Review by parkourboybryan
Lara's back, and she's better than ever.
Tomb Raider is a reboot of the popular Action Adventure series, looking to tell not only a revival origin story of the famed archaeologist Lara Croft, but doing so while moving the series forward at the same time. Does it succeed? Yes on all fronts.
Story: 9/10. This game tells the story of a young and inexperienced 21 year old Lara Croft as she goes on her first expedition fresh out of University. She's searching for the lost kingdom of Yamatai, located off the coasts of Japan. Accompanying her is a multitude of characters, Sam (Lara's Best Friend), Conrad Roth (A Father Figure), Dr. Whitman (The Greedy Snob), and a whole entourage of a cast. Without spoilers, I can say that the story is very good, if not a little predictable at certain portions. There are a couple of huge twists, one that's easy to see coming from a mile away, but the ending is so satisfying that you often forgive these missteps. Lara's character arc is written so well and her voice actress, Camilla Luddington, is so effective at making her seam real that it helps to absorb you into the story. With her being written so well, her supporting characters can seem a little shallow, with perhaps the exception of Roth and Sam, but Camilla's performance as Croft is so convincing that you'll easily forgive any shortcomings amongst the rest of the cast.
Graphics: 10/10. I'm not joking around when I say that this is the best looking console video game of all time, PS3 or 360. The attention to detail is so profound that it makes the environments look extremely realistic, with expert usage of shaders and weather effects to enhance the presentation. Lara is animated beautifully thanks to the extensive usage of Motion Capture technology, and the game manages to look marvelous while having such a large scale to work with. Fire and water effects are handled flawlessly and look almost lifelike. There's almost no aliasing to speak of, and the game runs at a smooth 30fps with no noticeable bouts of slowdown. It's a masterpiece as far as technical achievements are concerned.
Sound: 9/10. Like I said earlier in the review, Lara's voice acting is impeccable, and really makes her a believable character at heart, and while with the exception of Roth and Sam, the other main characters seem a little one-dimensional with their voices. Lara eclipses all of it though, and gives the writing a high score for that alone. The music in this game is astonishingly good as well. The soundtrack was composed by famous musician Jason Graves, and he composed a new main theme for the series along with several masterful pieces that will be heard throughout the game. The songs are great at expressing the overall tone of the game as well, and do much to evoke emotions from the player. Overall: Amazing.
Part 1: Gear Gates and Skill Points. Now we get to the part everyone cares about. How does the game play? In short beautifully. It's one of if not the best single player games I've ever played. Before we get to the actual gameplay sections, I must mention the gear gate and RPG elements. Without spoiling, I can say that Lara upgrades her tools and Arsenal with a multitude of items, and you will be well equipped for almost anything in the later areas of the game. Lara starts out with very few skills, but as the game goes on, you can collect salvage and experience points that you can use to upgrade your move set and weapons, making you more adept in platforming and combat.
Part 2: Puzzles and Platforming. Lara controls very smoothly, and although inexperienced, she moves through her environment with such grace that platforming looks and feels masterful. Unlike other platforming games of its kind, it is possible to fail a jump in this game if it's mistimed, and the game makes you think about where to go and how to get there. During high octane sequences, this game takes on more of an "Uncharted" feel and tries to pump your adrenaline gland with lots of explosions, downhill death slides and collapsing environments. These are a great distraction from the platforming sections and give you such a rush when they are successfully navigated through. In the beginning hours of the game, there are a lot of QuickTime events that are tied to actions in the story, and they help to define Lara's character. Thankfully, they never overstay their welcome, and quickly diminish in amount as the game goes on. Now onto the puzzle solving spots in Tomb Raider. You will come across quite a few puzzles throughout the main game that provide a significant challenge to solve, but you really feel at home when you find a challenge tomb. These 7 (8 if you've preordered from GameStop) challenge tombs are frequently found throughout the island, and in exchange for solving some of their ingenious puzzles, you get rewarded with a rather large chunk of XP. These tombs represent the core experience of Tomb Raider's past, but these moments are in effect in the main game, albeit a lot less frequently.
Part 3: Combat. Now on to TR's other half, the Combat. It is handled extremely well in this game. Gone are the days of auto aim akimbo shooting while doing backflips in tandem, this game incorporates a free aim and cover mechanic. The aiming is sharp, and the guns handle as well as they would in any other game. The cover mechanic is great as well. Instead of pushing a button, Lara will automatically take cover behind any object while in combat, and will back away from it with just a flick of the analog stick. Enemies are smart in this game as well, often trying to flank or flush Lara out of cover with a multitude of explosives. When these enemies get close, that's when the evade and Melee components come in. Lara can "scramble" with a tap of the B button, and soon learns to dive roll with a double press. Eventually you will gain skills that will make you adept in Melee combat, allowing you to dispatch your enemies in brutal ways. It's a great step forward for the series.
Overall: As far as this game goes, this is quite possibly the best Action Adventure game I've played, its got a great story, astounding music and marvelous graphics, and the gameplay not only is a step forward for the series, it sets a new standard for the Action Adventure genre that new games will need to follow in the steps of. A few small missteps from support characters do nothing to detract from this masterpiece of a game. If you're a Tomb Raider fan, you will love this game. And if Lara Croft has fallen off your radar recently or you never really cared for this game, now is definitely the time to take a second look. Only one question remains, how in the hell are Crystal Dynamics going to top this game in the inevitable Sequel?
Author's Note: This review only applies to the single player portion of the game, I will post a review of the multiplayer modes when I've spent more time with it.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tomb Raider (EU, 03/05/13)
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