If your interest in The Rise Of The Tomb Raider revolves primarily around how, um, anatomically convincing Lara Croft has become on the Xbox One, you’ve completely missed the point of the finest platform series in video game history. The franchise began in 1996, and early Tomb Raider games were a lengthy, challenging and deeply involving series of chamber puzzles, trap-foiling, deep exploration and the sort of intricate gymnastics that would qualify Croft for a spot in the X-Men. Dying every 15 seconds or so was the norm, usually with an unexpected arrow through your neck or in the jaws of a surprise dinosaur.
A reboot prequel strand, begun with 2013’s Tomb Raider, was pretty impressive but relatively insubstantial. Seemingly influenced by Uncharted – itself a dumbed-down, battle-weighted Tomb Raider tribute – it was shorter, focused heavily on character development as Lara gradually learned her Tomb Raider skills and shunted the (vastly simplified) puzzles off into bypassable tombs so as not to scare off the Candy Crush generation.
At 30 hours plus, this follow-up redresses the balance brilliantly. Lara’s still scavenging for weapon upgrades and learning on the job – mostly languages, such as Russian and Greek. But as she races a shadowy, brutal organisation called Trinity to reach the ‘divine source’ through a densely-packed Siberian landscape full of savage wolves and patrolling badasses, she’s offered copious opportunities to explore hidden crypts, search out clue-riddled relics and tackle tomb puzzles that require some truly outside-the-box reasoning. These are by far the game’s crowning moments: fathoming your way round the rigging of a ship encased vertically in ice, manipulating runaway mine carts or flinging explosives between chambers of a flooding cavern. It’s like the killer from Saw got a job designing The Crystal Maze. Add in an involving cinematic storyline full of double-crosses, gripping action sequences and more cliff-hangers and cave-ins than a Libertines tour schedule and you have a next-gen Tomb Raider truly worthy of the name.