★★★★☆ | XBO
Poor old Lara Croft, sliding around everywhere on her bum, falling down giant holes, being catapulted into active volcanoes and skewering herself on jagged bits of metal.
Ever since her gritty reboot in 2013 Lara has become the official mascot for every manner of adventure-based calamity going, plagued as she is by a near constant parade of surprise explosions, fiery death, crumbling floors and angry wolves.
Exclusively available on Xbox One, Rise of the Tomb Raider manages to tone down the relentless onslaught of protagonistic injury that defined the previous game, instead opening up the third-person shooty-jumpy adventure to some clever stealth elements. Lara can now hide in a bush, or up a tree, in order to avoid getting into firefights with her enemies. Bullets and bloodthirst never sat comfortably with Lara’s character, and now it no longer has to.
It remains a great deal more fun to tackle enemies head on though. By skulking around in the shadows, Lara can tell which of her enemies are out of sight of other enemies, allowing you to pick foes off one by one like a sneaky rural Batman. Arrows and glass can be tactically launched to create sound diversions, and once stealth fails you can chuck improvised nail bombs and molotovs at your panicking enemies.
With this newfound open-endedness comes a degree of freedom to explore too, and there’s plenty of scope to put the main story thread to one side and explore any one of a number of other distractions.
Chief among your optional activites are the titular tombs, and the raidings thereof. These puzzle focused moments are where the game excels, allowing you to methodically unravel platforming and physics-based conundrums in order to unlock special new abilities for Lara. Discover an old relic in a tomb, and whumph, suddenly you’re able to fire two arrows at the same time. A simple science.
Rise of the Tomb Raider stars a Lara who’s found her post-reboot footing. Glorious scenery does justice to the series’ adventure roots, while a renewed focus on actually raiding some bloody tombs leaves Rise of the Tomb Raider feeling fresh and forward-thinking.