Whether you are a fan of the old series or a newcomer, Tomb Raider is a great survival experience that anyone can get behind.
A popular trend in the media right now is taking old franchises and either give them a reboot or remake. Now some of these are well done, but others fall flat. I can say with certainty that not only does Tomb Raider fall into the former category, but it is one of the best games I have played so far in 2013. When I first played the original Tomb Raider at my cousin’s house in 1996, I was introduced to Lara Croft and really enjoyed it in more ways than one. Then she was a buxom superstar who was an expert in her field, basically a female Indiana Jones. However over time, she became less and less popular and her games were just not the same. So like all things that were once popular, she called for a reboot and not just any kind of reboot, a gritty reboot. People now more than ever don’t want superstar heroes, they want a hero who has to face an overwhelming amount of odds. Gritty Reboots are the most popular form of reboots, just look at how many movies and games have been receiving the gritty reboot recently, examples include DmC, The Amazing Spider-Man, and even the upcoming Man of Steel. The new Tomb Raider does go full on gritty, but it does so in an amazing fashion.
The Tomb Raider stars a young Lara Croft who is part of an expedition to search for the lost civilization of Yamatai. However things go wrong as a storm causes their boat to sink and strand Lara and her group on a mysterious island that holds many secrets. Lara is quickly captured by a mysterious man as she approached her fellow survivors. She then wakes up in some sort of ritual chamber, suspended upside down next to a few skeletons. She is able to escape and soon she is forced to make her way through the island both discovering its secrets and also trying to find a way save her fellow expedition mates and get off the island. Oh boy does Lara suffer, in this game. Throughout the game she receives her fair share of scrapes and bruises. The player roots for Lara, as she is just an ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances. As she learns to adapt an survive, she grows from this naive reluctant woman, into this badass heroine who kicks all kinds of ass. Not only is the story of this Lara amazing, the character development in this game is amazing as well.
As stated before, Lara in this game is not an expert tomb explorer, but a young and upcoming archeologist. She is accompanied by her best friend Sam, her mentor Conrad Roth, the ship’s mechanic Joslyn Reyes, Alex a computer geek extraordinary, fisherman Jonah Maiava, Angus “Grim” Grimaldi, the helmsman of the ship, and the failing reality tv show star and archeologist Dr. James Whitman. Now instead of long drawn out exposition, the player learns about how this crew came together as Lara looks through Sam’s camera as she was filming the crews adventures before the horrible crash. Now while on the island Lara runs into several of her crew mates as, well as mysterious strangers. A great example of the character development in this game, is the relationship between Lara and Roth. He is like a surrogate father figure to her, having known the Croft family for years. The relationship on screen is so real and you can really feel how much he cares for her, like she was his daughter. I was quite surprised how well the characters are developed in this game.
While the story and character development are well done, so is the gameplay. The controls for this game are simple and intuitive. One of the flaws of the original games was that the controls were quite clunky and multiple times I would find myself fighting the camera angles. Not once in this rendition of Tomb Raider did I find myself fighting with the camera, as it oriented itself quite well as I ran through the various platform sections. Oh boy did I love the platforming in this game. Most of the sections are well done and surprisingly on the more cinematic sections, I wouldn’t even realize I should be moving as I thought it was all part of a cutscene. I liked the good mix of omg I’m running for my life and ok where do I go next. Another well done aspect of this game is the combat system. Being an archer myself it is cool to see Lara trade in her former trademark pistols for a bow and arrow. Lara in this game fights her various enemies, be they man, wild, or other, with a bow, pistol, shotgun, machine gun or ice axe. The different environments and amazingly well done cover system lend to many dynamic fights.
For example, one of the combat sections I enjoyed, was when Lara is suspended upside down from a snare trap and has to fight of a group of islanders. The game also has a level up system where Lara can learn different skills, for combat, hunting, and survival. By the end of the game most players will have all her abilities unlocked as experience is easy to come by in this game. Lara earns experience from solving puzzles, making progress, hunting, killing her enemies, and of course from raiding tombs. Raiding the various tombs throughout the game was one of the best parts of the game as each had it’s own unique theme and challenge to it. In addition to the tombs are various artifacts, journal entries, gps caches and challenges scattered throughout the island. The artifacts and entries reveal a little about the islands history. The caches and challenges give exp upon completion. Lara can also find salvage scattered throughout the island that she can use to upgrade her equipment. In fact there is very little wrong with the gameplay, the only thing I could say that needs improvements were the emphasis on quick time events. That is only one small aspect of the game though. Also there is a Survival Instinct that kinda of acts like Eagle Vision from Assassins Creed that makes some of the puzzle elements of the game a little easy. I should also mention that there is a multiplayer element to this game, however it is very generic and not really worth playing.
Let me tell you about the amazing visuals! Man oh man, were they breathtaking. I was playing on the PS3, but I could only imagine them being absolutely stunning on the PC. The environments this game presents are simply jaw dropping. The grand shots establish a sense of grandeur about the island and the small up close shots convey a sense of claustrophobia as Lara struggles to get through the nooks and crannies of a dark dank cavern. As stated earlier the tombs were some of the best parts of this game. Not only was i excited to solve the mysterious of each one, but I was also excited by the prospects of what they would look like. Not once in this game was I disappointed in the visuals and was always excited to see the new environments.
Overall I recommend this game for any fan of a good adventure game. After this massive success, I look forward to this new Lara and her upcoming adventures.
Version Reviewed: Playstation 3