Tomb Raider Review
For 17 years we have had the pleasure of controlling one of the most athletic, adventurous, and damn right crazy archaeologists since the likes of Indiana Jones himself. Yes, Lady Lara Croft has been raiding our hearts for some time, but we never asked ourselves, “How did she become so kick ass?” Well with this reboot of Tomb Raider, we get to experience every one of her “first times” as if it were yesterday.
Tomb Raider (Xbox 360, Ps3, PC)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Edios/Square Enix
Released: March 5th 2013
This brand new Tomb Raider is the origin story of Lara and how she became the woman that she is today. With the last few game titles being somewhat of a flop, Crystal Dynamics really needed to pull something amazing out of the bag to keep the franchise going and, honestly, they did it with authority.
You play Lara Croft as she embarks on her first real expedition with a small crew of explorers and documentary makers to find the lost island of Yamatai. Straight away shit hits the fan and the ship is caught in a sea storm and lands on the island that Lara was looking for, but that is as far as Lara’s luck stretches because she is soon to be tested of her survival skills, knowledge, agility, endurance, and sanity.
It had me instantly hooked. You are immersed into how Lara feels from falling on a ten inch spike from 20ft up or falling down holes and slipping down sides of mountains . There are a lot of moments in the game where you will feel her pain and you’ll visibly recoil because of what is happening to the poor girl. As the game progresses, you empathize for her and connect with her in a way you have never connected with her in previous iterations. Lara goes through a lot of painful moments both mentally and physically.
Lara now has the ability to gain experience to upgrade her survival skills. Skill points can be used to buy yourself new traits to help you along your endless battle against the island and it’s inhabitants. You can improve on your survival skills, which involves becoming better at looting ammo, food and the like. There are also Hunter and Brawler skills, which help you in improving your ammo capacity and fighting techniques. You can also upgrade your weapons by looting salvage from dead animals or bad guys, as well as conspicuously placed crates. This can improve your weapons by giving them better accuracy, ammo capacity, less recoil and more. You also have camps sites dotted around the island where you are able to improve your skills, purchase your weapon upgrades and fast travel back to previously visited areas. The combo of the upgrades and quick travel give the game more a sense of playing the game the way you want and not feeling like you are forced down a linear path.
Obviously Tomb Raider isn’t Tomb Raider unless there are tombs. Inside these tombs are an assortment of puzzles that will baffle, annoy, and on one occasion for me, make me cry. Once you have solved the puzzle though, you are able to reap the rewards which are, more often than not, salvage, gun upgrades and a ton of experience points. There is also a lot of exploring to do in the game, where you can collect relics, GPS signals and journals from your fellow travelers and people from the islands history, which helps to flesh out the story. There are also challenges in each area, where you, for example, must burn five flags or find five graves. This also makes you want to explore the island more thoroughly to collect everything. Climbing is also great, with Lara moving fluently and confidently, giving the off combat moments a fantastic sense of flow.
The multiplayer mode is, however, rather disappointing to say the least and is the biggest let down of the game. It feels like it has been bolted on at the last minute and the combat system is not as free flowing as it is in the single player. A few of the modes feels like one team is in favour of the other and becomes one sided. It was like I was in school again, put up against the school bully… I had no hope in winning. Although, you should at least give it a try; it is a laugh even just for a few minutes.
This game being a Square Enix game, I can’t help but feel that they brought some elements from their previous game, Hitman Absolution. Lara has an sirvival instinct mode. Upon activating it, the screen will go grey and show you hints and points of interest around your area and what direction to head in towards your next objective. It’s a good idea, however, because I have that option, I tend to become lazy and use it quite often in areas and especially when it is too dark to see, even with a torch lit.
Tomb Raider boasts amazing graphics and Crystal Dynamics have paid great attention to detail, especially when it comes to each individual scratch that Lara collects on her body over the course of the game. Everything, from the smallest crab crawling on the floor to the mountaintop that towers in front of you, looks stunning and is textured extremely well. This is also the first game that I have seen a game character shiver because of the cold. When Lara is left out in the cold rain with nothing to cover her, she quivers and continues to do so even in the cut scenes. At first I thought it was a glitch but after at while I realised that it was, in fact, deliberate and in doing so made you realise how cold it really is. You even get drops of rain that fall down the screen to give you a feeling that you are within the game. It’s an attention to detail that really immerses you in the experience.
I found no issues with the sound design. All was executed right on cue and when I was on the beach in the sun I had to take a moment to stare out onto the horizon and listen to the waves crashing against the wrecked ships that lay there. The voice acting is brilliantly done, with all different type of accents rather than the generic American style that seems to be in every game. Camilla Luddington, despite being relatively new to acting, did and amazing job as the voice of Lara. She makes it sound believable and puts across an excellent range of emotions through Lara’s transition from fresh of face to stone sold killer.
Tomb Raider has finally come back to take its crown from the games that stole it in recent years. The game is visually stunning, the gameplay is exciting and at times can have you on the edge of your seat. The odds are stacked against Lara and pour sympathy on the character in every hurdle that she encounters. The game is focused on Lara transforming from a young woman into the Lara Croft that we have grown up to know in the past.
Tomb Raider is an amazing action game that brings a whole new emotional level to one of gaming’s most loved heroines. Lara has definitely reclaimed her spot on top of the mountain from the likes of Nathan Drake.
Well done Lady Croft.