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Shadow of the Tomb Raider review – makes Lara Croft look boring

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; Eidos Montréal/Square-Enix

This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny

There are two things I’ve always loved about Tomb Raider in all its incarnations over the years: beautiful, exciting and dangerous places to explore, and Lara Croft herself. Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character. It is so silly that you can’t explain it without sounding ridiculous: Lara is chasing a secret militia organisation across the south American continent to prevent them from stealing a silver box and bringing about the end of the world.

Like the first two Tomb Raider games in this modern trilogy by Crystal Dynamics – though this concluding entry was developed by a different studio, Eidos Montréal – Shadow of the Tomb Raider relegates slower-paced exploring, treasure-hunting and puzzling around ancient tombs to make way for high-adrenaline action-movie-style play. Lara gets caught up in mudslides and earthquakes, scrambles from collapsing buildings and blows up attack helicopters, but instead of hiding behind cover with an assault rifle, more often she crouches unseen in long grass or presses herself against walls, hunting oblivious militiamen in the darkness. Lara has “evolved” here from desperate survivor into a silent killer, which gives the player a welcome break from shooting things. Sending a poisoned arrow into the thigh of a guard from the jungle canopy before dropping down into the grass and picking off his panicking companions one by one is more interesting than pointing a pistol at them and pressing a button until they fall down.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Launch Trailer [PEGI]

As a spectacle, Shadow of the Tomb Raider can compete with the best. It revels in its own beauty. The camera lingers on sunset-yellow vistas and beautiful temples whenever Lara emerges from the jungle or a cave to discover some new marvel of the ancient world. Clambering around cliffs and crumbling buildings is vertiginous and exciting; it always feels like you’re an inch from falling to your death. The animation and environment design is truly impressive, and you’re usually given time to take it all in rather than being rushed along by combat.   Continue reading on