Shadow of the Tomb Raider marks the end of the rebooted Lara Croft trilogy, and for our money, it’s the most polished of the three games. While it didn’t quite take enough risks to elevate the experience into the realms of truly special gaming experiences, it certainly refines the familiar formula into a streamlined package that’s super entertaining. It’s also by far the most pretty of the three and really nails that feeling of navigating an exotic wilderness. But how good is versus what many would consider the pinnacle of Indiana Jones-style third-person action/adventure games, Uncharted 4? We’re pitting the two against each other in the ultimate showdown.
Uncharted 4 vs. Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Uncharted 4 did plenty to move the experience on from the third-person cover-shooting mechanics that dominated the first three games. Sure, that’s still a core part of the experience, but Uncharted 4 introduced some all-new gameplay mechanics that helped to break up the monotony of what increasingly felt like dated gunplay and traversal systems. Stealth was a big one; the emphasis on tagging enemies and moving through areas undetected felt much less like a scripted sequence than in previous games. And that was made possible by the game’s substantially larger environments, which allowed players to move around the environment and choose to tackle situations differently according to preference.
Traversal mechanics in Uncharted 4 remained virtually the same, except streamlined for more accurate climbing. And, of course, the grappling hook was introduced, which had players swinging between ledges and even engaging enemies in combat while dangling from above.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider also changed the pace of gameplay from previous titles in the series. Although most of the mechanics remain in-place, there’s a much greater emphasis on stealth action. There’s no tagging, funnily enough, which has become a hallmark of stealth games since Ubisoft’s Far Cry popularized the mechanic. That’s perhaps because Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a more linear experience.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider isn’t all stealth, though, but when the action does light-up, it feels a little clunky –even compared to previous games, let alone Uncharted 4.
Of course, the rebooted Tomb Raider games feature progression and survival mechanics that give players different skills, weapons, and items to craft. Ultimately, you’ve got a much stronger input in how Lara plays as a character. It’s hard to mark Uncharted 4 down for a lack of progression –the series has always been about blockbuster action and non-stop pace, so slowing things down to Tomb Raider pace probably wouldn’t have been a good fit. But there’s definitely more substance to Tomb Raider’s gameplay as a result of that progression.
In terms of platforming, Tomb Raider’s traversal is a step above Uncharted 4. Nate looks just as cinematic in his movements, but in terms of how the game handles, there’s just more to Lara’s climbing to keep players engaged. Having to coordinate pressing different buttons to catch ledges and climbing walls, and then jumping between swinging points and deploying a grappling hook in mid-air requires more fidelity and ultimately keeps you locked into the experience. By comparison, Uncharted 4 really just asks you to press a single button –it’s pretty but all a bit too simple.
Lastly, we have to mention replayability and content in relation to the gameplay experience. Here, Shadow of the Tomb Raider certainly has more to offer than Uncharted 4. From the dozens of Tombs, Crypts, and additional side quests that stand next to hundreds of collectibles and points of interest, the game’s semi-open world is alive with content to explore. In comparison, Uncharted 4 is a pretty linear experience even with its larger level design. There are still places to explore off the beaten path and collectibles to find, but you’re going to have much less reason to replay the experience (or keeping playing the experience) than in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Winner: Shadow of the Tomb Raider