Editor’s Note: This post does not include a comprehensive review of Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s mechanics and campaign. For a full rundown on those features, head to our full Xbox One review here.
When I reviewed Rise of the Tomb Raider last year, I gave it glowing review. Despite sharing a launch year with several stellar games (Bloodborne, Metal Gear Solid V, and The Witcher 3 to name a few) Crystal Dynamics’ latest title scaled its way to the top of my favorite games of 2015 and remained there. The 4.5/5 burrito score came down to a number of factors including the gorgeous graphics, engaging plot, and new adventuring techniques that made RoTTR a complete blast. Of course, the experience was exclusive to Xbox One players up until it debuted on PC back in January. Now that it’s finally made the trek to the PS4—just in time for the series’ 20th anniversary—is it worth picking up again on a new console, or for the very first time? That’s what we’re here to discuss!
Before we dig in, let’s take a look at what’s new. In addition to the stellar single-player campaign, the 20 Year Celebration edition comes with the brand new “Blood Ties” story DLC (which can be played with PlayStation VR) set in Croft Manor, the zombie-filled challenge mode “Lara’s Nightmare” (also set in Croft Manor), the new “Extreme Survivor” difficulty mode, and the co-op expansion to the endurance mode. The game will also be playable in 4K on the Playstation 4 Pro.
Aside from the new content, the benefit of grabbing the PS4 version once it hits shelves tomorrow is nabbing all of the above-mentioned content, as well as all of the previously released DLC. Everything except the VR feature will be available with the Xbox One and PC versions of the game tomorrow. All of that in mind, the 20 Year Celebration edition is definitely a great deal for those who’ve yet to play Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The “Blood Ties” add-on is a nice addition to the overarching plot for several reasons. During the hour-long adventure, Lara is tasked with proving her claim to the family home. Though short, the DLC is jam-packed with content that adds another layer of depth to the game. And though the experience takes you back and fourth between rooms, the size of the manor makes it feel like you’re in a larger location than you are.
Considering Lara’s own childhood is at the center of the story, the DLC is a great way to celebrate the series’ milestone anniversary. As the youngest Croft progresses throughout the house, she encounters memories from her past, which explain how her parents met, what her life was like as a child, and even the origin of her name. The experience feels like an emotional scavenger hunt through Lara’s past, and like a gift for fans who have stuck with her story for so long.
I won’t dive any more into the specifics, just know that picking up every last audio log and journal entry will be worth it in the end. It also adds more weight to Lara’s mission, adding enough reason for those who loved the game to dive back in.
Lara’s Zombified Nightmare
Once you make it through “Blood Ties,” you’ll unlock the option to tackle the same location and search for clues in the manor while fighting off zombies. Blood Ties was already pretty eerie to me, so adding the undead took things to a whole other level.
The nice thing about this is that there are several set objectives, so it doesn’t feel like your average Call of Duty-type Zombies mode. That means you aren’t just aimlessly wandering through the house and racking up the head shots. There is also a boss in the era, and a tomb-like area to explore—both of which are impressive when you consider how they’re all taking place on one property.
In addition to the Nightmare mode, the game also adds the new “Extreme Survivor” difficulty level–which severely limits save points, crafting materials, resources, health and ammunition–for the campaign as an extra challenge for fans. On top of that, the new Co-Op expansion for the Endurance mode is a fun way to approach survival in the Rise of the Tomb Raider universe. You’re able to share materials with your comrade, and then use those materials–all of which must be hunted, collected, or crafted–to survive.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to test out the VR experience as the headset isn’t due to launch for another two days. But our own Edwin Garcia got a chance to check it out a few weeks ago, and wrote about his experience in his preview. In short, the VR allows you to get a first person view of everything Lara learned about her family in”Blood Ties”.
Also, with the PlayStation 4 Pro still on the way (it releases on November 10), I’ve yet to see what the title looks like in 4K. The game was already pretty stellar in the graphics department, so seeing the visuals get even silkier will be a true treat.
Perhaps the standout 20th anniversary-themed gift are the five classic Lara Croft skins, and the outfit that pays tribute to Lara’s Antarctica adventure in Tomb Raider III. Sure, the skins might just add to the aesthetic, but they’re a nostalgic call-back that will make fans feel right at home. It’s also incredibly fun to see vintage Lara running around with her realistic counterparts (see above).
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration has a lot to offer for both fans who’ve already played, and those who will be trying it for the very first time on PS4. Despite releasing almost a year ago, the title stands strong next to its competition in 2016 (yes, including Uncharted 4). Lara Croft is finally finding her groove again, and its great that everyone is finally able to witness it now.
Rating: 4.5/5 Burritos
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration provided by Square Enix. The game hit shelves on October 11, 2016 on PS4.
Images: Square Enix