By Simon Oxlade
Lara Croft’s third adventure of the ‘Survivor Trilogy’ sees our youthful heroine visit South America on the trail of the evil Trinity organisation and get caught up in a plot involving hidden cities, lost Amazonian tribes, apocalyptic death cults and a search for her own self.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the second sequel to Crystal Dynamics’ successful 2013 reboot and despite a distinctly new horror tinge, and a shift away from the character’s traditional weaponry of two pistols to a bow and arrow, the survivor trilogy has been a return to form for the long-running franchise.
The jungle setting allows the developers to go to town on making a lush-looking game, with excellent foliage, lighting, rock and water effects as well as terrifically animated animals. There is no doubt that visually, this is a really good-looking game. Which makes it a crying shame that Lara herself seems to have taken a step backward in the visuals.
The two previous games have delivered a richly detailed Croft, both in cut scenes and gameplay. This latest incarnation appears to have a much more detailed facial, but the skin and texture on the PS4 version tested seems waxy and a bit plasticky. Also, Lara’s interaction with her environments is non-existent. For example, in Rise of the Tomb Raider snow would catch on Lara’s clothes and hair, mud would attach itself to her clothing and if she went for a swim, she’d appear wet, hair and clothes darkened and glistening. In this new game there is none of that outside of the new stealth gameplay.
An improvement, however, is the number of tombs for Lara to raid – there are brilliant and intricate setups of jumps, levers, time limits and environments that use water, light, rocks, hidden limitations and clever restrictions to deliver really great challenging and occasionally thrilling mini-quests.
The latter, thankfully, takes our mind off the so-so main story which seems dreadfully underwritten and, in places is completely implausible. Almost all the main characters, including Croft, are painfully thin in their characterisations. For me this is where the loss of writer Rhianna (daughter of Terry) Pratchett is being keenly felt.
Overall verdict: For every excellent puzzle, there’s really shoddy writing; for every blockbuster moment, there’s some poor rendering; for every rappelling axe, there’s a puddle of mud. All of which adds up to a game that just scrapes a recommendation but with a bit more attention, and a bit more care, should have been a five star must buy.