“Tomb Raider” (2013 video game) review

Tomb Raider for PS3/360/PC

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Imagine the structure you’re standing on starts collapsing after you’ve single-handedly defeated a team of heavily armed cultists. What if during that collapse you manoeuvre your way to safety while the enemies around you fall to their deaths? During this time the music is intense and your heart is pounding as you time button presses carefully to avoiding certain death. That’s what it’s like to play Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider is yet another reboot of the Tomb Raider series that began with Tomb Raider in 1996. My prior experience with this franchise consists of almost nothing at all so I look at this fresh take with even fresher eyes. Fresh.

Crystal Dynamic’s reboot is meant to be an origin story focused on a younger Lara to help us understand how she became a “survivor”. In reality, you see how Lara becomes a cold blooded killer. As I understand in the other games, Lara is as cocky and confident as you can imagine. This time they toned down both her cockiness and her boobiness but did not hesitate in upping the violence and tension.

The story begins with Lara aboard the ship Endurance on her first expedition to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai. She convinces the crew to enter the Dragon’s Triangle where the ship is split in two by a strong storm, leaving the crew stranded on an island. Much of the game involves finding out the mysteries of the island and the people living on it, and of course figuring out a way to escape.

This is a third person action adventure game and the gameplay involves Lara wondering around the island, puzzle solving, collecting, combat and parkour sections. At times it is one near-death experience after another.

The controls are very good and I never got annoyed with them once during the entire game. I liked that during shootouts when Lara walks to cover she takes cover automatically, unlike in Gears of War when you have to press a button to glue yourself to cover. It makes the combat feel incredibly smooth and fun.

You learn new abilities and collect several weapons during the quest and these can be upgraded after you collect salvage, XP, skill points and weapon parts. And there’s a TON of hidden stuff to find. You can choose to upgrade in whatever order you choose. When I finished the game I still had a couple of upgrades left, so the game mechanics never feel stale. There’s a “Survival Instincts” ability, which is a form of vision, where the landscape turns monochrome and your destination, enemies and objects of interest are highlighted in the area. It’s a very useful skill that’s similar to “Eagle Vision” in Assassin’s Creed II and “Detective Vision” in Batman Arkham Asylum.

There are tombs to raid, but almost all of them are optional that contain one puzzle to solve. All the puzzles in out of the tombs are relatively simple. I set the game’s combat on hard, and it still wasn’t very difficult. I never had to consult GameFAQs once, which is an achievement for me.

Camilla Luddington’s performance as Lara is incredibly well done and the way the plot and each section of the game unravels and flows into each other feels almost perfect. It’s enhanced by magnificent graphics and awesome sound design to immerse players. This game doesn’t feel too long or too short, and while it’s not difficult, it never feels too easy. It flows so well and the action sequences feel like interactive movies.

There’s a multiplayer mode and it’s good but not great. It’s online only and allows you to pick from two factions. It’s essentially a third person shooter. It’s fun yes, but also feels unfinished and added as an afterthought.

Despite a few minor hiccups with the plot and an uninteresting multiplayer, the single-player portion of the game is extremely well polished. The graphics, the sound design, Lara’s characterisation and the gameplay are all great. It’s so good, that I have no idea how on earth Crystal Dynamics are going to top this in a sequel.

I give this game an excellent score of 5/5.

 

 

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