k so I've been playing that there Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and I think this game is bad. Get ready for HOT, SCORCHING TAKES, BOOOOYYYEEEEZ!
I've been critical of Nu Tomb Raider in the past for, among other things, abandoning the puzzle and skill-based platforming focus of the older games in favour of endless waves of dudes to shoot and Uncharted-style cinematic platforming. So you might think that I'd be delighted that Shadow of the Tomb Raider has greatly reduced the emphasis on murdering dozens of fellow human beings, right? Well, I was, for a few hours at least. I'm pretty deep into this game now and I've only slogged through a handful of dude arenas and tutorial-slaughtered a few guys to get caught up on the neck-stab game again. There is very little combat in this game, for which I can only applaud the developers.
BUUUuuuuUUUT.... they haven't replaced that missing combat with anything of mechanical substance. There's nothing to pick up the slack. If Tomb Raider 2013 and Rise of the Tomb Raider were third-person shooters where you climbed on things every now and then, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is... I don't even know. There's no main gameplay style any more, other than just kind of jogging around in a jungle. And swimming a lot. The platforming still has that floaty, automated feel where it's less like a jump mechanic you use skillfully and more like you press the X button at the end of a ledge to activate a cutscene of Lara flying however improbably far she needs to go to reach the next ledge. I've just found a pair of boot spikes which let me clamber around on the ceiling, but there's no added mechanical complexity to it: I just press Square and then uninterestedly point the analogue this way and that, same as I do on the wall or the floor. I guess there are some larger, Tomb-ier puzzles on the critical path this time, instead of being hidden away in side content land, but nothing to really challenge the old grey matter, and you still have your magic button that highlights anything interact-with-able in the area.
I'm reminded strongly of Uncharted 4, which I also complained about for having not enough mechanically-engaging gameplay, but at least there I had the wonderful Naughty Dog writing, acting and character work to enjoy. You're always with someone, bouncing jokes off them, having funsies, and it keeps you going even if you are just trudging down what is essentially just a leafy hallway. Here, though? I hope you like Lara and Jonah, because we are THREE GAMES INTO THIS TRILOGY and those are still the only recurring characters we've got. Like, genuinely, there is nobody else in this universe. It's Lara and Jonah and they're fighting Trinity again. They're even doing the same story from Rise: we're in another hidden city of primitive, earthy folk who are going to get murdered by Trinity, except replace jungle for snow and an olive-skinned Queen for that Jesus dude. And, God, Lara and Jonah still don't have one shred of personality to share between them. The writing is still that same dull, humourless tone where everything is "I've got to ___", Lara still reads every line with the same flat inflection, ugh it's just so utterly lifeless. The only enjoyment I'm getting is from having enabled this option in the menu that has all the background chatter and side content lines voiced in their original language, which purports to be for immersion's sake, but it doesn't change the lines that Lara replies to those people in so you end up with a Han and Chewie situation where each side of the conversation is in a different language
It does look really nice, though. I'm playing on a PS4 Pro and there's a great 60FPS mode that holds together pretty well. The game has separate difficulty options for Combat, Exploration and Puzzles, and picking Hard Puzzles is a real breath of fresh air. Levers and buttons no longer glow gold in your Batman Vision, and (crucially) Lara no longer talks in tombs, and you don't realise how much of a difference this makes until you try it. It becomes a whole different game when Lara is no longer dropping extremely obvious hints about what you should be doing next at every stage of the puzzle. Unfortunately she sometimes gives it away anyway, because I feel like they might not have designed the game to have these options from the ground up, but for the most part it works pretty well.