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Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

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I really enjoyed Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider reboot back in 2013. While offering plenty of action-heavy set piece moments, the game was also smartly designed to not feel too linear and to provide players with areas to explore and discover hidden secrets. Having been well received, Crystal Dynamics promised a sequel that would expand on the games’ strengths and improve upon what it lacked most…tombs.

With Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics, for the most part, achieved what they set out to do.

Rise of the Tomb Raider starts off shortly after the events of the 2013 reboot, with Lara having recently discovered that her father wasn’t crazy and that his mythical tales were indeed real. Instead of returning home, Lara sets out to complete her father’s work and uncover the truth about the “Divine Source,” a secret her father died trying to uncover.

The story found in Rise of the Tomb Raider is average, but good enough to make you want to push forward through the game. Camilla Luddington once again reprises her role as Lara Croft and does an exceptional job at portraying the character. Her character builds upon the tropes set forth in the 2013 Tomb Raider, with Lara stating at multiple points during the game that she doesn’t need any help to get the job done.

The supporting cast isn’t as strong this time around in my opinion. The main antagonist in the game is actually an interesting character at the surface that Crystal Dynamics unfortunately didn’t expand upon. Without saying too much about the story, there’s multiple characters with agendas of their own that keeps your mind running with theories about what will happen up until the very end of the game. The story will take the average player around 12 hours to complete.

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The game is a very well balanced mix of action, exploration and platforming moments. It’s when all three elements come together that RoTR is at its best.

Tomb Raider’s gameplay this time around is a little rough around the edges, however. Much like Naughty Dog with Uncharted, Crystal Dynamics seems to have some trouble nailing down third person shooting controls. They’re not bad, but the lack of a intuitive cover system causes some frustration. Lara will organically take cover behind objects without the player needing to push a button prompt but something just doesn’t feel right when you’re in intense shootouts.

Lara cannot run and gun in Rise of the Tomb Raider and will need to take aim anytime you need to shoot. When there’s multiple enemies running at you, it can get frustrating fast. The AI in the game is a mixed bag as well. Enemies can go from being completely brain dead to having spotted you and knowing exactly where you are even if you return to hiding after you’re spotted. There’s a section in the game where you’re under a sheet of ice and surrounded by enemies, which also happened to be one of the most frustrating moments in the game for me. The enemies seemed to effortlessly track me beneath the ice sheet after I was spotted, even after I went back underwater. Enemies also seem to have near perfect aim, but I may just be being picky there.

The platforming sections of the game was where I most enjoyed Rise of the Tomb Raider. As you progress through the game, the platforming elements will increase in complexity and force you to use multiple tools, physics and of course your brain to solve puzzles. I was never frustrated with the platforming sections and the puzzles that needed solving weren’t too hard, nor too easy.

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Having said that, I didn’t make it through all of the tombs, so there may be puzzles in the game that I didn’t get to try that were more complex. Near the end of the game though, the last puzzle I encountered was probably the most challenging, and even then it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

As promised, Crystal Dynamics has included a number of tombs to explore in the game. I didn’t explore all of them as I didn’t have the time in order to this review out on time, but the ones I did explore were fantastic. Early on in the game, there’s a tomb set within an ice cavern where a Nordic ship has somehow managed to sink beneath the ice, and to traverse it you’ll need to solve a number of puzzles and do some entertaining platforming. And, for those of you that dislike quick time events you’ll be happy to know they are used very sparingly in Rise of the Tomb Raider compared to the previous title.

As you explore the many tombs and regions of Rise of the Tomb Raider, you’ll be treated with some extremely gorgeous visuals. Crystal Dynamics have a knack in the art department for really making you feel like you’re on an adventure and I found myself at multiple points in the game really just looking around and examining some of the locations.

You really do feel like an explorer as you explore some of the tombs and the ancient architecture and actually take the time to learn about the fictional history of the places you’re investigating. Crystal Dynamics really wants you to take the time to go back and explore the areas they’ve crafted and find the secrets within. I usually don’t pay much attention to finding little relics or manuscripts, but I did do a little more exploring than usual in Rise of the Tomb Raider and found myself actually listening to or reading the things I found.

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I won’t spoil the locations you’ll visit, but the texture work, the weather effects, and especially the lighting is all fantastic. Some of the physical destruction in the game is also impressive as well and lends an extra element to platforming sections. Lara’s character model is especially impressive with some fantastic facial animations and what’s easily the most realistic hair I’ve seen in a video game. As for the tech, I didn’t experience any pop-in, stuttering or framerates drops during my playthough that I can recall.

To top it all off, Crystal Dynamics did a great job with the sound design in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The soundtrack of the game is especially note worthy and lends itself well to some great action scenes later on in the game. There’s a great mix of slower paced music mixed in with high octane orchestral sections during action heavy moments. You can check out a sample of the soundtrack just below.

Rise of the Tomb Raider does what any good sequel should: it continued the story of Lara Croft, continued to build her character, expanded on gameplay elements found in the reboot and increased the overall scope of the game. I wasn’t super impressed with the story and wish that Crystal Dynamics had spent more time fleshing out characters and backstory, but the game itself is quite fantastic and between visiting numerous beautifully designed locations and the fantastic platforming and action sections there’s plenty here for action adventure fans to enjoy.

Reviewed on Xbox One, copy provided by Microsoft for review.

Publisher: Microsoft | Developer: Crystal Dynamics | Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360 | ESRB: M

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OnlySP founder and former site owner.

Review

My Friend Pedro Review — Absolutely Bananas

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My Friend Pedro Review

When logic is thrown out the window and absurdity is embraced, the best video games are created. My Friend Pedro is a shining example of this recipe for success. Some incredible level design and satisfying gameplay make My Friend Pedro an absolute must play for anyone that enjoys fun.

From the moment the player is launched into the madness of this game, the strange expectations hold true. The plot consists of the nameless protagonist going on a killing spree at the request of a sentient banana. Yes. A floating, talking banana named Pedro acts as the player’s guide through the side-scrolling escapades. What is so fascinating about the concept of Pedro, is that he does not feel like weird for weird’s sake. The game has an actual storyline that moves it along toward a bizarre, yet, brilliant ending.

The mechanics in My Friend Pedro encourage absolute mayhem that is a treat to play, thanks to some well designed controls. One of the game’s best features allows the player to slow down time to perform kills or utilise other abilities. Slowing down time creates a breathtaking marriage between elegance and chaos that is both visually satisfying and super cool. The game features a wealth of other abilities and weapons available to the player that create memorable moments, but describing how fun they are just does not do the mechanics justice—they must be experienced. Personal highlights include performing slow-motion flips whilst dual-wielding pistols to take down multiple enemies and kicking a frying pan into the air to ricochet bullets into enemies. Additionally, all mechanics are introduced with enough time to learn and use them, allowing the player time to experiment with different playstyles.

My Friend Pedro is no ordinary side-scroller. Every level is expertly designed and interesting to play. Minor puzzle elements in the form of levers and switches add to the complexity of the levels without ever feeling complicated. Instead, every area is thoughtfully crafted to reiterate that time is everything. The game offers a story mode to progress through the levels. However, these can be accessed and replayed at anytime from the main menu.

At the completion of a level, the player is awarded a score, which creates replayability through humour. One of four letter grade scores can be achieved, the lowest being C followed by B, A, and S. Two of the times I achieved a C grade I was greeted with the words “C is for could do better” and “C is for carrot”. Naturally, players will want to try again. Players also have the option to change the difficulty which will result in a score bonus at the end of a level. A rather sad celebratory sound accompanies the completion screen which just adds to the fun of the overall experience.

Impressively, My Friend Pedro was developed by one man. The slick gameplay and polished design appears as if it were the work of a large, highly experienced team. Surely this game will not be the last players see from DeadToast Entertainment, but it has proven a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

My Friend Pedro is worth every cent and deserves to find an audience. Players are indulged with unique mechanics that are both clever and fun, allowing the creation of violent visual masterpieces. Every element of the game from the art to the story, work together in harmony to create something magical. If players want to sit back and enjoy some senseless fun, then My Friend Pedro is a much needed addition any gaming library.

OnlySP Review Score 5 High Distinction

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Also available on PC.

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