Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review (Xbox One X)

The Square Enix reboot of the iconic Tomb Raider franchise starring Lara Croft comes to a close with the third installment of the iconic franchise, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider has been a staple franchise pop culture, with numerous video game releases and a movie series. In 2013, the game series was rebooted for a modern era, with a different take on the character, while keeping the essence of Tomb Raider. This reboot was designed to be a three-part series, with Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and now, the final installment, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, bringing this version of Lara Croft’s adventures to a close.

The game featured in this review was provided by Square Enix and played on a Xbox One X.

Platform: Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro
Developers: Crystal Dynamic and Eidos-Montréal
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Resolution: 4k UHD with HDR
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
Release Date: September 14, 2018

Synopsis (Taken from the Square Enix website)

“Experience Lara Croft’s defining moment as she becomes the Tomb Raider. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara must master a deadly jungle, overcome terrifying tombs, and persevere through her darkest hour. As she races to save the world from a Maya apocalypse, Lara will ultimately be forged into the Tomb Raider she is destined to be.”


REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

Audio: 96

Dynamics: 97
Low Frequency Extension: 95
Positional/Environmental Cues: 95
Detail/Realism: 97

I have very mixed feelings about this game’s audio. On the one hand, this is the best implementation of Dolby Atmos I have ever heard in a game. As you climb walls, dive underwater, and traverse through caves, the sense of audio immersion was spectacular. You could place all the audio queues and environmental sounds exactly where they should be in 3D space.

Near the beginning of the game, you are in a cave where a waterfall is toward the top of the cavern. As you climb, you can hear the position of the waterfall change. Once above the water fall, you can even hear the sound appear to distinctly come from below you.

Make no mistake, this may sound simple, but the technical challenge overcome to make this effect work as its own distinct sound, while everything else is happening (rocks falling, enemy chatter in the distance, VO, feet running through mud, etc.), is a feat that deserves recognition.

So, that’s all great. On the other hand, to me the game was a little off balance when it came to dynamics and low frequency effects. There are plenty of explosion and bullets flying everywhere, and while those sound objects are perfectly positioned in the Atmos encoding, the actual sounds didn’t have much weight to them.

For example, I would have expected a shotgun to have a bit more “umph” to the blast, and expected explosions to really shake the room, as the chaos on screen would dictate. But this game’s mix dampened the effect.

While Shadow of the Tomb Raider is overall the best showcase on Atmos in a videogame, the dynamics could use a little extra work.

Video: 98

Resolution/Clarity: 98
Black Levels: 96
Color Reproduction: 98
Compression: 98

This game is gorgeous. You spend most of the time exploring dark caves and the jungle. Playing in HDR, I have very little to complain about, and some very small nitpicks which I believe to be a limitation of the hardware. Had I played on a high-end PC, I would expect the flawed textures I sometimes spotted to be improved.

What I would like to focus on is the drastic difference between “Favor Frame Rate” versus “Favor Resolution” settings. When going back and forth, I couldn’t really tell if there was a dip or improvement in the frame rate.

What was obvious, however, was the actual drop of resolution. This was so dramatic, it felt like playing two different games. All the beauty and texture of the game was lost. The lighting was completely ruined, it was either too dark or too bright. Ultimately, I spent a lot of time in the settings to get the frame rate setting and image just right but, I was never truly happy with the outcome. The caves become dull and it was hard to see enemies while the faces of NPC oddly became very two dimensional. My strong recommendation would be to set the game in favor of resolution, at least on Xbox One X, since it didn’t seem to impact the frame-rate (YMMV).

Final Thoughts

I’ve enjoyed the Tomb Raider series reboot and was looking forward to playing this game, especially in 4K HDR with 3D immersive sound. Just looking at this rebooted series, it’s amazing to see where technology has gone from 2013 to 2018. Ultimately, with minor quibbles about audio dynamics and textures aside, this is an absolute reference game for Atmos and HDR and worth playing if you enjoy action/adventure games.

This review was written by AVS Forum’s anonymous “ghost reviewer” Datsm. He put the time into playing Spider-Man (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it) on a reference system that includes a Xbox One X, a PS4 Pro as well as a 65″ Samsung Q9F TV, plus a Dolby Atmos sound system with KEF R-series speakers and a Marantz AV7704 pre/pro.

Reference Review System:

KEF R700, R600, R800ds, R50, R400b
Marantz 7704
Emotiva XPA 5 and XPA 2
Playstation 4 Pro
Xbox One X
65″ Samsung Q9 QLED

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