Review – Tomb Raider
1996 – the year we were introduced to the adventurer extraordinaire by the name of Lara Croft. Equipped with her dual pistols and giant Bazongas, she took the Action/Adventure puzzle platformer genre by storm. Now, almost 20 years down the line, she returns in a different form, and she seems to be missing her signature “traits”. So how well does this new reboot stand in the face of the established series and fandom? Let us find out. Starting with…
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Platforms: PC, PS3 (Reviewed), Xbox360
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
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Lara starts the game as an innocent but intelligent academic person. She starts off on her own adventure as the assistant of the celebrity archaeologist Dr. James Whitman but soon finds herself shipwrecked on an ancient island, complete with ancient secrets and mad cultists. The game holds no bars when it comes to the immersion and the grimy realities that Lara has to face. Within the first 5 minutes Lara is kidnapped, strung up alongside dead bodies and an altar and soon thereafter she falls….onto a metal piece of rebar and continues to tear it out, spending the rest of the game with a gaping hole in her torso.
Lara’s character development is the greatest I have seen in the long time and the game delivers this on so many emotional levels, in so many different events. The pinnacle of which is the moment that she is forced to kill somebody. The fear and realization of what she has done dawns on her so suddenly that she starts to retch. Lara soon accepts that to survive on this island, it is kill or be killed. The problem with this scene comes soon after when you start headshotting just about every enemy with ease, she even comments on how scary it is that it was so easy to kill.
Unfortunately, the great character development ends with Lara, every other person in the game seems 2 dimensional in comparison. Each character pretty much fills a typical stereotype and anyone who has seen any action movie in the past decade can tell what happens and to whom.
Anyone who has played any of the previous Tomb Raider titles would agree that the main challenges in the games were equal parts fighting against the camera and actual puzzle difficulty. Tomb Raider (2013) is having none of that crap! The camera moves so well and is repositioned perfectly during action sequences. The underpowered weapons provide a exhilarating experience where headshotting multiple enemies with a bow can be very satisfying, up until you upgrade them really far and make them just a little too overpowered. No seriously, towards the end you are pretty much unkillable.
The action sequences are superb, ranging from sliding down a slope with a plane engine on your tail to crawling through a cave and having a man grab you having to kick him away before you get crushed by giant boulders. The problem is, as fun and immersive as they are these actions sequences occur every 10 minutes. This can really get old and tedious after the first 5 times.
You can hunt animals, forage for food and find hidden items like the relics. Which upon examination, Lara will let her geeky levels of love for archaeology and ancient history show by giving you a short history lesson about the object. Rotating the object and viewing a certain part of it will prompt Lara to talk further and give extra exp. Tomb Raider introduces a skill tree system which has never been seen in previous Tomb Raider titles. There are 3 skill trees, Survivor, Hunter and Brawler. Each of which has their own unique skill set that can be upgraded using skill points gained through levelling up. You may want to decide what skill tree suits your personal play style but towards the end of the game you will max out each tree anyway. As with the weapon upgrades, going deep into the skill trees make you very overpowered meaning you can easily 1-hit kill people using counter attacks. Both of which really does take away from the survival aspect of the game. What that does accomplish however, is drawing us closer to the Lara Croft we have all known and love for the past 2 decades or so.
The puzzle solving is executed in a way that is both challenging and fun. Each section of the island is like 1 big puzzle with lots of smaller puzzles inside of it. To help solve these puzzles you are given a “Survival Instinct” mechanic, which is also a new feature in the Tomb Raider series, it gives you the ability to reveal what objects you are able to interact with, but by no means does it directly show you how to solve each puzzle. As you would expect, there are tombs for you to explore and well raid. They work similar to the tomb puzzles in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, where you solve a puzzle and collect the awesome loot and exp at the end. Completing the tomb puzzles also reveals things like relic sites and salvage spots on your map. The down side? There are only 7 of these tombs. So as fun as they are, you will run out of tombs to raid in no time.
In short: This game looks STUNNING. Lara’s character design alone is quite remarkable. Her clothes and skin gets grimy and dirty, all of her wounds that she sustains in cut scenes stay on her. That arrow that grazed her shoulder in the cutscene? Yep, there’s a large gaping wound there and later a bandage. The animations are masterfully done, when Lara climbs you can tell that what she is doing is dangerous and difficult. While you are up there, take the time to take in the sights. The background is beautifully designed and artfully made. From Snowy Mountain tops to windy villages complete with trees being struck by lightning, the art directors of this game have my respect. The soundtrack is not all that memorable but does fit in very well with the games environment and intense action. Oh and don’t get me started on how amazing the hair physics are on PC. It’s almost like they had a one staff member just dedicated on making her hair move and react as realistically as possible
Yes this game has multiplayer, why? I have no idea, but its there so I must cove r it! “Oh dude! Tomb Raider! I can’t wait to stomp through that multiplayer mode!” said No one ever. There are 4 modes to choose from, you have your typical Team Deathmatch and Free-For-All and then you have your Rescue and Cry For Help modes. In rescue mode the survivors must collect medical supplies while the Solarii must finish them off using melee executions. Whilst in Cry For Help the survivors have to activate the radio transmitters and the Solarii have to take their batteries. All in all both of these modes don’t offer anything new, they are your basic objective based TDM mixed in with a few new things like traps and usable environments eg. Explosive barrels and falling rock piles. In conclusion the multiplayer is very negligible and with the small amount of people playing at one time, the waiting time can be aggravating.
Tomb Raider is a very well written, beautiful, exciting and immersive game that everybody must experience. Watching Lara transform from innocent researcher to battle hardened badass is well worth the time it takes to complete the sometimes mind boggling puzzles.
I give it an 8.5/10 Non-ginormous Kahoonahs!