So the re-imagined Tomb Raider is upon us, taking the iconic Lara Croft and giving us a glimpse of her origin story, her journey from a young, inexperienced survivor to the character that we’d become accustomed to in the classic PlayStation games.
Not many gamers need a reminder of who Lara Croft is, we have seen her in numerous video game sequels and the on the big screen. We accepted her for who she appeared to be. Lara was a strong female character that has been through some hardships such as the deaths of her parents and come out the other end in good shape (not figuratively speaking), following in her father’s footsteps as an archaeologist and adventurer.
” Lara’s first outing in a 18+ game “
Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have come together to give Tomb Raider as some would argue a much needed reboot. The context of the game is pre-Tomb Raider the original and portrays a much younger “inexperienced” Lara.
One of the games major strengths is the character development. Initially Lara is presented as a scared, fragile young woman, but her character soon starts to grow given her unfortunate circumstances. The first time she is forced to kill a man is particularly poignant and cinematic. Covered in a man’s blood, shocked and disorientated she begins her journey to become a hardened survivor.
In fact, it is worth noting the cinematic approach of the game. In a similar vein to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, the plot and presentation of Lara’s latest adventure could have easily featured on the big screen. Some will cite the games reliance on quick time events as a flaw, but actually, they are fairly infrequent and never detract from the enjoyment of the game. The cinematics even provide a few shocks in the form of some brutal deaths Lara can suffer.
The story progresses at a breakneck speed, full of twists and turns. It’s genuinely exciting and will keep you enthralled from start to finish. The intelligent use of camera angles and quick time events are perfectly entwined with the vast, open world.
Graphically, the game is a stunner. The environment is beautifully presented and ripe for exploration. Easily one of the best looking games on the current gen consoles, the lush jungles, lavish tombs, enamouring views and detailed character models prove that there is still life left in the 360 and PS3 yet.
The gameplay itself feels considerably different from the series’ previous iterations. There’s a greater influence on exploration and stealth, which the series hadn’t necessarily been noted for previously. It’s particularly satisfying to line up a perfect shot and let rip with the bow and arrow, and in fact, this is our favourite weapon in the game. Combat itself is satisfying, but the rate which Lara starts to dispatch of her enemies feels juxtaposed compared to the earlier cinematic showing her reluctance to do so.
Of course, it would not be a Tomb Raider game without tombs to, well, raid. Thankfully, these do feature but are an entirely optional aspect of the game. They’re well hidden within the environment, but within they’re full of unique treasures and puzzles to solve. It’s interesting that the previous titles had a particular reliance on puzzle solving, but this has been toned down in this reboot. There are puzzles to solve, but they’re not nearly as complex.
As the adventure progresses, Lara can be developed as a character and will gain access to various other weapons, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, and this feels like the more traditional Tomb Raider experience that long time fans will have become accustomed to. Not only that, she’ll gain “skill points”, allowing the player to improve various aspects of her performance, including her accuracy when firing and the amount of loot she can recover from a downed foe. There is a nod to the previous titles combat style near the end of the adventure which series stalwarts will appreciate.
The presentation of Lara’s character is fantastic. She’s deep, complex and well voiced. It’s interesting that certain aspects of the character have been toned down compared to her previous appearances. Now, she’s slightly less chesty and just a little more believable. Hell, even some of the DA team could pull a girl like the new look Lara we reckon. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all of the other survivors which would of helped gamers actually care about them more. Some of the others feel a tad one dimensional considering the effort that’s gone into developing Lara.
” Hunting isn’t a core focus in the game “
The other disappointing aspect of the single player campaign is the lack of focus on Lara’s hunting skills. In the early stages of the game, she’s forced to hunt deer and this seems to suggest that the player will have to hunt and scavenge for food to help Lara survive. In reality, this isn’t the case. Hunting the deer simply serves as a tutorial for the bow controls and this really feels like a missed opportunity, albeit one that could provide a basis for the inevitable sequel.
These are the only major criticisms of the single player adventure. The games other major failing is its multiplayer mode, which feels like a bit of an afterthought. The game modes themselves are fairly standard, but the controls feel a little clunky and quite slow paced, perhaps given the game reliance on the weapons from the single player campaign. The bow, which is a particular highlight in the single player, is redundant in the multiplayer game as the the time it takes to use it is too long and multiplayer doesn’t necessarily allow enough time for a kill shot to be lined up.
Conversely, the single player campaign is a delight. Whilst the story is a little on the short side, there’s plenty to keep hardened adventurers coming back for more. There are a ton of secrets and collectables littering the games many locations, so it’s worth backtracking and visiting previous locations more than once. Much like the Castlevania and Metroid games, there’s certain areas that can only be accessed once Lara has upgraded her skills, but comparisons with these classic titles is certainly no bad thing.
All in all, Tomb Raider is one of the best adventure games we’ve played for quite some time. It’s a worthy reboot of a classic franchise that’s accessible for newbies as well as series stalwarts. In an industry currently dominated by reboots and endless sequels, Tomb Raider is a shining example of doing things right. It takes the core franchise and brings it bang up to date by taking some of the best bits from the most popular action and adventure games of recent years.
• Intense action
• Feels like a movie at times
• Easy on the eyes 😉
• It is Tomb Raider!
• One dimensional support characters
• Multiplayer seems overlooked
Tomb Raider gets 9 out of 10 from us, it is a game that is great fun, immersive and definitely will take up your time, the campaign is long enough to warrant the asking price and the collectibles will keep hardcore Tomb Raiders searching around the lush environments.