I think it’s safe to say that PS4 players have been the ‘winners’ in the whole Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity debacle. Sure, they had to wait a year, but in the end, they’re getting the best edition of one of last year’s best games, complete with the original Rise of the Tomb Raider. (you can read our review here TL:DR we liked it immensely), all the DLC, including the fantastically trippy Baba Yaga; The Temple of the Witch and borderline survival horror of Cold Darkness Awakened. The main game also receives an extreme survivor difficulty that removes all the checkpoints from the main game (for masochistic players) along with a ton of new outfits and classic skins which replace Lara with her Tomb Raider 2, 3 or Angel of Darkness model. There’s now also co-op support for Endurance mode which is basically a Don’t Starve style hunt for food and resources while trying not to snuff it.
The bulk of the new content in 20th Anniversary Editon, is set in Croft Mansion; The first is a new hour long story mission called Blood Ties. (which is also playable with the PSVR if you have a strong enough stomach) and the other is a score attack mode called Lara’s Nightmare in which you have to survive for as long as you can while being attacked by hordes of zombies.
Blood Ties sends Lara on a scavenger hunt around Croft Mansion to find her fathers will, in order to prove her right to the estate. In other words its Lara Croft: Probate inspector!
You can’t shoot anything while you’re wandering round the dusty old mansion. Probably so you don’t screw up the wood panelling, or break a ming vase. Instead, it takes Lara no a trip down memory lane, remembering the time she spent with Winston the butler as a kid (including her love of locking the poor bugger in the freezer), you even find out why Lara’s flexes her shoulder during her idle animation (I shit you not!).
As someone who has fond memories of playing the original series back on the PS1, returning to the mansion came with mixed feelings. It was great to be home, but like Lara in the new adventures, her home is not the place you fondly remember. Winston is gone, the gym in the ball room has been dismantled and young Lara hasn’t had a pool put in. Instead, there’s a ruddy great tree in the West Wing. Still, we are still firmly in reboot territory so things were always going to be a little bit different.
Finding out a little more about new Lara’s early years, is a lot of fun and it still contained plenty of knowing nods and winks to the series that came before it. If you have PSVR and decide to give it a go, I would recommend keeping the default controls on unless you’ve got a strong stomach, using standard twin stick movement in VR made me feel nauseous after a time, and I don’t usually suffer from motion sickness.
Blood Ties is also a clever way to familiarise players with the layout of the mansion before they take on Lara’s Nightmare the other new mode set in Croft Manor, so once again the old mansion still works as a training level to a certain extent. That being said, I would have been happier if they’d just recreated the mansion as was and let me run around the place, abusing the Butler and swn diving off of gym equipment like you you could in Tomb Raider 2, way back in 97.
Lara’s Nightmare sees Croft Manor invaded by zombies. Your mission is simple: destroy three flying skulls, find a master key and defeat the boss. Easy, right? Nope, Ammo is incredibly scarce, and weapons, keys and location of the skulls spawn in different locations every time you play. The Zombies are everywhere and a complete pig to kill (Aim for the head or you’re just wasting bullets). If you’re lucky, and get to the end, you can finish it in about 15-20 minutes on a good day. if you’re the kind of person that likes beating their score and trying to top the leaderboards, chances are you’ll dip into it from time to time.
The only problem with the mode is that since the placement of the skulls, guns and ammo are random, it feels like getting a better score is just as much the result of luck as skill. In my first run I didn’t get out of the first room before a group of zombies were chowing down on me. While in another, I managed to get my hands on a shotgun, and the master key in the first couple of minutes. I still ended up zombie chow, but for a moment, I thought I had a hope in hell of beating the thing. Overall though, it’s a fun, if brief distraction.
Finally, there’s Endurance mode which can now be played co-operatively online. Out of all the new additions, this is the one you’ll probably play the most. As before, you must survive in the Siberian wilderness by skinning animals and raiding camps for food and setting fires to create camps.
But now you can battle the depletion of your hunger and warmth meters with a friend. So you’re now not only fighting the environment but saving your daft friend from another sodding wolf attack because he has a thing for running into caves, and prefers hunting for relics to actually trying to surive.
If you still haven’t played Rise of the Tomb Raider, it goes without saying that this is a game that you need in your collection. Hell, even if it was a straight port I would still say it is. Combining beautiful visuals, thrilling set pieces and a fantastic blend of action and exploration Rise of the Tomb Raider gives Uncharted 4 a run for its money and then some. Uncharted may have the more charming protagonist, and a marginally better narrative (don’t think this is a complement, I think the end of the Uncharted series narratively speaking was piss poor, that fucking ending. SERIOUSLY NEIL! INTO THE FUCKING SUN SET! and the less said about new Lara’s constant need for a man to bail her out of trouble the better) but Rise of the Tomb Raider is a much more expansive and complex game with far more to see, do and discover.
The addition of a season passes worth of DLC, turns it from the sublime into the ridiculous. There’s 110 different points of interest to find and interact with in the Soviet Installation section of the map alone, and it’s not even the biggest part, and there’s 11 areas to explore. Completionists are going to have their work cut out for them. This is one of the times where I’m happy that I’m not one of them. Even for folks like me that don’t care for collectables, there’s still a ton of optional tombs to plunder and side missions to complete, along with the main campaign and Baba Yaga there is a considerable amount of content here.
As for the extras, you’re probably only going to run through Blood Ties once or twice (depending on whether you have a shiny new PSVR), while Lara’s Nightmare has limited appeal and co-op Endurance mode is great, it will probably force you reconsider some long-standing friendships if you play it for too long. However, this all just icing. No, wait the DLC is the Icing. It’s the cherry on an already delicious birthday cake celebrating 20 years (and the end of that damnable exclusivity period) of one of gaming most iconic, enduring and beloved series. Happy Birthday Lara here’s hoping you don’t have to reinvent yourself again for the 30th celebrations!