This year celebrates 20 years of artefact hunting heroine Lara Croft and the massively popular series Tomb Raider. To mark the occasion Square Enix will be going all out with a special edition Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration for PlayStation 4 and with it a dedicated virtual reality (VR) mission for the PlayStation VR head-mounted display (HMD).
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration features a single-player story mode titled Blood Ties, which supports the headset, allowing players to immerse themselves in the dilapidated Croft mansion. Square Enix showcased a small area of the mansion at Gamescom 2016 last week for attendees to wander around and investigate a little of what it holds. Blood Ties gives you some back story to Lara Croft at a time when her uncle is challenging her ownership of Croft Manor in the wake of her father’s death. Through it players will uncover a family mystery as they explore Lara’s childhood, and by doing so reclaim her legacy and prove that she is the rightful heir.
The demo started in the study of Lara’s father, a dimly lit room with books strewn everywhere and artefacts littering the shelves. Using the DuelShock 4 controller Blood Ties uses a teleportation system to move around the area. Using one trigger actives teleport while the other trigger jumps you to the highlighted location. Distance isn’t an issue with the arc stretching as far as required. Before teleporting you can also turn Lara using the right analogue stick, which is useful for manoeuvring through the corridors or facing the correct direction when examining bookshelves for clues.
And you’ll be doing a fair bit of investigating as there wasn’t a lot else to do in the demo. Exploring some of the rooms available objects of interest are highlighted, some will be random objects or pictures that can be zoomed in on and spun round which might hold clues, others are short voice recordings by her father that unveil more of the story.
Whilst the demo wasn’t the most exciting VR experience available for PlayStation VR it certainly showed what an awe inspiring spectacle the technology can be. Heading out of the study you’ll come across the main entrance hall and grand staircase. The high vaulted ceiling, crumbling brick work and dirt ridden carpets give an aura of past grandeur and wealth, that shows the level of detail and polish the studio has invested in.
But as impressive as that is it’s the gameplay which is almost completely different to the Tomb Raider titles of the last 20 years. There just wasn’t much to what was shown of Blood Ties, it lacked the action so associated with the series. There were areas that Square Enix noted were off limits so there’s more in store, and these may lead to more of the action Lara is famous for. But the developer has already revealed the entire experience is an hour long, so hopefully it’ll leave players wanting more VR Tomb Raider rather than seeing it as merely a short story demo.