As Mission Impossible: Fallout has decisively proven, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a formula if it’s good and you know how to build on it. Tomb Raider had a great formula: its electrifying 2013 reboot was a bold, tight reinvention of Lara Croft’s adventures for modern times, while 2015’s sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider expanded on the idea and upped the action movie excess.
The problem with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third game in the reboot trilogy, isn’t just that it’s formulaic. It plays as well as ever, the pacing is spot-on, and it’s often extremely beautiful. But without any substantial upgrades to the action, anything to escalate the drama, or any way of generating genuine emotional resonance, it ends up feeling inessential.
Whenever Lara Croft returns, she’s going to need more than this.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider sees Lara, now a fully risen archaeologist / killing machine, travel through Mexico and South America in search of an artifact that will, as ever, stop extremely bad things from happening to the world. The good news is that Shadow abandons Rise’s lofty conspiracy thriller pretensions for a tighter, character-focused story. The writing is also less clunky than in the last two games. The bad news is that even though the story involves battling the same shadowy organization after you inadvertently trigger the Mayan apocalypse, of all things, it still manages to take itself far too seriously.
This is a game that involves wearing ponchos at La Casa Mexicana one minute and battling…