Game reviews: Rise of the Tomb Raider and Need For Speed

Tomb Raider delivers a classic adventure game, while Need For Speed falls short due to its reliance on online play

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 8:00am

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Square Enix

A quick bit of info, before you get too excited: Rise of the Tomb Raider is currently only available on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Its PC release won’t come till early next year, while the PlayStation 4 version isn’t scheduled till Christmas 2016. Ouch, sorry Sony disciples.

That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t a great game – but, it is. While the 2013 franchise reboot saw you dealing with an inexperienced and at times exasperatingly weak Lara Croft as she found her footing in an origin story, Rise sees her as a proficient treasure hunter fully in the Indiana Jones/Nathan Drake mould.

Here she is chasing bad guys over steep cliffs, through a series of well-timed button-presses. Here she is rappelling down mountains, firing arrows and shooting pistols with precision. And here she is exploring her vast, open world, an impressively large improvement over the previous entry, taking all the best of sandbox adventures and cutting away all that empty expanse fat.

The story is almost a little inconsequential and that’s a tiny weak point – Croft and Co traipse through exotic locales in search of some hidden artefact – but it’s standard adventuring stuff, and we can’t really think of a way to improve beyond sacrificing the well-trodden chestnut. Cut-scenes are thankfully short though, allowing you to fully embrace the stunning gameplay.

Creep, climb, slam and shoot your way through its many tombs, the platform-style dynamics haven’t changed much, and that’s a great thing, allowing you to fully appreciate the stunningly beautiful environments. The main quest is a satisfying one, albeit a little quick, but it’s layered with a number of side adventures that see characters offering you tasks to complete, alongside the many obligatory tombs.

Rise is really a case of if-it-ain’t-broke, channelling through the incredibly well-received Uncharted series, all the way back to the glorious days of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s adventure gaming perfection in many ways, the ideal combination of mysterious lands, brutal combat, quests that keep you guessing, and a classic story.

Rise sets the benchmark for how the future of its genre should be received. And if you’re a PS4 owner with a desperate hankering for some good old adventuring, well, you’ll only have to wait till March till Uncharted 4 makes its much-awaited exclusive debut. Take that, Microsoft!

Need for Speed

Electronic Arts

A plague is starting to sweep the world of video games, one that was initially filled with the best of intentions but has rapidly devolved into a state of pure frustration. It’s called “online-only”, games that require you to have a constant internet connection to play, even if it’s only in solo mode.

Need for Speed is yet another game guilty of the charge, a long-running franchise rebooted to a state where all the key components have been efficiently retooled, but the overall sum of its parts doesn’t quite come together.

Currently available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a PC release scheduled for early next year,

Need for Speed’s audio and visuals are the most immediately apparent on start-up, a gleaming L.A.-like environment that resembles something filmmaker Michael Mann might come up with, with all the satisfying growls gamers have come to expect from gas-guzzling muscle cars.

Vehicle selection in Need for Speed has never been impressive as say, a Forza or a Gran Turismo, but it’s all about customisation; constantly ramping up your selected few till there’s a couple of absolute beasts waiting behind your garage door. The arcade-style series thrills are ever-present here, and while it’s far from realistic, there’s no doubt that it’s fun.

It all starts to fall apart when the story kicks in though, the game’s first-person clearly a case of older execs trying desperately to capture some kind of kids-these-days flavour. Random nonsensical slang, ridiculous amounts of energy drinks and almost embarrassing uses of the word ‘hashtag’ all add up to a main mode that you can’t wait to end – and thankfully it does quite quickly, with less than 80 key events.

Races have been strangely scaled back to the point of near-absurdity – gone completely are drag races, and a new focus on drifting has been peppered throughout. That makes multiplayer particularly disappointing, especially as you try desperately to get a connection, only to find yourself deep in some feeble version of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, terrible dialogue and all.

But despite all its many flaws, it’s the online-only that particularly grinds our gears here. Why bother, when sometimes we just want to lash out in a few quick races without waiting an eon to connect? This might only apply to those of us suffering from the fate of endless PCCW contracts, but it’s a worrying trend that we hope won’t persist. Like a beautiful shell of a car, Need for Speed has its current-gen look and feel, but fails to deliver where it really counts.