Cascades of water flood the street. Lamp posts topple over, buildings begin to crumble, and cars tumble away in the pummelling swells.

At one point, a mum attempts to throw a child to safety from a second-storey window. At another, it looks like you're about to get trapped under a listing ship. Later on, you do.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the 12th entry in the long-running franchise and third part of the current reboot, sure kicks off with a hiss and a roar.

That sequence, about 45 minutes into the game, is a hair-raising ride through the streets of Mexico's Cozumel, as Lara Croft claws at broken doors, hatches and buildings, anything that can save her from the turbulent floodwaters.


Later, catching a breather, Croft sits on a rooftop with her sidekick Jonah, and watches the vistas: Cozumel's streets are flooded, and its buildings are burning. There are questions. How did this happen? Whose fault is it?

It's hers. Yes, Lara Croft, gaming's most popular female adventurer, a heroine who has stayed relevant for three decades, has stolen a dagger from an ancient ruin, and its theft has triggered an apocalypse.

Croft needs to find the dagger's case, a silver box, before the evil corporation of Trinity discovers it for themselves and wind up ruling the world. Or something like that.

If that plot sounds simplistic and bare-boned, that's because it is. And that scene is emblematic of Shadow of the Tomb Raider's thrills - and its faults. The game really is that stunning, and it really is that stupid, all in the same breath.

It's a crying shame that Tomb Raider's new developer, Eidos Montreal, delivering its first Lara Croft adventure, haven't quite grasped the subtleties and found the emotional depths that Crystal Dynamics nailed in the two excellent previous instalments.

Tomb Raider's always walked a fine line between action set pieces, complex puzzle-solving and jungle-driven adventuring - and here, in just the first half hour, you'll spend time doing all of those: stalking Trinity bad guys through a marketplace, searching an ancient ruin for that problematic dagger, engaging in an army camp shootout, then hurling yourself out of a plane and into a Peruvian jungle.

That set piece, and many others, including an encounter with a bloodthirsty jungle cat, are handled extremely well, and much of Shadow of the Tomb Raider has been well thought out. Navigating your way through tricky ruins remains a joy, the jungle scenery feels lush and alive, and working out the game's intricate riddles is as mesmerising as it was when Lara first emerged on to the Playstation 1.

But the ridiculous plot about a haunted dagger hangs over Lara like the Sword of Damocles. Making the heroine pay for all that tomb raiding is a great idea in the right hands; here it's haphazard and convoluted, something that's never fully realised.


That doesn't mean you shouldn't play this, because you should. But perhaps it's a sign that it's time Lara went the way of Nathan Drake and found a quiet strip of beach to retire to.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: R16
Verdict: Lara's adventure comes to a confusing close