This is the most Metal Gear we've ever seen Lara Croft.
Our heroine wades through a stream in the middle of the jungle, quickly ducking beneath the surface as enemy voices drift between the jungle trees. She swims to the edge of the water, coming up to tread just along the edge of a wooden dock. An enemy soldier, rifle in hand, stands with his back to the stream -- a dangerous mistake.
In one swift motion, Lara pushes herself up, grabs her target and pulls him beneath the surface, holding him under just long enough to snap his neck. She resurfaces, climbs onto the dock, and slinks away across the newly cleared path into the bushes surrounding the enemy encampment.
There is no better name for this game than Rise of the Tomb Raider. Lara is rising, growing into the fearless archaeologist and daredevil we've come to know for the past 20 years. Building upon the concepts established in the 2013 series reboot, Rise presents players with numerous options for approaching situations and using the environment to their advantage. The ability to craft weapons from found objects, a deeper stealth system, guerrilla-style combat and a broader skill tree all come into play on Lara Croft's first proactive adventure in the rebooted Tomb Raider timeline.
And "proactive" is the best descriptor here. In the 2013 Tomb Raider, Lara's actions were reactive as she found ways to survive and escape the island of Yamatai. This time around, Lara is willingly putting herself in danger and taking risks as she follows a trail of clues from her father's research into the unknown.
Some of the smallest additions to Rise of the Tomb Raider's combat and stealth turn out to make the biggest difference. The addition of water for stealth and puzzle-solving purposes (sometimes flooding rooms with water allows Lara to reach higher areas) as well as the ability to climb trees adds verticality to terrain traversal. This gives Lara the opportunity for different kinds of stealth kills, such as jumping down and striking enemies from above, or drowning them. These stealth kill options play into what developer Crystal Dynamics is called "guerrilla-style combat," in which Lara has the option to sneak among enemies and attack from within or run in guns blazing with a ton of movement options.
But what makes all of these options really useful is when the situation turns on a dime. If an enemy spots Lara while she's stealthing around and breaks that quiet bubble, things escalate into a firefight very quickly. The action ramps up immediately, with Lara creeping in the bushes one second to dodging rounds the next. Lara will have guns and other tools at her disposal, such as the ability to pick up jerry cans and bottles to make Molotov cocktails on the spot, that make taking out groups of enemies more easy. If she manages to stay in stealth, she can create poisonous arrows or bombs that she can then booby trap corpses with; lure an enemy over to a dead body, and seconds later a bomb goes off, flooding the area with poison gas and killing enemies instantly.
You can complete entire sections using stealth only -- if you're confident enough -- or run in guns blazing like an action hero. Both ways work and there's nothing stopping you from choosing either, as the game prepares you for both. Break stealth? Climb up into a tree and start firing your rifle down on enemies. Still in stealth? Quietly slit throats and plant poison bombs on corpses. Don't want to kill anyone? You can do that, too -- just stick to the bushes.