Originally released on Xbox One and PC, the third-person acrobatic action game Rise Of The Tomb Raider was an invigorating adventure that was easily one of the year’s best games and a worthy successor to 2013’s Tomb Raider. Now we have Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration (PlayStation 4), which not only brings this game to Sony’s system, but it also includes both new and previously available story add-ons and challenge modes, making this the definitive edition of a great game.
In Rise Of The Tomb Raider‘s main game, our old pal Lara Croft is trying to locate an artifact that her dad was searching for at the time of his death. But as is so often the case, someone else wants this artifact as well. So Lara doesn’t just spend her time searching through ruins and caves, she also has to defend herself from aggressive enemies while scrounging around for food and other raw materials that will help her do both. All of which makes this an epic adventure worthy of Indiana Jones, with all the explosive action, cinematic moments, and pulpy fiction that comparison implies.
As is always the case in these games, Lara spends most of her time in Rise Of The Tomb Raider running, jumping, swimming, solving situational and physics-based puzzles, rope climbing, fighting people, hunting animals, crafting supplies, and running for her life. But Lara has new ways to get around this time. Where before she could run up a wall and grab the ledge above, now she can also run up the sides of some trees, grab a branch, and lift herself up. She also gets to swing on ropes, Tarzan style, something she hasn’t done since this series got rebooted.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider also makes some things a lot easier for our hero. Rather than making you go back to your campfire every time you want to craft an arrow or something else that might come in handy, you can now do it on the fly. When you are at the campfire, though, you’ll notice there’s an increased depth to both the weapon customizing and the leveling up of Lara’s skills.
But the most significant change to Rise Of The Tomb Raider is that some of the areas you explore are a lot bigger and more intricate. While Tomb Raider had some wide open spaces, the ones in this game are larger, and offer more to do. This not only includes the requisite story missions, but there’s also more caves to explore this time around. There’s even optional missions you can take on, which not only include tombs you can raid, but also such odd jobs as catching some chickens.
Having larger and more open spaces in Rise Of The Tomb Raider also impacts the combat, since it means you can be sneakier this time around, creeping up behind bad guys and taking them out all quiet-like. This is especially handy because while Lara is a crack shot, and knows that you should duck behind things for cover, she’s not as good at either of these as such trained soldiers as, say, J.D. Fenix from Gears Of War 4.
While the main part of Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration is as solid as the original version, it does have some minor issues. For starters, Lara has a vision mode called “Survival Instincts” that, like “Detective Vision” in Batman: Arkham Knight, shows where to go and any supplies or collectibles you can grab along the way. Unfortunately, like “Detective Vision,” objects and objectives highlighted by Lara’s “Survival Instincts” don’t stay highlighted, so you have to repeatedly activate it, which gets rather tiresome.
But the most disappointing thing about the main game in Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration is that, like Tomb Raider, this doesn’t have the kind of clever, inventive, and puzzling acrobatic moments that were the highlights of the earlier games. While this does have more rock climbing, and it’s more involved this time around, you still never do anything as challenging as, say, flipping off a tree branch onto a steep incline, sliding down that incline backwards, doing a backflip off the ledge, grabbing another tree branch, and then flipping off it before it breaks as you hope to God that the sheer rock wall you’re flying towards has something you can grab on to.
Beyond the main game, Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration has two story-based add-ons that actually add something interesting. In “Baba Yaga: The Temple Of The Witch,” which has already been released for Xbox One and PC, Lara explores a valley that’s supposed to be haunted by the titular Slavic myth. And while it doesn’t do anything all that different from the main game, it does have some clever moments as well as really nice trip, dude.
What is new, and different, is “Blood Ties,” a short bit in which Lara has to look around her old house for her dad’s will so she can prove to her jerk of an uncle that she owns the place. But because her place is abandoned, and there’s not, I dunno, zombies chasing after you, this add-on is all about the exploration and situational puzzles, which actually makes it a nice respite. You can even play this in VR if you have a PlayStation VR helmet, which switches the viewpoint from first to third. And while I don’t own a PSVR system yet, I did have a chance to play a bit of this mode in VR at an event, and feel confident in saying that while it is fun to play “Blood Ties” this way, I wouldn’t buy a PSVR system just to do so, especially since this add-on is only about an hour long.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration also includes a trio of challenge modes that are inspired by, but otherwise unconnected to the story. In “Lara’s Nightmare,” which is new, her home from “Blood Ties” is infested with zombies and floating skulls, and you have to kill them all. Similarly, “Cold Darkness Awakened” has you fighting for your life as well, this time against guys who’ve been dosed with a toxin that makes them act zombie-like. Finally, “Endurance” has you trying to survive in the oh-so-cold Siberian outback, which not only requires you to kill bad guys, but you also have to stay warm and well-fed. Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration even adds a two-player co-op variation to “Endurance,” which allows you and a friend to work together.
But while all three of these survival modes are more varied than the previous summation suggests, they ultimately provide the same kind of thrills. None of which really appealed to me all that much, given that they don’t have as much of the exploring or the climbing as the main game, which are always my favorite parts. Though if you’re more partial to the killing, any of these three challenge modes will do nicely.
Lastly, Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration has some new and vintage outfits for Lara to wear, as well as difficulty setting for the main game called “Extreme Survivor” for those who don’t have enough suffering in their lives already.
Admittedly, there’s no reason to buy Rise Of The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration if you already played the main game on Xbox One or PC. Especially since the new add-ons are available for those systems as well. But if you missed this epic, exciting action game before, for whatever reason, it’s nice that you’re not just getting the great main game, but some fun extras as well.