Review by TKDBoy1889
"A great reboot, but it has it's issues"
A longly awaited reboot of a classic series that to many was on a downhill trend, Tomb Raider had a lot of anticipation and hype going for it. After playing it, I have to say it's a great an enjoyable experience. That said, it does have it's issues that hold it back from being as awesome as it could have been, but I still found it to be a really good game.
Let's start off with the recreation of the star of the game herself, Lara Croft. I'll say right off the bat, I really like the new Lara design in terms of both looks and personality. I'll be honest, the old Lara never appealed to me the same way she did to many. She was an awesome butt-kicking character for sure, but her physical appeal was way too apparent and unrealistic (Though later games toned down the figure a bit), and personality-wise she just wasn't interesting. I could never relate to her or really wind up cheering for her because of lack of depth. She rarely ever showed weakness, flaws, or fear. In short, she rarely actually seemed "in trouble", and rarely seemed genuinely upset unless someone close was killed.
Here, we get a Lara that is more likeable and understandable in my view. Lara is fresh out of the University and, while talented and skilled, is inexperienced and thrust into situations she's never dealt with. Thus we get to see her growth from a driven but inexperienced girl to a hardened survivor shaped by the events that she pushes through, and we get to see that gradual change. At the start she's afraid and uncertain, and by the end she's tough and dedicated (While still showing more weakness and emotion than old Lara ever did). At the same time, I also really like Lara's new design. I find her to be incredibly attractive. She's not wearing tight shorts but she doesn't need to. She has a very curvy and attractive design that is not over-the-top.
Now onto the rest of the game.
The graphics are absolutely stunning. The attention to detail and the design of everything is just superb. Character models are fantastic and really life-like. The game world is just breathtaking to look at, with plants and animals looking incredibly smooth and detailed. The tombs and ruins have great design, really capturing the essence of a long-gone culture filled with secrets to be explored.
I really like the story of Tomb Raider. Lara's first journey in this reboot is a very good one. Her progression as a character is gradual and works throughout the whole game, and plot revolving around the struggle to get off the island as well as overcoming it's secret evil nature is well done. The game's plot, aside from Lara's progression into a hardy survivor, is largely about discovering the islands secrets and stopping a madman priest who has manipulated several survivors to a cult as a means of unlocking the island's hidden powers. The story is suspenseful, interesting, and overall fantastic.
That being said, a lot of the side characters are... not so good. I love Lara, Lara's mentor Roth, the captain of the SS Endurance, and the main antagonist Mathias. Mathias is a creepy character who pulls off the insane yet brilliant" villain role well. Roth is just an awesome dude and one of my favorite characters. And the ship captain had a brief role but had some epic screen time at one point. But as far as characters that aren't good, I'm talking about Lara's other friends. A lot of the time they are stupid and/or annoying. A lot of them I found unlikable, and they showed lack of intelligence a lot. When one of them said "Let's split up" while stranded on an island they've never been on just moments after getting altogether, I wanted to face-palm. And one guy apparently has a crush on Lara but we literally don't find out until it's brought up out of nowhere.
Combat is improved over the previous games immensely. First off, any game where you have regular access to guns and can opt to use a bow instead is awesome. But going beyond that, the bow allows for a stealth mechanic too, killing enemies silently at range or even at melee range. The game has something of an auto-cover system that I actually like a little better then the typical "lock-on" cover system. Lara immediately takes cover behind objects in combat or when enemies are around, and the system actually works well. You can scramble to avoid enemy fire, and perform headshots for extra damage as well as experience. I do not like the fact that now Tomb Raider relies on the popular auto-healing system instead of having health power-ups, but aside from that combat is fun.
There's an upgrade system as well. As the game progresses you gain access to new weapons, from a bow to a pistol to a rifle to a shotgun. But in addition, by earning experience and collecting salvage, you can level up Lara as well as the weapons you obtain. It's nothing original and I wouldn't say it has that much depth and impact overall but it's well done for what it is. Weapon upgrades in particular are nice. There are some handy combat tricks that can be obtained too, like dirt-throwing or one-hit melee kills to stunned enemies. The worst part of the upgrade system is anything related to animal hunting, as I found animal hunting relatively pointless.
Platforming and puzzling are also great, albeit too easy. The camera is nearly perfect in this game. Aside from a few hiccups, one of Tomb Raider's biggest issues as been overcome! Platforming is fluid, dynamic, and pretty fun. That being said, it's also pretty easy a lot of the time. Puzzles are interesting and fun to figure out a lot of the time. The downside is that there aren't a whole lot in the game. However, when they are used they work well. One thing I really like is how Lara gains new equipment over time, and it opens up new mechanics for both puzzles as well as platforming. Such as the upgraded ax pick that let's her scale walls, or the rope that let's her create her own paths in some areas. It keeps things interesting.
The game is not entirely open-world, as many believed thanks to hype. What it is more or less is a series of linear paths or corridors that link larger areas that act like playgrounds where you can explore before going through the next path. There are a lot of secrets to find in these areas, from journals to artifacts to GPS caches. Those are the main reason to backtrack in this game. There really is no other reason as enemies don't respawn when you backtrack, so for the most part finding hidden items is the sole purpose to backtracking. Lack of enemies hurts the overall replay value in backtracking but for those that love searching for treasures and items, you'll love the ability to backtrack.
The biggest problems I have with this game are button-prompts and cinematic gameplay. There are too many areas that simply prompt either a QTE or a simple button-prompt mechanic. These are painfully easy as sometimes the game actually slows down for you, and usually just revolve hitting a single button. It can break the otherwise fluid gameplay. The other big problem is that this game is too cinematic at times. I don't mean too many cutscenes, as I actually like the cutscenes. What I mean is there there are segments where the gameplay itself seems to take on a cinematic approach, either essentially letting the game play itself or narrowing the game to a very linear path where it looks intense but it's impossible to die or fail as it's part of scripted mechanics. I've never been a fan of the hand-holding that comes from blending gameplay with cinematics. Either make it a complete cutscene or keep it pure gameplay. Quick time events and cinematic game scenes just interrupt the flow of the game, especially when done in heavy doses. And the true final "boss" is somewhat anti-climactic thanks to this. It's a built up well but it's executed in a pure scripted sense, which feels very underwhelming. These attempts to make the gameplay of games more "theatrical" more often than not hurt games, and it's one of Tomb Raider's biggest flaws.
But aside from that, I have to say I enjoyed Tomb Raider a lot and I think it's a great reboot. I don't think it's the exceptional legend many claimed it to be upon release because there are some big issues I found, but I still say it's a great game that should be checked out by those who are curious but have not yet picked up the game.
-Detailed platforming mechanics
-Platform/puzzle sections can be too easy
-Not very many puzzles for a Tomb Raider Game
-Too many button-prompt or quick-time events
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/13
Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 03/05/13)
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