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Rise of the Tomb Raider: Exploring Croft Manor in PS VR

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Rise of the Tomb Raider: Exploring Croft Manor in PS VR

We’re standing a few feet inside Croft Manor’s wine cellar and are hesitant to move another step. Our surroundings are dank, dark. A small window at the corridor’s end fails to illuminate the bowels of Lara’s childhood home. Shadows and cobwebs are everywhere. A shiver involuntarily runs down our spine. Truthfully? We’re a little scared.

Such is the immersive power of PlayStation VR.

We’re testing out the headline feature of Rise of the Tomb Raider ahead of release: 10 minutes to explore Croft Manor, Lara’s childhood home. 10 criminally short minutes to experience the franchise in a wholly new way.

Chronologically positioned part-way through the main story and selectable as one of a handful of additional extras from the main menu, this side-quest sees Lara returning home to unravel a family mystery. Croft needs to explore her surroundings, piece together clues, and uncover secrets to learn how to reclaim the dilapidated Croft Manor as her own.

Blood Ties is a purely explorative piece of content, though you can revisit the location in a separate, action-heavy, supernatural zombie-plagued variant, Lara’s Nightmare. And while Blood Ties is playable in standard third-person as well, it’s best experienced in first-person with PlayStation VR. That said, it is worth testing the former before diving into the latter; if only to reinforce just how seismic a difference PlayStation VR makes.

The aforementioned wine cellar is oppressive. We can almost smell the damp. By contrast, the manor’s central rooms feel cavernous, high ceilings barely seen in the gloom above. VR fools your other senses to believe in a sense of space far larger than the small demo room we have to remind ourselves we’re standing in. It’s a fairly warm day in September, but we feel a chill on our arms as a virtual draft blows past us.

VR adds an extra dimension to interacting with objects. Picking up items and spinning them round to look for clues is a nice mini-puzzle in-game. In VR you physically turn the object — represented by the DualShock 4 and its gyro sensors in the real world — to study it. It gives an important tactile interaction that further immerses you in this world. Cool inclusion? The controller also doubles as a freely moveable flashlight on entering darker areas.

And even things we can’t touch we happily appreciate, such is the massive detail etched across every inch of the manor. Admission: we spend a minute unashamedly studying a painting, leaning forward to inspect the brushwork. Archaeologist turned art critic: bet that’s not listed on the back of the box.

There are also Easter eggs galore, nods even to the original era of Tomb Raider, repackaged and given a new universe context. The (yet unseen) Young Lara Croft Chronicles, if you will.

There are two control schemes for the VR experience: free mode and comfort mode. The first is akin to the standard Tomb Raider controls, but it’s the second that we use today. Holding LT and pointing the controller will allow you to place a virtual transparent Lara anywhere in your field of vision. A tap of RT will teleport you to that point. Repeatedly press the shoulder buttons to make a 360° pan in small degree increments. It’s quickly intuitive.

In all, it makes for an essential experience for Lara fans and a truly attractive addition to an already robust package, which includes two other side modes. Lara’s Nightmare is an ultra replayable slice of action as Croft needs to hunt down three supernatural — and aggressive — skulls. They’re hidden throughout the manor and the locations of which, like her weapons and necessary room keys, are randomised in each playthrough.

Then there’s the co-op Endurance survival mode. You and a pal are dropped into the middle of a freezing wilderness. Predators are many, consumables and equipment rare. Your health and heat are continually draining. Cooperation is essential. How many in-game days can you survive before succumbing to the elements? It’s an intriguing premise, something akin to a roguelike version of Journey.

But even after supernatural zombies have overcome us, and the cold has leached our will to live, we feel the pull again to explore Croft Manor, to pull on PlayStation VR and dare ourselves to make it further into the bowels of the mansion. And maybe we will this time.

Maybe.

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21 Comments

  • “Holding LT and pointing the controller will allow you to place a virtual transparent Lara anywhere in your field of vision. A tap of RT will teleport you to that point.”

    Playstation controller doesn’t have LT or RT, it’s a xbox controller buttons.

  • RT? Lol

  • four24twenty

    Oops Gillen, otherwise it was a very well written article!

  • You should insert more VR. 10 minutes is to short.

  • no, no, no, no. You are not getting away with it.
    I buy everything digital, mostly day1. I bought Tomb Raider for PS3 and PS4. Bought it twice so that the sales numbers go up in hope the sequel gets greenlit. I loved it more than any Uncharted.
    And then you did what? Went to MS and pushed me aside.
    Yeah, you bet it’s personal.
    No. This one will wait until it gets into the garbage bin and even then I will not give you a cent. This will be second hand, on disk, purchase.
    And I really like the The Rise of the TR.

    • RensOriginal

      That is exactly my position; bought it for both PS consoles only to find the sequel to be an Xbox exclusive for an entire year. The fact that they want to give the consolidated version of what Xbox players have has access to for a year is disrespectful to the fans and the franchise. If I remember correctly, the franchise started with PlayStation and now here we are being given MS scraps.
      Needless to say, I will also be purchasing a second hand copy of this a year or two down the line.

    • Look the only reason I bought an Xbox 1 was for tomb raider this game right here u need to play, I I’ll be getting this for my ps4 which I have 3 of so my kids will enjoy this game too get it bro, don’t cheat your self

    • If you love PlayStation and the Tomb Raider franchise as much as you seem to, I’d ask you to consider purchasing the game on PS4. Yes, making it an Xbox exclusive for a year was a mistake – but they know that considering the sales were lackluster.

      If the PlayStation crowd are able to make the game sell with big numbers, I think they will see for sure where their audience truly is, and the next games will be released simultaneously as they should have been to start.

  • TheThirdStrike

    Maybe Sony (the previous record holder for most accounts breeched in a hack) shouldn’t be hosting its images on a site that just yesterday claimed that title from them. Clicking on the second screenshot brings up a Yahoo! login page, just a day after they announced 500 million accounts compromised. You guys want want to think about hosting your own images before you expose someones personal data again.

  • A bunch of annoying comments here but back on topic! I didn’t know they were going to be adding a VR feature which is awesome. It sounds like you are putting a ton of new content in for Playstation owners that have waited. I am very glad I did! So, is there a suggested time story wise where I should begin the VR mission?

  • fudgenasty21

    i agree with most of the comments. longtime fan then they pull this 1 year exclusive crap. i look forward to buying the next year used. i will not support square enix and C.D with this type of business model

  • KidCommando

    Cool, if RotTR ever comes to Plus or when a used copy becomes super cheap, I will check it out. No amount of tacked on content will sway me to purchase this game anywhere close to release.

    I can wait another year…..

  • CrusaderForever

    Not only do you completely crap on your PlayStation fan base with the year long exclusivity but then have the nerve to mention “LT” on the PSBlog when PS doesn’t have an LT button on the controller, it’s an Xbox button. The disappointment is so very real.

    • Sure it does, it’s called L2 – Literally the same thing, get over yourself and the semantics.

  • Does this mean the Playstation VR will be 3D after all? I heard a rumor that it isn’t.

  • whereymyconary

    I own it on my Xbox so I can’t justify 60$ DLC. I’ll wait till it’s cheap so I can play it on ps4 as I prefer it way over my xbox.

  • NemoMcGregor

    Roses are red. Violets are blue.
    Gillen McAllister is an xbox fanboy.

  • johnboii321

    I’m excited for this game. Everyone talks stuff about it sure its a year old but its coming with all dlc etc which wasn’t available for Xbox so be grateful what would you expect with an edition video game. And then there’s even more stuff so why wouldn’t it be 60$ but if you don’t wanna pay full price that’s fine i just don’t understand the hate and by the way microsoft paid square to keep it as a timed exclusive. Square didnt intetionaly abandon PS but at least now we know we are eventually getting it so if anything you should blame microsoft.

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