Released as an Xbox exclusive last November, Rise of the Tomb Raider has finally made its way over to PC, much to the delight of gamers worldwide.
Following Lara Croft on an adventure to find the secret to immortality and restore her father’s reputation, ROTR received rave reviews for its striking visuals and beautiful imagery on the Xbox One. So how exactly does the PC version stack up to a next gen console?With a map three times larger than its 2013 predecessor, ROTR takes place in the Siberian wilderness. As with the previous game, the plot is intriguing and engaging, but extremely linear. Both games claim to have an open world, but I feel that both fall short of a true open world gaming experience. For me, when I think of open world games, I think of Fallout 4 and the Witcher 3 – games where there is no ‘forward’ section of the map, and back tracking to previously explored locations is essential to progressing along in the main storyline. ROTR offers no such freedom. It only allows you to fast travel back to earlier parts of the game to explore challenge tombs with your new gear, which would have previously been inaccessible to you otherwise. This is great for the Achievement Hunters of the world; however going back just seems unnecessary and contradictory to the urgency of the main storyline. Hello, we’re in a life and death race to stop the evil Order of Trinity, remember? Now don’t get me wrong, I loved ROTR’s storyline – I just don’t think it should be classified as an open world game.
But enough about the story, we’re here to see if the PC version of the game really was worth the wait.
I’ll start off by saying that as someone who usually gravitates towards console games rather than PC, I was extremely surprised to find how much of a massive difference there was between the platforms.
The PC version of ROTR sees the addition of many PC exclusive graphics settings and enhancements, allowing for a much more personalised experience. On the PC, you are given the option to choose your shadow quality, ambient occlusion, level of detail, depth of field, tessellation, motion blur, foliage quality and more.Arguably the biggest difference between the Xbox One and PC versions of the game is the frame rate. ROTR for Xbox One is locked at only 30fps, with this number dropping during combat sequences. If you have a decent computer, 60fps can be reached with settings on ‘High’, which still offers an amazing gaming experience. Reaching 60fps with the settings on ‘Very High’ seems only obtainable if you have an absolute beast of a gaming PC. Taking the settings any lower than ‘High’ and you can really notice the difference and are cutting in to the quality of your gaming experience. So if you’re running on a low budget PC that you aren’t willing to upgrade, and you happen to own an Xbox One, I’d definitely recommend buying the Xbox One version of the game.
One of the first things I noticed about ROTR was how realistic Lara’s hair appeared in the game’s cutscenes. But alas, we all know the truth – actual gameplay is never as polished or as attractive as its cutscene counterpart. Well, I’ll gladly be the first to admit that ROTR proved me wrong on that account. The graphics from cutscene to gameplay were practically identical.ROTR for Xbox One animated Lara’s hair with the use of TressFX. The stunning detail in Lara’s hair in the PC version is thanks to Crystal Dynamics’ new hair rendering technology, PureHair, which is set to ‘On’ by default. With PureHair settings on your PC set to ‘Very High’ you will see your favourite Tomb Raider’s hair strand count increase dramatically, along with even more realistic movement – but be warned, this option does cause a performance drop, so I’d recommend sticking to ‘Off’ and keeping your frame rate up.
The full atmosphere of ROTR on PC is best felt when playing the game slowly, rather than rushing through areas. While I doubt the soundtrack will go down in history as one of gaming’s greatest, the sound effects sure are a big contender. It is these subtleties in ROTR that I found really engaged me the most. Hearing the snow crunch beneath Lara’s feet, the sound of running water from a river, and the calls of nearby animals, all add to the authenticity of your adventure. Think walking through a snow-covered forest complete with bird noises, wind and camera lens flares when you look towards the sun. It’s the little things like this that show the amount of effort and love that Crystal Dynamics put into their game, and it really makes it stand out from other contenders.
Another difference between the Xbox One version of the game and the PC version is the plant life. The world of ROTR is rife with vegetation, and the PC has dynamic foliage settings that can be placed up to ‘High’. This will see plants and trees swaying in the breeze for added realism, as well as increase the movement the plants have as you hide in them to take down enemies with stealth kills. The Xbox One has dynamic foliage that is comparable to the PC’s ‘Medium’ to ‘Low’ settings. Whilst this isn’t essential to the gameplay, the added level of detail in the plants really do help Lara Croft’s adventure come to life.
With the new graphics tweaks and additions to the PC version of the game, ROTR has cemented its place as a standout game, surpassing the 2013 Tomb Raider entry by miles. With its strong storyline and immersive environment, I highly doubt that it will have moved off my top ten 2016 games list by the end of the year.
While it’s clear that the PC game outshines the Xbox One version with its superior graphics and realism, both offer an entertaining experience, with a world that you can easily engross yourself in.
I feel like it also needs to be mentioned that I’m still so amazed by the fact that the game – on both Xbox One and PC – has no loading screens. After playing Fallout 4 and having to deal with a loading screen every time you open a door for so long, it’s an extremely welcome change of pace. So regardless of what platform you buy the game on, we can all enjoy the bliss that is zero loading screens.