Review by SR71halo
"This new Tomb Raider is just the reboot that this series needed"
The first Tomb Raider practically redefined the action adventure genre. For such an old game, it was brimming with adventure and discovery as you guide Lara Croft through ruins and ancient tombs. Lara has returned for several more adventures since then, but the series was starting to show its age as it was surpassed by others in the genre like Assassins Creed or Uncharted. Finally, in 2013, Crystal Dynamics took it upon themselves to reboot the series with new gameplay mechanics, a new story and more importantly, a new Lara Croft built from the ground up. Rebooting such a beloved franchise is a risky move to say the least but playing this game from start to finish, it was the right one. This is the reboot that this series has been asking for for a long time.
Starring the new, younger Lara Croft, the story starts with her and her shipmates shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Lara is separated from her party and barely escapes from a collapsing cave. Never having an adventure in her life, Lara is forced to learn how to survive as she traverses this new island, learns about its ancient secrets, and rendezvous with her class mates.
The story itself is nothing to write home about, but several contents in the story really stand out regardless. For one thing, the writing is solid. The characters are written well and most of their dialogue is too, and the writing is also complimented with some solid voice performances. However, all this pales in comparison to the best part of the story; the character development behind our heroine, Lara Croft. It feels so empowering to witness Lara evolve from a/n [understandably] frightened school girl with no sense of adventure to a confident survivor that she was originally known for. Not once do you find her to be a wimp though, even at the beginning, because in spite of the terrible things she witnesses, she is always able to pull herself together and push on through and you will want to see her succeed. Other aspects of the story aren't so strong though. There is a twist later in the story that isn't as surprising as the writers want you to think and the villain is rather weak as well. But as an origin story, the game is a huge success. Lara is now much more than a pretty face.
Of course, what is a decent survival story without good visuals and a believable setting to go along with it? The new design for Lara Croft is better than any design before it. Along with her breast reduction is a more realistic look, and it works to the game's advantage to help recreate Lara. What is even better is the gorgeous setting around you. There is much to see and discover as you traverse this mysterious island; from the ancient tombs and ruins deep within caverns, World War II bunkers, shanty towns and even modern machinery. It may sound a bit jumbled but thanks to these rather impressive visuals, it's all made quite believable. The ancient architecture is properly weathered and damaged by their natural surroundings. The whole island is eye candy, and it gives you the mixed feelings of a peaceful setting and a brutal one (though it is immediately clear that the island is not safe).
While sadly there are no dual pistols this time, Lara does get her weapons back. The gunplay is simple enough and obviously inspired by others of its genre, as is the platforming and exploration part of the gameplay. However, this isn't so bad after all since whatever Tomb Raider does, it does it very well. What is great about the gunplay is the AI is actually good and is able to keep you on your toes. Most of the time, you'll get a chance to be stealthy and kill enemies quietly using your bow or sneaking up behind them. When discovered, you'll find yourself in a fire fight and the enemies will do anything they can to flush you out of your cover, whether it be throwing grenades or molotovs at you or rushing you themselves. The fights aren't as challenging as you might think but they do keep you moving and are almost never boring.
To help you in these firefights, you'll come across salvage every now and then. You can find some after killing enemies, killing animals, smashing crates, etc. What can you do with this salvage that you find? Well, if you take it to a camp, you can use it to upgrade your weapons. You can increase the damage each one does as well as range, accuracy, reload speed, clip size or maybe some specific feature each weapons have. Unfortunately, there are only 4 weapons in the whole game (bow, pistol, machine gun and shotgun) but you will quickly find that that is all you need anyway as each serves an important role in your journey, like the bow being used for stealth kills. They're especially handy with the numerous upgrades that come with each.
In addition to collecting salvage, you will also be rewarded with experience for everything you do; killing enemies or finding collectable especially. It sounds kind of weird to have an experience and level up system in a Tomb Raider game, but it works well here. Leveling up gives you one skill point to use to increase your survival instincts or combat moves like adding new melee moves, increasing the amount of salvage you collect, and so much more.
So this game got the combat right as well as the story and visuals. Also, being an action/adventure game, it also has the exploration part down too with plenty of climbing and platforming while traversing the environment. Not to mention the countless collectables scattered throughout the island, thus rewarding you for your exploration. Unfortunately, if there's one negative I had with the gameplay portion, it's the tombs themselves. Yeah, sounds pretty disappointing when the worst part of a game called "TOMB Raider" is the tombs themselves. The problem is there is literally just nothing too them. There are only 7, you have to solve one puzzle for each (neither of them that challenging either) and the rewards are usually small. It seems as though this was their last concern which is really too bad. The rest of the gameplay, as said, is done extremely well, but for a game with tomb in the name, it's fair to expect more though put into the actual TOMBS.
I feel I must also take this time to warn you; don't get this game if you a little squeamish. The deaths in this game are pretty brutal. For instance, watching Lara getting crushed by a rock, pelted with arrows or stabbed through the neck with a sharp piece of wood can be a little hard to watch. It definitely gives you even more reason to survive and not let Lara die, that's for sure.
Surprisingly, there is a multiplayer mode added to the reboot as well. Unfortunately, the multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired. It works well enough, I haven't suffered too many technical issues like lag or glitches, but there isn't really anything special about it. Just 5 standard game modes on like 5 maps. That's not to say it doesn't do anything interesting though. For instance, setting traps for your opponents like lightning rods or snares was a neat idea, but that's really about it. The multiplayer does feel a bit tacked on and unnecessary. A game like this could have benefited from a separate co-op campaign instead, or maybe something else besides shooting everyone that moves (maybe rock climbing races?).
Let's be honest though, multiplayer isn't the reason to buy this otherwise successful reboot. The single player campaign is beyond excellent. It doesn't do too much to innovate the genre but when it does something well, it REALLY does it well. With such a beautiful and diverse setting, great character development, and strong gameplay, this is definitely the updated reboot that the Tomb Raider franchise has been longing for.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/22/13
Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 03/05/13)
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