Hands-On with Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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Hands-On with Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft faces down the jungle, the apocalypse, and her heavy conscience.

Lara Croft has been on a personal journey since 2013’s impressive Tomb Raider reboot, from inexperienced archeology grad to seasoned survivor. When we meet Lara in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, she’s no longer running; she’s hunting down the world domination-obsessed military organization Trinity and its leaders, attempting to get one step ahead and turn their plans to ash.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, and a series of hasty decisions on Lara’s part unleash a chain of cataclysmic events that have everyone from her longtime ally Jonah to Trinity’s head-of-command confronting her with the deadly consequences of her actions. At once, this new chapter feels more weighted and grounded than previous entries, and every part of the game reflects Lara’s journey into a heart of darkness.

Nothing highlights this more than Shadow’s setting: the dangerous jungles of Peru. Lara has always been quick to use her environment to her advantage, but here she melds into her surroundings with confidence and ease. She can sink into beds of vines to sneak past enemies, or cover herself in mud for instant camouflage. New skills can be unlocked either through a traditional skill tree or by discovering ancient totems, like the extremely satisfying Eagle’s Talon, a rope takedown that starts with Lara dropping onto an enemy and ends with them strung up from a tree branch. Lara leans into her predator status here — in many ways her combat style is savvier and more ruthless than ever.

That’s not to say Lara isn’t being hunted. A particularly exhilarating new addition to the series finds Lara face-to-face with other seasoned predators: the lethal jaguars of South America. A far cry from the wolf packs of previous entries, these encounters are contained, strategic experiences that will test Lara’s survival skills. The two encounters I played through had different setups, one allowing for ground traversal and another offering multiple chances to gain higher ground. In each one the jaguar weaved its way in and out of Lara’s field of vision, stalking its prey and leaping out to strike with deadly force. Using the available environment is key to avoiding its attacks, and utilizing the newly introduced Perception herbs (which function similarly to the series’ Medicinal herbs) can help you keep track of the predator’s position and go in for the kill.

Tombs have always been a centerpiece of the Tomb Raider games (go figure), and in Shadow they do not disappoint. Puzzle sequences are ingeniously implemented, putting players’ logic to the test and rewarding progress with a rush of sweet, sweet endorphins. The tombs themselves are more expansive and treacherous than before, withmany requiring underwater traversal — a classic Tomb Raider staple making its first appearance in this trilogy. Strategically placed air pockets and the need to sneak past deadly piranhas or eels raise the stakes in these delightfully challenging diving sequences.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider offers customizable difficulty settings that allow players to modify the difficulty of puzzles, traversal, and combat separately. Are you breezing through combat sequences but getting stumped by the puzzles? Or perhaps you’d rather not get any puzzle hints, but need some guidance when moving through the jungle? You can toggle these settings to fit the game to your preferences and craft a truly unique tomb raiding experience.

As a longtime fan of the series, I’ve loved following Lara on her journey to becoming the fully fledged Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider exemplifies the elements that drew me to the series in the first place: thrilling exploration, engaging combat, and challenging puzzles. But it’s the moral exploration of Lara’s identity that has me most excited to dive back into Shadow of the Tomb Raider when it launches September 14 on PS4. Until then, you can preview some of the combat gameplay in our latest episode of PlayStation Underground:

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  • This is exciting!
    Can’t wait to play this! Got the Platinum on the previous 2 games.

  • Does anyone know if we’ll get this game at the same time as Xbone? I hope we don’t have to wait an extra year and still pay full price like last time. I loved the first game, but never bought the second for that very reason. Left a bad taste in my mouth.

    • How are you on the internet, bruh?

    • The article states that Shadow of the Tomb Raider will launch on PS4 September 14th, which is the same time as Xbox One and PC. It’s a shame that timed exclusivity kept you from trying Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s a great game from start to finish and really worth playing. In the end, PS4 actually got the better and more complete 20th Anniversary version of the game.

  • I’m so excited for this! But September is going to hurt my wallet. This and spider man in the same month… ugh good pain but definitely pain.

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  • Looks great, loved the commentary. The only think that bothered me was Kristen keeps saying they were in Peru, if the storyline is dealing with the Maya they were not in Peru (South America). The Maya were found throughout Central America (south Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras).

  • the truth is that i already pre-ordered Tomb Raider: Shadow of the Tomb Raider because i did love the first two and still play them and i ABSOLUTELY love these kind of games because you don’t have to be rushed into a mission or rushed to get it done, you can explore… i ABSOLUTELY do really love exploring tombs and doing puzzles because to me, it makes my brain work… i just hope they continue with this OUTSTANDING franchise because like i say i am a big fan of the Tomb Raider games…

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