Tomb Raider Review
Re-invented, and it feels so good.
Series “reboots” are all the rage these days, in games and in film, and often they feel quite unnecessary. One such re-imagining I have been excited to see, however, is Tomb Raider. This is one series that was begging for more realistic characters, not to mention a more intense story, which is what excited me so much the first time I saw this new entry in the series. Whether you’re a long time fan, or you’ve been drawn in by Tomb Raider’s new look, one thing is for sure; you’ll love the new Lara.
Tomb Raider joins a young Lara Croft as she embarks on one of her first expeditions, to find a lost civilization and uncover its secrets. As luck would have it, she and the rest of the crew are shipwrecked on an island that isn’t exactly happy to see them. Neither are its inhabitants, as you’ll soon find yourself under attack by a group of hostile bandits. Raiding tombs quickly becomes secondary to staying alive, and reassembling your crew.
The setting is a sight to behold, whether you’re deep in the jungle, or creeping through an abandoned village clinging to the side of a mountain, everything is highly detailed. Small streams, large waterfalls, dynamically shifting landscapes and waving grass make the island feel like it is alive even though it is filled with ancient and modern ruins.
A great deal of your time in Tomb Raider will be spent climbing around the various environments in what is one of the best 3D platforming experiences out there. At first it will feel much like climbing buildings in an Assassin’s Creed game, but Crystal Dynamics have mixed in a number of unique elements to add a real sense of challenge to getting from one place to another. Most of the tombs Lara will be raiding come in the form of optional, secret, areas that can be found if you know how to look for the signs. These usually present themselves as some sort of a platforming puzzle, where the main game sticks mainly to the suspenseful kind of climbing which is a nice contrast.
Combat is fairly standard, third-person shooter, fare and you’ll be able to augment your skills and weapons by collecting salvage and parts as you explore each area. The starting area, along with some of the skills available for upgrade, will lead you to believe that hunting animals for food is a big part of the game. However, the design team seem to have abandoned this idea soon after the starting section, so I wouldn’t spend too many points upgrading any of those skills. The first hour, or so, of the campaign will also feel quite linear but this section serves to set up the story and characters, and players will find themselves with a much longer leash for the rest of the game.
The story of Tomb Raider is decent, and the characters are backed by a solid cast of voice actors, but my favorite part of the game is the new Lara. Not only do we get to see her develop into an adventurer, from an ambitious, hands-on archaeologist, and how she deals with adversity, but we get to see a much more relatable character. Lara does venture into super-heroine territory, in terms of how much punishment she seems to be able to endure, but she pulls off being tough without having to act tough. While she was still designed with sex appeal in mind, the new Lara at least looks like a woman that dresses herself in the morning, instead of having a teenage boy pick out her wardrobe for her.
From start to finish, the Tomb Raider campaign provides a great mix of story, platforming, exploration, and combat. Whether you want to blow through for the story, or explore each area for every collectible, you’ll have a great time with Tomb Raider.
Surprisingly, Tomb Raider does have a competitive multiplayer mode. I’m right there with you, if you were thinking this was probably one of the least necessary features in a new Tomb Raider game. While the game doesn’t exactly translate well into competitive multiplayer, with the third-person controls being a little tight for the pace you tend to run at in multiplayer games, some of the maps make this mode fun.
Peppered with zip lines, traps, and plenty of other features to keep things interesting, the maps come out as the bright spot on an otherwise mediocre multiplayer suite. There are upgrades, unlocks, and a general progression system but I would be surprised if anyone sticks around for more than a few matches before heading back to their favorite online shooter.
Leaving off a multiplayer offering that was just OK, Tomb Raider is well worth your time. The detailed visuals ensure that you can’t ignore the interesting, and creative, environments of the areas and tombs you’ll visit. The new version of Lara is much easier to relate to, without trying to seem too normal; she’s still a super-hero, she just looks and acts like much more regular person this time. Tomb Raider is exactly how a series should go about being reborn.
Available On: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC