Review by Galactus21

"The maturation process of a Tomb Raider"

After nearly 2 decades since Lara Croft's initial debut and multiple adventures later, the series received a reboot from Crystal Dynamics. The reboot featured a greener Lara. Gone was the seasoned explorer. Instead a vulnerable individual who seems unsure of herself is presented. As the game progresses however, one can witness Lara's maturation from vulnerability to savvy adventurer. With the constant traumatizing events Lara must endure, she grows up quickly before the viewers' eyes. Lara's plight, growth and maturation process certainly drew me into the atmosphere of the game. Lara's enduring charisma, couple with the game's rock solid game play made Tomb Raider an enjoyable experience from start to finish.

During the onset of the game, the premise of the story revolves around Lara and her ship mates in search of Yamatai, a hidden gem for adventurers. Things quickly take a turn for worse, with Lara's ship crashing and sinking, leaving the crew stranded on a mysterious island. In the ensuing mayhem, Lara finds herself segregated from her ship mates and quickly experiencing severe duress. Lara and her crew mates quickly find out that they are not the only inhabitants on the island as things begin to unravel. The story is relatively simple and straightforward, but it does a good job of aligning with the fictitious world that has been created.

Comparing Lara's character from the beginning against the one towards the middle or even end of the game showcases her maturation from an unsure and frightened individual to a beastly tactician. Her growth as an individual during the game is evident by the one liner she slings towards her attackers, egging them to bring it. Lara isn't the only one that progresses, as enemies quickly realize her prowess in weaponry and attacks are a far cry from the pushover during their initial clashes.

The core of Tomb Raider's game play is a mixture of firefights, stealth, platforming, and QTE segments. While some areas were certainly stronger than others, the core game play areas were rock solid. During firefights, Lara has several weapons at her disposal. Most enjoyable I found was the utilization of the bow and arrow. After a few minutes with it, the bow felt naturally. I was able to pull the bow back with some major torque before putting arrows in my enemies' heads with deadly accuracy. Fire arrows are eventually an option as well. Moreover, the bow acts as a mechanism for Lara to link between far reaching landscapes, which at times are separated by a steep drop.

Other weapons at Lara's disposal include the pistol, shotgun, and rifle. Using these remaining weapons felt fluid, but didn't feel quite as cool as wielding a bow and arrow. With that said however, I found the game to force you to use a particular weapon in certain instances. In scenarios where I found myself facing multiple enemies closing in, the rifle was an optimal approach to the firefight. In that sense, the game does a fantastic job in blending things together. Additionally, Lara's swiftness in switching between weapons played a key role in the solid game play. Enemies from afar were picked apart by the rifle. As enemies closed in during the hectic firefights, Lara could quickly pull out the shotgun and unleash a world of hurt upon her foes.

Aside from some of the hectic and fun firefights, there are certain situations where Lara can utilize different methods, such as environmental and stealth attacks. On quite a few occasions, I found it just as enjoyable to sneak up and enemy than a full on assault. Additionally, Lara can also use the environment to her advantage, such as shooting an exploding barrel to wipe out numerous enemies. One gripe however, is the game's covering system. Lara will get into a duck and cover position when closing in on objects during a fire fight. At times, I went into cover when I did not intend to. I would have preferred a different scheme; one that required pressing a button to get into cover.

Despite the various options to take down enemies, the game's well placed platforming helps break up the action and provide variation to the game. Platforming typically consisted of jumping from various ledges or scaling and climbing walls. These actions were performed with simple commands through the button interface. The platforming was fairly straightforward, but effective in keeping things fresh during the action sequences. QTEs in Tomb Raider were a bit of a different story. While I didn't mind some of the QTE sequences, there were parts that felt force. For instance, this usually cropped up during the opening of doors or when Lara nearly falls off a ledge.
The game also allows the player to accumulate various points to upgrade weapons or skills. By doing so, Lara can gain new moves to utilize. Of course the game wouldn't be complete without actual tomb raiding. While there were not many tomb raids in the game, the few that were present were fun. To receive the treasure in the tomb, Lara typically had to solve a puzzle. Some of the puzzles were easy, while others took a bit more time.

From a presentation standpoint, Tomb Raider was no pushover. During a later portion of the game, the sheer beauty of the graphics was truly displayed. As I stared far into the landscape during this portion of the game, the sharp detail was simply gorgeous. Character models and animation looked great. Cut scenes were breathtaking and helped enhance the story being told. Not to be outdone however, the voice acting was superb. From Lara Croft to other members of the cast, the voicing felt appropriate for the situation.

Tomb Raider is not without its flaws, but the end product is a great attempt at rebooting the franchise. Lara's transformation that was witness throughout the game enhanced the solid game play throughout. The various options and game play elements kept Tomb Raider fresh throughout. The stellar presentation was icing on the cake, as Tomb Raider is a fantastic experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I put in with Tomb Raider. I highly recommend this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/05/13

Game Release: Tomb Raider (US, 03/05/13)

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