want a good suspense in your game, this has it. It made you feel like you were crawling through the depths of hell at times.
All in all, SotTR is one of my favorite games of the year. While it had a rough start and had to build up to the great game it is now, I really enjoyed the final product. I think fans of the action adventure genre, or fans of Lara Croft in general should definitely keep this game in mind, announced at the Game Awards 2018 is a free trial of the game so everyone can try it FREE. It earns its place in such an over crowded Holiday 2018.
As always, this is Jesse with Game Infinite Reviews; stay tuned for the latest news, reviews, and more right here on Game Infinite.