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Published April 4, 2013

Tomb Raider (Finally) Game Review

I have never played a Tomb Raider game before in my life. All I knew about the series was that Lara Croft was one of the first sex symbols in video games for being a busty, hot pants wearing, duel welding bad ass. So I can say with no nostalgia or connection to the previous games that the Tomb Raider reboot is really good.

It’s nice to approach a reboot with no experience with the series unlike the previous two reboots I have reviewed this year. Tomb Raider might be the best game I have played since Batman Arkham City and coming from me, that means a lot. This game does an amazing job of giving rebirth to the character of Lara Croft with dignity and showing us how she became the way Tomb Raider fans have always known her.

Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job creating a beautiful adventure game and creating a strong start to a new Tomb Raider series.

I was considering whether or not I should do a review for this game since main stream game reviewers have been putting out reviews for this over a month now. But after playing it I feel I really should throw my two cents in there and since you’re reading this hopefully you do care what my opinion might be. That said, while I am very impressed with this game and really enjoyed it, but like everything in life; it’s not perfect so let’s take a closer look.

 

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STORY:

The young Lara Croft has set out on her first expedition with some of her close friends to find the lost island of Yamatai, an ancient country of Japan which they believe to be located in the Dragon’s Triangle (which is the Pacific version of the Bermuda Triangle). Their ship is caught in a sudden storm and cashes into an island.Lara washes up on shore to see most of the crew has survived only to get knocked out and captured moments later. When she comes to, she makes the horrifying discovery that this island is inhabited by insane cult who worships the ancient queen of Yamatai and is trapped on the island. Lara must now do everything she can to survive, save her friends and figure out the mysteries of this dangerous island.

While the story seems simple at first, it actually gets surprisingly deep and becomes very interesting as you try to figure out the island’s mystery. I won’t spoil it but it left me guessing for about 70% of the game. You find out more clues by collecting the many letters that can be found across the island. Unlike other games where finding letters and documents to read to get more insight to the story, which is rather boring by the way, in Tomb Raider, it’s actually very interesting. It helps that the letters are read to you with some great voice work and it’s clear that a lot of thought and research went into the story and setting by the developers. There are also some elements which really reminded me of Apocalypse Now, which is one of my favorite movies so it definitely scored some points there. But that’s not really the big focus of the game.

The focus is on Lara Croft and how she goes from being a kind of nerdy grad major in archaeology to becoming the ass kicking survivalist she has always been known as.

Lara goes through some rough stuff throughout this game. She gets all kinds of beat up,sees unspeakable horrors, and is forced to do things she never thought she would have to do. Thankfully, this is all handled and paced very well. It has some epic and triumphant moments that really make you connect with Lara as a character. This is not only done with the character development and voice acting but with Lara’s character model itself but I’ll get to that later.

Some people have complained that this game is short. Yes,maybe it’s short if you speed run the game, ignoring all the collectables,tombs to explore, and all the cute scenes. This game isn’t super long but it’s not super short either. It took me around five days to complete the main story and there is plenty of stuff in the game I have yet to find or explore. If you want to play through it and get a 100% it’ll take you awhile. The game also has a good ending that sets up the new series of Tomb Raider games. I can’t wait.

 

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GAMEPLAY:

First let’s look at the good and there is a lot of good. While the island isn’t completely open world, it does have a lot to explore. There are so many nooks and crannies to find the many relics, letters, weapon parts, tombs, and other collectibles throughout the game. You have an instinct mode that you can flip on to see collectibles and stuff you can interact with in the environment. It reminds me a lot of detective mode from the Batman Arkham games. The platforming used to explore is where this game gets really fun. It requires you to really think about how to reach a certain areas. Most of the time, this is easy enough but then there are the optional tombs that really put your plat forming puzzle skills to the test. By the way, solving the tombs is important to fully upgrade your weapons. Rock climbing, making zip lines, and traversing a cross the varied plat forms across the island made of old Japanese buildings and scrap from planes and ships becomes second nature and is a lot of fun with the game’s tight controls. Lara is a very good jumper. I guess she played some B-Ball in college.

The game’s combat is its other strong point in terms of gameplay. Lara gets a bow and arrow, hand gun, shotgun, and assault rifle throughout the game that are upgrade-able You acquire upgrades by finding scavenged parts all across the island and in the tombs. While all the weapons are fun to use, I found myself using the bow and arrow the most. What I also like about the weapons is that they have more than one function. The bow and arrow can be used to create zip lines or use fire arrows to burn away blocked paths. The shotgun and grenade launcher can blow open new paths.

The rock climbing ax is also a melee weapon. Combat itself is very fun once you get the hang of it.

It’s not like most shooters where you can run in and mow people down with no problem. You have to use stealth and be strategic when confronting enemies. If you go charging in shooting at everything, you’ll just get your ass handed to you. This can be frustrating at first but you aren’t thrown into the more difficult fights till later on so hopefully you’re comfortable by then. Lara also levels up and gains skills that improve various things from rock climbing speed, melee combat, finishing moves, ect. Once you have some of these unlocked, combat becomes much more fun.

Now to some of the things that I didn’t like: Quick Time Events.Over the past couple of years, I have really come to hate QTEs and sadly, Tomb Raider has them. I will say most of them are not too bad and happen not all that often but the ones that require you to hit a certain button at just the right time always messed me up. There was one part where I died five times in a row because I couldn’t get the timing right. However, I don’t find this to be a deal breaker as they can be in other games (Resident Evil 6) as these types of QTEs are pretty rare throughout the game. It also comes in the form of a dodge mechanic in combat but it’s easier to pull off then. So yeah, the QTEs can be frustrating but I’ve seen worse.

The rest of the game’s short comings mostly just come in the form of missed opportunities. There is a hunting mechanic but other than just getting some extra XP it’s rather pointless. The only time you have to hunt is for the tutorial and after that you don’t have to do it anymore. There are lots of games that have a hunting mechanic but I’ve only seen two that require you to hunt and do it more than once in order to progress through the game: Metal Gear Solid 3 and Far Cry 3.

It falls flat in Tomb Raider because Lara has regenerating health like most games these days. While Lara can’t take much punishment, all she has to do is get into cover for awhile to recover. Having to collect animal meat and use it to replenish a health bar (don’t see those too much these days anymore) would have added another element to the game instead of the all too common recover system. A body temperature mechanic would have been interesting to see as there are parts of the game where Lara is up in the mountains. I’m wondering how she did not freeze to death wearing that tank top up there. Once again, having to keep watch of how cold she got could have added another element to the survival theme they were going for.

Also there is no new game plus. You can go back to the island once you’ve beaten the game but there are no enemies to fight and it’s pretty much just if you want to collect everything in the game.

With the enemies missing, it makes things less interesting. I’d rather just try to collect everything again in another play through. One last bit of disappointment is the pointlessly tacked on multiplayer. It’s just a third person death match type thing. I have no interest in it. I find it kind of annoying that so many game developers think they need to shoe horn in a multiplayer mode when the single player is more than good enough.

 

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GRAPHICS AND SOUND:

This game is amazingly beautiful. It’s one of those games that you look at everything on the screen and marvel at its beauty. A lot of work went into the landscape of the island and levels designed around it. There are also some very graphic tombs littered with dead bodies. This is a very violent game by the way. Speaking of violence, Lara experiences some Resident Evil style death shere and there throughout the game if you fail certain sections and many of them are pretty graphic. I think the biggest technical achievement of this game is the character model of Lara though. The way Lara moves, acts and reacts to various environments and events in while game is very impressive. She moves like a real person. I’ve never seen anything like it really. It gives an excellent level of connection to the character.

The other characters look great as well but you can tell lots of extra care when into designing Lara. A friend of mine said the graphics on Lara were almost too good.

Excellent voice acting helps back up the great character designs. Camilla Luddington voices Lara for her first VA role in a video game and she does an amazing job with capturing the emotions that Lara goes through in this game. I look forward to hearing her reprise the role in the future. The music is fitting but nothing I am willing to go out and download to listen to in my spare time but it fits the Japanese island theme and has some powerful and epic moments as well.

Overall, Tomb Raider is an excellent reboot to a franchise I previously did not care about. It has its flaws but I do not feel that they bring the game down very much. I was originally planning to give this game 10 out of 10 but those damn QTEs really make it hard for me to honestly give it that high of a score. Regardless, this game is a must play for adventure fans and long time Tomb Raider fans. If you’ve never been interested in the series or never played it like me, this is a great place to start and the start of a promising new future for Lara Croft with lots of potential. This is a strong contender for game of the year. Thanks for reading and look for my next review on Injustice: Gods Among Us coming in a couple weeks. I will be reviewing Bioshock Infinite but sadly, due to financial reasons, it’s going to be awhile before I can get to it.

 

OVERALL: 9/10

 

PROS:

  • Excellent graphics and gameplay
  • Lara Croft’s character and character model are extremely impressive
  • Great story

CONS:

  • Some frustrating QTEs
  • Missed opportunities with the survival theme
  • Needlessly tacked on multiplayer

 

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  • Jack Campbell

    Gaming Nomad

  • I review various video games, sometimes movies, and other nerdly things. I'm just some guy on the internet but take into consideration my opinion as I am trying to find out if these forms of entertainment are worth your time and money. I'm also the head editor for the gaming section of the site. The primary consoles I cover are Playstation 3, 3DS, and (hopefully soon) Playstation 4. All my articles.

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