Over the past decade we’ve seen many forms of Lara Croft. From her many escapades spanning across two console generations, to her two feature film outings, it might seem like Crystal Dynamics had her personality on lock.
This being said, leave it to them to throw a monkey-wrench in the mix and create one of the greatest reboots this industry has ever seen. This is a new and improved, believably human and mortal Lara. She becomes a true survivor in this adventure, and any gamer would be just downright stupid to miss out on it.
The first hour or so of Tomb Raider is rife with industry staples from QTEs to heavily scripted environment scenes a-la Uncharted or Call of Duty. This may come as a turn off to some, but those gamers should rest assured that once the story gets rolling, the game opens up into what we’ve been promised all along.
Camilla Luddington lends an unbeatable performance as Lara, and because of this one of Tomb Raider’s most jarring flaws comes to life. Nearly every other character that Lara will encounter is either stereotyped to a nausea inducing degree, or they fall flat with B-Movie level performances and poorly delivered lines.
Lara is surrounded by her friends nearly the entire journey through the island they’re stranded on, but due to the disparity of characterization between Lara and everyone else, you may start to feel alone. Somehow, though Crystal Dynamics uses Lara’s innocence and humanity to push the plot forward into an action packed and emotional survival tale that will keep you firmly planted at the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Despite the many gameplay videos and trailers showing a gun wielding bad-ass, it’s quite a bit of time before Lara receives her first gun. Before you get alarmed, it’s honestly a good thing that this happens. The plot heavy intro takes some time to get through, but it’s worth it because you really get to know this new and improved Lara.
Throughout the single player portion of Tomb Raider, you’ll be presented with a slew of weapons that will help you pick off your enemy one by one. The shooting is solid from the get-go, and the bow and arrow represents itself as a solid rival to Far Cry 3.
To keep things from getting too stale, you’ll be collecting salvage (currency) as you explore which can be used to upgrade your weapons at the bonfires that litter the island. The bonfires act as a sort of safe-zone where you can spend skill points to upgrade Lara’s abilities, and trade in weapon parts for more powerful guns. When you use salvage to upgrade your weapons, the change will be noticeable with each part you acquire.
Climbing is definitely one of the game’s standout features. Lara moves fluidly and gracefully in the face of sudden death, and your heart will definitely skip a beat when she slips and you have only a split second to save her.
Some of my favorite parts of the game were the secret tombs scattered around the island. They are highly reminiscent of the Assassin’s Tombs in Assassin’s Creed II, but the platforming is masterful and the puzzles are cleverly implemented and never feel too hard. It’s refreshing to take a break from the story sometimes and the tombs help remind you that Lara is an exceptional archaeologist at heart.
One of the more awkward parts of the game is when Lara has to finally start searching for some medicine. The problem I had was that throughout the game, Lara get’s utterly destroyed at every turn, but due to regenerating health she always comes out okay. During this part, however she goes into “almost dead” mode from the shortest jump. If the game utilized health packs, this would have made a little more sense.
Aiding the weirdness is the fact that at the very beginning, there is a scene where you’ll hunt a deer. I got extremely excited at the idea that I would have to manage Lara’s energy and hunt to survive. This turned out to be completely underutilized. Hunting is done for tiny salvage bonuses, and that’s about it. It’s a minor gripe, but since the game makes its missing features a tad apparent, it had to be mentioned.
The multiplayer portion of the game is mostly a waste of time. It feels tacked on and it doesn’t do really much of anything original to keep your attention for very long. When you get a few friends together it provides a few hours of fun at most. It’s sad to see that the multiplayer is the only thing receiving post-launch support in the form of map-packs because it is surely the biggest disappointment in the game.
The biggest improvement overall to the Tomb Raider series is definitely in the Graphics department. On consoles, the game is one of the best looking to come out this generation. On PC, though the game feels truly at home. The effects are absolutely stunning, especially on a high-rez monitor. The game is fairly easy to run, too. I took it on with an EVGA GTX 460, 4GB of Ram and an 8-Core AMD Processor and I had no problem running it at very close to its highest settings.
The first time you look out from a cliff to see the destroyed ship that you used to travel on, there is an instant sense of wonder that makes you feel completely insignificant. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Character models are crisp and environments are believably beautiful. Additionally, the lighting is some of the best you’ll ever see. Play this game at the highest resolution possible, there is no way you’ll be disappointed.
The soundtrack is an emotional aid to an already heart-wrenching story and voice acting is top notch. The guns also sound great and there isn’t really much to complain about when it comes to the sound.
Crystal Dynamics has done masterful work in reimagining Lara Croft. The story is extremely well-written and highly emotional. Despite some characterization flaws, the story stays on track for the vast majority of Lara’s romp through the island. You’d be hard pressed to find a better action game to play this year, and you definitely shouldn’t sit this one out.
Written by Guest Reviewer: RandomHero1270