Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration review

The beloved Lara Croft celebrates 20 years of career.

Version tested: PlayStation 4.

Almost a year after the launch as a temporary exclusive XBOX One, the new adventure of Lara Croft, sequel to Tomb Raider released in 2013, is ready to land on PlayStation 4. On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the most famous and beloved archaeologist of all time, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix bring on the Sony flagship Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, a title that includes the original game and all the DLCs released so far.

It was back in 1996 when a polygonal Lara Croft debuted on the first PlayStation, still unaware of the fact that it would have given rise to one of the longest-running videogame sagas ever. Over the years, the sexy archaeologist has improved more and more by proposing a statuesque and curvy physique especially as regards her A-side, which probably reached its peak in 2008 with Tomb Raider: Underworld. Difficult to find a disappointing adventure of the English archaeologist, as the ancient legends and the facts on which each chapter is based have always given interesting plots full of mystery and culture, which undoubtedly have piqued the curiosity of fans.

After more than 15 years from the debut of the series, Crystal Dynamics has decided to put a point on the figure of the brave and skilled heroine with hundreds of travels and companies behind her, relaunching it instead in a whole new and fresh guise. From 2013, therefore, there is a reboot of the saga, where a young, beautiful and inexperienced Lara at the dawn of her career must also deal with the concept of survival, between fears and weaknesses of a novice adventurer.

And here we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of this wonderful, unforgettable and legendary icon of the videogame world, which deserved a quick giveaway before we kick-started our Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration review from scratch.

The gift of immortality

Rise of the Tomb Raider begins dry and in pure "Croftian" style, with a Lara intent on climbing an impervious Siberian mountain in the middle of a freezing snow storm together with a faithful companion. After the initial phase, we will be catapulted into the past thanks to a flashback that will allow us to understand why our archaeologist is in that inhospitable place: the goal, this time, is the search for source of immortality, whose existence has been repeatedly proven by the studies of Lara's father. His tantalizing discovery, however, inevitably led to his death and sparked the interest of a hostile organization calling itself Order of the Trinity, whose sole purpose is to find the place where the artifact of immortality is kept and to exploit it for mere military purposes, with all that would entail if this power fell into the wrong hands. Lara intends to investigate what caused her father's disappearance to show the world the veracity of her studies, but her trip to Siberia will be hindered by the Trinity, who has no intention of retiring and will be ready to do anything to get the eternal life.

A plot that those who have played the title on XBOX One or PC already know, made of narrative ups and downs as it tends to diminish slightly after the first half of the game, but still able to entertain the player until the end of the adventure, which requires about 15 hours to complete. The duration of the main story also undergoes a significant increase if you aim to complete the game at 100%: i hundreds of collectibles hidden in the various settings and the different challenges available lead the longevity to rise easily, reaching almost 25 hours of total play.

Lara is in better shape than ever

Given the great success of the game mechanics introduced with the 2013 reboot, Crystal Dynamics has decided to further improve them and bring them back in this sequel, with a balanced and even more marked mix of action and adventure than the predecessor.

From the early stages of the game you can see the return of the QTE (Quick Time Events), which will accompany us for the duration of the adventure and will require the player to have a constant level of attention and a good reactivity to avoid leaving the skin. The exploratory phase once again plays an important role, not only as regards the search for collectibles, but also to obtain resources useful for crafting and upgrading weapons, equipment and other items: by hunting wild animals, for example, it is possible to obtain different types of leather to create pouches useful for carrying extra ammunition. Furthermore, by collecting pieces of wood and bird feathers it is possible to manufacture arrows, while by collecting specific materials or components you can enhance the various weapons present (from bows to pistols, up to rifles) and the same ice ax we use to climb, so to make it fatal in hand-to-hand combat.

Furthermore, by leveling up, it is possible to spend the points obtained to unlock and improve the Lara's skill, which are divided into branches combat, hunting and survival, each with specific characteristics to choose from. Continuing in the game, completing optional missions or simply through the downloadable DLCs (all contained in the 20 Year Celebration), then, you can get some alternative outfits, some of which boast particular characteristics (greater resistance to fire, to damage ...) that the Croft will benefit from.

Another element that could not be missing are the puzzles, well positioned throughout the adventure and designed so as not to be too complicated. Some, we must say, know how to assert themselves and are quite elaborate, so their resolution may not be immediate; but nothing that leads to exasperation and the consequence of being blocked, since in most cases it is enough to observe the surrounding environment well. To pay homage to the adventurous spirit of the most beloved archaeologist of all time, then, they think about it optional tombsAfter completing them by overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles, we will be rewarded with components for unique weapons or skills otherwise not acquired. By translating the inscriptions and collecting the documents hidden in the various areas, we will also increase Lara's language skills, useful for deciphering monoliths and anything else that will show us the position of the collectibles on the map.

Il combat system turns out to be varied and very good, with the possibility of facing enemies with weapons drawn or stealthily using the deadly arches of the game. Especially at the higher difficulties, it must be said that the soldiers know their stuff and will test our skills, between increased damage and resistance as well as a good Artificial Intelligence. Finally, for lovers of tough challenges, the new difficulty "Extreme Survival", which among the options that characterize it also boasts the rescues available only in the camps.

Compared to the previous chapter, it is totally absent a competitive online mode, which instead leaves room for the new Shipping menu, which allows you to replay the chapters or start different customizable modes through the carte which can be obtained during the adventure or by spending credits earned from challenges. These cards, certainly one of the greatest innovations of Rise of the Tomb Raider, act as modifiers of the game experience and, depending on the bonuses or penalties they offer, allow you to get more or less points in a given mode. For example, starting with a fully upgraded weapon makes it easier, so a certain percentage of the score will be removed; on the contrary, starting without having any kind of ammunition available will result in a higher score. In short, with this mode, players can try something different and test themselves in new and interesting challenges.

A twenty year full of contents

If what we have written above may be "superfluous" for those who have already played Rise of the Tomb Raider (but not for those approaching for the first time), now let's move on to the real news that characterize the 20 Year Celebration. This version, as mentioned at the beginning of the review, includes all the DLC released so far and introduces juicy new features that go to dramatically raise the already excellent longevity of the title. All the content in question is also downloadable for owners of the original title on XBOX One and PC, for free if you have the Season Pass.

First of all, from the very first start of the game the various additional packs released are available, which bring with them dozens of packs of cards to open to weapons and exclusive costumes that can be immediately equipped by going to any camp. They will also be very popular with fans classic skins, including that of the first Tomb Raider with a Lara "all polygons and no curves".

Il "Baba Yaga: The Witch's Temple" DLC introduces a new quest complete with a short story that requires about 3-4 hours of gameplay to be completed in its entirety, including collectibles and challenges.

La Stoicism mode raises the degree of realism and difficulty of the game, as it focuses everything on the concept of survival in its purest essence: in addition to exploring the various environments in search of different relics, Lara will have to constantly monitor various vital parameters such as hunger and the cold to survive in the wastelands of Siberia. The fundamental elements of this modality, therefore, are the hunting and the recovery of the various resources useful to stay alive as long as possible. The matter becomes even more interesting thanks to the possibility of play cooperative with a friend, supporting each other in the fight against the cold and Siberian hostilities. It goes without saying that lovers of this kind of experience will spend hours and hours in this mode, trying to climb the rankings by beating the scores of other players.

Il "The Awakening of the Cold Dark" DLC sees Lara catapulted into a former Soviet weapons research base where the toxins have given rise to an epidemic that has infected the surrounding area. The goal is to bring the situation back to normal by exploring the environment and making your way through puzzles and waves of infected, in a mode that, unfortunately, ends in a maximum of 2 hours (depending on your style of play). It looks vaguely like a mix between the classic Zombies mode of Black Ops and The Last of Us as far as the infected are concerned, who like clickers cannot see us but can hear every little noise, and here lies the gist of success in the mission. Obviously, we will have to take advantage of the surrounding environment to recover useful resources for the manufacture of weapons and ammunition.

Definitely more interesting, however, is the "Mode" Croft Manor, which debuts in the 20 Year Celebration and allows access to "Blood Ties" DLC e "Lara's Nightmare".

Blood Bonds will allow us to explore Lara's huge estate in search of evidence that she is the direct heir to the mansion, or the manor and all of her father's secrets will end up in the hands of the uncle who claimed ownership. An undoubtedly intriguing story especially because we will return to visit the Croft villa as we did in the first chapters (it's a pity there is no butler). Lara's Nightmare, on the other hand, will take us back inside the manor, but our goal will be to resist the waves of the undead using everything we have available and, at the same time, trying to put an end to this nightmare. .

These two new modes will take a lot of time, and adding to the main campaign all the additional content available the total 50 hours of gameplay are brilliantly exceeded, giving a longevity never seen before in the series and definitely above the standards of the genre.

The last note must be rightly made to the real exclusive of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration on PlayStation 4: on the Sony console, in fact, the game boasts the full PlayStation VR support for the "Blood Ties" chapter, offering players a totally new experience.
In short, if you are a fan of the series and have not yet purchased the last chapter, this is the opportunity to do so, especially because at the price of the original game it is also possible to take home all the DLCs.

Ahhh, Siberia ...

A wasteland, perpetually covered with snow and animated by freezing winds, Siberia is the place where most of the production is set, except for a short trip to that of warm Syria at the beginning of our adventure.

Graphically, the title does not lose its charm on PlayStation 4 and is able to give fantastic settings and flawless facial animations, with a more than good level of detail given the vastness of some areas. Of course, the limits of the consoles are visible, and it is not uncommon to run into some small rendering problems or notice an evident limitation of anti-aliasing, but overall we are faced with an excellent job under the graphic aspect that ensures one very stable frame rate at 30 fps at 1080p resolution.

Also on the side of the audio sector we are at excellent levels, with well reproduced effects, perfect soundtrack and dubbing in Spanish very well done and up to the proposed situations.

Final comment

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is the definitive experience for the last chapter of the series that must not be missing in the library of fans (and not only). Complete with every DLC released so far, this version also includes two new contents that take us to the immense manor of the Crofts, making us somehow relive the past when in the first chapters we could run around in the mansion. Longevity is very high thanks to the amount of content present, Lara is always beautiful and the gameplay has been further improved compared to the 2013 reboot: what more could you want? If you have been waiting for the arrival of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4, this is a great opportunity not to be missed!

For Cons 
- Interesting plot ...
- High longevity
- The ultimate complete experience of all DLCs
- Lara is still Lara, and remains fascinating even after 20 years of career
-… but who tends to lose a little after the first half of the game
  Overall rating: 90 
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