After having to wait almost a year, PlayStation 4 owners are finally going to get their hands on one of 2015’s best games, Rise of the Tomb Raider, on October 11. But this isn’t just a big deal for PlayStation owners. This release actually coincides with Tomb Raider‘s 20th anniversary, hence why the PS4 release will be titled Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration Edition. This direct sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot received glowing reviews (including our own!), so as you can imagine, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the release. Especially since all the new content I’ll be discussing below (excluding the VR stuff, that’s PS4 only) will be playable on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Square Enix graciously invited us to check out all the new features included in this release! There’s a lot of ground to cover so let’s get started.
Blood Ties/ PS VR
For those who’ve enjoyed Lara’s evolution into the badass tomb raider we know her as today, Blood Ties is the treat you didn’t know you wanted. This single-player piece of content that’s playable pretty early on in the game will take the player into Croft manor. With Lara’s uncle contesting her ownership of the manor, you must search around the massive space to find proof that she is indeed the rightful heir to the mansion. It’s about an hour-long quest packed with a ton of exploration. What makes it so much fun (besides the puzzles) is that it reveals a lot about Lara’s upbringing via voice recordings and notes that are scattered throughout the manor. As a result, it makes this lovable character even more relatable.
I wouldn’t say it’s the most exciting gameplay experience, but fans of the series and the character will love the deeper look into the Croft lore. Oh, and did I forget to mention that it’s playable on the PlayStation VR? Since Blood Ties is more about exploring the manor it actually works fairly well. I played it in the “comfort mode,” which meant I couldn’t move around using the sticks. Instead, I had to point to where I wanted to go, and my avatar would teleport there. But you will be able to move around normally using the analogue sticks in the free roam mode… if you don’t experience motion sickness, that is (we weren’t able to test this walking mode out).
While using VR, however, the world was noticeably less detailed. And because Blood Ties is all about exploring, there isn’t much excitement going on that’ll engulf you in that world. It’s fine, but not really something to get too excited about.
I asked the developer if the virtual reality aspect would hit other peripherals like the Oculus Rift, but I got the standard, “we have nothing to announce at the moment” answer. So as of right now, only PlayStation 4 owners will get the VR experience. It’s unclear whether it’s enough to make up for making you wait so long to play the game, but hey, it’s a start.
Where Blood Ties is an exploration-based piece of content, Lara’s Nightmare is all about duking it out against… wait for it… Zombies. Blood Ties Nightmare is Lara’s very own worst nightmare, where you must fend off an onslaught of the undead in Croft Manor.
Unlike “Zombies” mode from Call of Duty, there is an endgame for this new mode. You have to run around the Croft Manor to find the master key (it’ll spawn in different locations of the map), fend off the daunting number of undead chasing you with weapons you find laying around, and defeat three floating skulls that appear randomly to trigger the final boss encounter. Take down the boss (a giant floating skull), and you win the game. Simple enough, right? Wrong! The furthest I got was to finding and destroying two of the floating skulls before the zombie apocalypse obliterated me.
It’s definitely a nice contrast to Blood Ties, simply because it does emphasize your combat skills. Depending on how you feel that day, you can go back and forth between both pieces of content. I’m not sure how much replay value is there, since there is an end to it, but it was still silly fun. I, for one, dig all the paranormal content in the latest Tomb Raider games. Give me more of this!
*Important note: This is unfortunately not playable on PS VR.
Endurance Mode Co-Op
The Endurance mode is not new, but now you don’t have to survive the harsh elements of mother nature alone. For those unfamiliar with the mode, you’re dropped into the Siberian wilderness with the objective being to survive the harsh terrain, armed enemies, ravenous bears, and, of course, starvation (you now have a hunger and warmth meter to keep in mind), all while raiding some tombs to get relics that add to your total score once you choose to be extracted from the wilderness.
The longer you last, the better the loot you’ll find. It was a good time before, but now that you can play with a friend, it’s that much better. There’s something exciting about trying to strategize to survive as you now share resources if you stay close. And there’s more excitement when you share the same heart-pounding moments with a friend, like when you’re starving and you’re both trying to hunt down some food. I was pleasantly surprised by how much more enjoyable this mode is with a friend, even if it wasn’t all that different from the original single-player version.
If all of that still isn’t enough incentive for you to celebrate Tomb Raider‘s 20th anniversary, the game will include five classic Lara skins that can be used in the main campaign. Then there’s the new Extreme Survivor setting where all the checkpoints are removed, and the only way to save the game is to find a campsite with enough supplies to start a fire. You can also expect the package to come with all previously released DLC, including my favorite, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch.
Those who are planning on purchasing the PS4 Pro will also have 4K graphics to look forward to. There are actually three different graphical settings you can set it at (in case you want the smoothest frame rate or highest possible graphical output) in order to customize your experience.
So the final question has to be, should PS4 owners buy this? And is this new content enough to get Xbox One and PC players to jump back in? All the extra content aside, if you’re a PS4 owner who missed out on the game, then hell yes. Don’t allow your frustration with the timed-exclusivity deal deter you from playing this absurdly great title. All this extra content is just the cherry on top. That’s not to say you should ignore the new content (Xbox One and PC players should definitely check out Blood Ties, Nightmare, and co-op Endurance Mode), it’s damn great. Blood Ties gives us a glimpse at Lara’s up-bringing, and co-op in Endurance mode is a total blast (surviving the virtual wilderness with friends is insane).
Barring any catastrophic glitches, it looks like Lara is going to have a great 20th anniversary party.
Images: Square Enix