Just under a year after first wowed us on on Xbox One and PC, Rise of the Tomb Raider comes to PlayStation 4, beefed up with all of its existing DLC and a few new pieces of content, including a cool VR add-on. Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration on PS4 is absolutely worth picking up if you haven’t played through Lara Croft’s latest adventure yet.
IGN gave Rise of the Tomb Raider a 9.3, and said this of the sequel to the 2013 reboot:
“Rise of the Tomb Raider raises the bar set by Lara’s last outing with a rollicking adventure story, strong villains, gorgeous vistas, and smart puzzles – go off the main path to find the best stuff in dastardly optional tombs. Though the mandatory combat doesn’t distinguish itself with challenging enemies unless you crank up the difficulty, Lara’s newfound versatility on the battlefield makes fighting a lot more fun. Once again it’s Lara herself, however, who steals the show, her complex ambitions and hardened resolve showing new sides to a character who has well and truly grown from survivor to the most fascinating action hero in video games today.”
That score and that sentiment still rings true a year later. Crystal Dynamics’ sequel ups the ante and remains a packed, enthralling adventure, one that smartly increases the emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration while also continuing to build on the strong character work done in the original 2013 reboot. Check out our full Rise of the Tomb Raider review from last year to see more.
On top of the Cold Darkness Awakened and Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch DLC expansions, 20 Year Celebration also adds a short new story-focused chapter: Blood Ties. (It’s available as DLC for Xbox One and PC owners, and included in the season pass.) Split into two parts, the first half is an exploratory search through Croft Manor in which Lara is trying to uncover the secrets of her parents and the estate’s past to save it. There’s no combat or treacherous caverns to navigate, but I appreciated the stripped down, quiet character study.
There's no combat in Blood Ties, but I appreciated the quiet character study.
Building on the work already done to flesh out Lara’s character in the main game, Blood Ties delivers further details and backstory to her life pre-Tomb Raider and the Croft family as a whole. What’s learned through environmental discoveries, like information about the relationship between Lara’s parents through diary entries and audio recordings, may not change the way I looked at the main story, but it further recontextualized and smartly deepened my understanding of Lara.
Croft Manor, despite its years of wear, is a gorgeous location to explore in first or third-person perspective. The way most players will likely experience it, in third-person, is certainly an intriguing opportunity for someone already invested in this reboot series’ take on Lara. Experiencing it in first-person with PlayStation VR, however, can be an even more impressively immersive affair — when it’s not nauseating, that is.
Blood Ties’ VR component has two control options: Comfort and Free modes. Played in Comfort Mode the VR experience is, as its name suggests, pretty comfortable and easy to learn. You point the controller to a spot in the environment, push a couple of buttons, and Lara teleports around. Getting to take in the beautiful architectural detail of Croft manor from Lara’s viewpoint makes up for a lack of one-to-one mobility.
Blood Ties can be impressively immersive in VR — when it's not nauseating.
The Free control scheme, however, made me and several other IGN staffers ill within minutes of using it, and kept us sick for hours afterwards. Lara’s movement is so smooth and slow that the strong disconnect between what my seated body was doing and in-game self was doing caused instant queasiness. That said, before the nausea set in I was incredibly impressed by what it felt like to walk around Croft Manor. It’s worth giving a go to see whether the experience affects you in the same way, but approach with caution – if you start feeling queasy bail out quick, or you’ll risk the kind of day-long head and stomach ache I had..
We also get Lara’s Nightmare, in which the manor is infested with nightmarish demons. This replayable mode offers a few fun challenges to chase, and is a smart way to reuse a well-constructed environment. But, while fun, combat was never Rise’s most impressive aspect and it can lose its luster here quickly enough.
20 Year Celebration also throws in an online cooperative version of the Endurance DLC, which was already one of the more fun additions to the originally released Rise of The Tomb Raider. Endurance proves to be even more enjoyable with another survivor on hand to fight through the wilderness with you. Co-op adds the interesting twist of allowing both players to extract themselves and their rewards from the situation before their partner, adding even more tension to what can already be a fraught yet exciting mode.
Rise of the Tomb Raider hasn’t lost its luster a year after its initial release. Bundled together with all of the content released so far, Lara’s already-packed adventure is now even bigger. And while Playing the new non-combat story mode, Blood Ties, with PlayStation VR was enjoyable (when I was in Comfort Mode, at least), and played normally it’s an interesting character study. The co-op enabled Endurance mode is also a new highlight.. For PS4 players just getting their first opportunity to play Rise of the Tomb Raider, 20 Year Celebration is a complete and amazing package.