Sometimes you just want to play a really pretty PC game, and in walks the PC port of Rise of the Tomb Raider.
I already played through the enjoyably acronymed “ROTTR” on Xbox One last fall, and at the time was struck by how gorgeous the game could be. It stands to reason that it’d look even better at a higher resolution and frame-rate, with some extra PC bells and whistles dropped in. Then again, a few messy recent PC ports have demonstrated some of the many ways PC versions can go awry. How does Rise of the Tomb Raider’s stack up?
I’ve played five or six hours, and my verdict: solid port. The porting job was handled by the Dutch studio Nixxes, who usually handle PC porting for most Square Enix-published games (2013’s Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sleeping Dogs all come to mind). They do fine work, and from what I’ve played ROTTR is no exception.
I recently upgraded my PC, which is worth keeping in mind as I recount my experience: I’m running an i7-4770k with an overclocked 6GB GTX 980Ti, along with that 144Hz G-Sync monitor that I love so much. With that setup, I’m able to run the game at 2560x1440 (1440p) resolution at high or very high settings and, for the most part, it stays north of 60fps, occasionally dipping down to the still-playable mid-40s or 50s. I haven’t had much time with the new optimized Nvidia driver that hit today, but I haven’t seen a big difference between the game before and after I installed the driver.
ROTTR pushes my PC, but I’m actually happy to have a game that pushes my system for the right reasons. Unlike the frustrating PC ports of Just Cause 3, Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight, I have a good sense of the tradeoffs I’m making and so far haven’t felt like the game is running poorly for no discernible reason.
And it really is incredible looking, particularly in 1440p. Look at this screenshot:
In-engine cutscenes are gorgeous, and I’m regularly impressed by how much this latest version of Lara Croft looks like an actual human being.
I mean, like... enhance:
ROTTR’s PC version offers a variety of graphics settings; you can see mine here:
I’ve dropped the Level of Detail setting down from Very High to High and dropped Shadows to Medium, which keeps the game running well aside from some frame-rate drops as I enter some of the bigger open areas and some hitches in the midst of transition animations from one area to another.
Then there’s the hair. Rise of the Tomb Raider is actually the first PC game in which I’ve left the hair tech—called “PureHair” this time around—turned on, rather than turning it off to improve my frame-rate. PureHair does impact performance somewhat, but Lara’s hair looks good enough that I’m fine taking the hit.
I can’t speak to how the game runs on other systems, particularly given that Rise of the Tomb Raider is yet another Nvidia-optimized PC game that doubtless benefits from my Nvidia hardware. As usual I defer to the folks over at Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry, who have already put the PC version through its paces. They’ve written up their thoughts and made a video breakdown of the port; they’re satisfied, and it sounds like it runs well on a variety of systems.
Aside from its graphics, Rise of the Tomb Raider is another third-person action/adventure game that plays better with a controller than with a mouse and keyboard. Running, sneaking and shooting all work fine with a mouse and keyboard, and as usual I’m much more accurate when using a mouse. But platforming and puzzle-solving feel odd with a keyboard input. The game has some mechanical interactions—winding winches and breaking down brick walls, etc.—and they feel much more natural on a controller. Similarly, jumping puzzles feel awkward when navigated with a keyboard. Some of that is due to my own comfort level playing this type of game on consoles, so your mileage may vary.
As for the game itself: It’s good! Read Evan’s review for his full take, but I’m actually liking it more this time around than I did last time. I’m taking it slow, finding more collectables, and enjoying the sights and sounds.
There is one lingering problem, unfortunately, and it’s a big one:
Nixxes! You’re still making “New Game” the default menu option at the start instead of “Continue!” Guys, we’ve been over this. Work that shit out.
Very Important Update 1/28: It turns out your starting menu location changes based on where you have your mouse cursor as you boot the game. For me, sometimes it’s “New Game,” sometimes it’s “Options,” sometimes it’s “Marketplace.” If I start it from big-picture mode and don’t move the mouse, it goes right to “Continue.” I don’t really get why it works this way, but at least it works properly in big picture! Next step: Making it default to “Continue” no matter what.
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