Rise of the Tomb Raider review: This is Lara’s best adventure yet

The trouble with a successful reboot is that there’s only one way to follow it up. is bigger and bolder, its filmic set pieces pummelling you into your sofa with more ferocity than a 1980s cassette tape. Oh yes, you will be entertained and then some.

What comes after  is depressingly inevitable: a piling on of features to appease an increasingly demanding audience, with ever more outlandish action sequences that are a desperate attempt to top what came before.

A few sequels later and the masses, flaming pitchforks in hand, will be calling for the bloated, directionless mess that is to be rebooted. The publisher will have no choice but to dutifully oblige.

But I digress.  is an excellent game, even a brilliant one in places—it’s just gonna be  hard to top it.

Or at least of it will be very hard to top. If there’s one thing that didn’t quite get right, a thing that’s sadly repeated here, it’s the story—but it’s not for lack of trying. If anything, tries a little too hard to correct the narrative flaws of its predecessor, shoving as much heavy handed and often clichéd characterisation into its cut scenes as humanly possible. As you can imagine, this quickly grows tiresome. At the very least, the game’s supporting cast is that little bit more interesting this time around, their profiles raised from forgettable archetypes to interesting, if emotionally over-the-top individuals.

Lara herself remains the most well-rounded character of the lot, though, and—following her trials at the hands of cultist weirdos in her last adventure—a noticeably stronger character at that. There’s no build-up to Lara’s first kill this time around, that’s for sure. Instead, and without giving too much away, there’s a greater focus on Lara’s past, particularly her relationship with her father. This certainly provides the suitable motivation for Lara jetting halfway across the world to take on a centuries-old secret society and find the source of eternal life (yes, it goes there), even if the daddy issues she’s saddled with get painfully predictable at times.

Lara’s adventure kicks off atop the mountains of Siberia.

Despite its flaws, it’s hard not to get sucked into ‘s story. I’d even go as far as to say it’s that little bit more enjoyable than . But the real draw—which now thankfully doesn’t involve quite as much awkward panting and shrieking thanks to poorly executed quick-time events—is the action. And boy does this kick off with a bang. The opening sequence, set high along the ice-covered rocks of a Siberian mountaintop complete with an impressive sense of scale, is as tense as you might expect from having to keep Lara from plunging 5000 metres to her death. Rocks crumble, ice cracks, and snow thumps down from the mountain top, sweeping Lara and her companion Jonah off the rocks, leaving them dangling by a single tired rope.

Eventually Lara crafts a bow, and then finds a gun, and then an even bigger gun, and then it’s off to the races and time to bust a cap into the asses of soldiers from a mysterious militant group called Trinity. The game does a fine job of setting up the group as an unconscionable collection of angry young men, which is good thing given that you’ve got no choice but to lay waste to at least a few hundred of the evildoers during Lara’s journey. The cover-based stealth combat is enjoyable and well executed, mostly thanks to a beefy set of weapons that span the gamut from pea-shooter pistol to face-exploding shotgun, as well a tighter set of mechanics that make taking cover a painless experience.

The difference this time is that there’s far more to do than just practice your headshots. After the initial onward march towards a story-driven goal, essentially becomes a /-like game, complete with a large interconnected world map and plenty of places to explore. What’s great is the game introduces you to these places gradually as the story progresses, teasing you with a door that requires a tool to open that you don’t have yet, or a path that requires a skill you haven’t yet learned. Eventually, you might get the rope dart, letting you cross previously impassable chasms, or a set of arrows you can fire into wooden structures to create new paths.

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