PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Tomb Raider's opening hit me like a heart attack. After a few minutes of lulling me into a false sense of security, learning to walk, learning to climb, chaos happened.
It was a special kind of chaos, the kind with quick-time events and razor sharp reflexes. Take a second to think and you're dead. The game is largely taking care of all of the dangers of "actually playing the thing" and I'm just hanging on as tightly as I can.
I was worried for those opening minutes, both because the panic laden opening was making my chest feel tight, but also because a lack of interactivity and QTE-heavy events were the real problems at the heart of 2013's Tomb Raider reboot.
Then the game tugs you out of the frozen Siberian wastes of the opening for a quick jaunt in Syria. Satisfied that you now know how the game works, you're dumped back in Siberia and the game pulls off the training wheels.
From there it's sheer excellence.
If you played Tomb Raider, the core experience here is pretty much the same: gather some stuff, hunt some things, climb some stuff, shoot some dudes. I can promise you will be gathering, hunting, climbing and shooting, but the brilliance of Rise of the Tomb Raider is that most of the awkward edges of the original have been smoothed out.
This means less of the god-awful instafail QTE's, less of those annoying Minibosses, and Lara "the victim" is largely gone too.
But let's talk about the story a bit, because there you’ll find the majority of my complaints with the game?
Tomb Raider (2013) portrayed Lara as a victim of circumstance. The island was going to hell around her and her friends were dying left and right. However hard she tried to save those close to her, Lara was ultimately as much a victim of the rest of them. She was as much a victim as everyone else on the island.
Here, she's on the hunt for a magical artifact and the way the story treats her as a character is entirely changed by the revelation. She still gets hammered by an evil cult, portrayed in this game by the militaristic Order of Trinity, but she gives as good as she gets.
The game even has a weird moment where you befriend a tribe of Byzantine descendants that protect Siberia with bows and arrows. They all speak flawless english of course, but it barely matters because within a few hours you quickly prove you're better at hunting, climbing and fighting than every single one of them.
This lessens the dissonance of her killing roughly 6000 people in bloody close quarters fights, but it's still a weird problem as Lara is now murdering special forces grunts by strangling them to death with a bow.