Game: Tomb Raider
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Before starting this review I think I need to make one thing clear. The Lara Croft in this Tomb Raider game is nothing like any Lara we have ever seen before -she’s young, naive, fresh out of University and looking to make her mark on her world. When the game begins she is with a ragtag collective of treasure hunters, deck hands, archeologists, friends and filmmakers as she sets out in search of the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai aboard the good ship Endurance. Unfortunately for her and everyone on board the ship isn’t that enduring under the intense pressure of super natural storms which promptly wreck the ship on a mysterious, isolated island. Within a few minutes it’s clear that you’re not the only unfortunate souls to be stranded here though, there are many others, all zealous worshipers of the Sun Queen, desperate to get back to civilisation, just like you, and they’ll kill anyone who interferes with their plans.
And so the game begins.
From here on out it’s an intense survival experience for Lara, where she will have to adapt quickly, be resourceful and critically, kill or be killed. You guide Lara on a painful and terrifying journey to becoming a legend. Along the way you’ll pick up multiple new skills and weapons including a longbow, pistol, machine gun and shotgun, everything a young women needs in her handbag.
The island is broken up in to a dozen or so areas, each centering around a makeshift camp, all filled with optional objectives. The more you progress and the more keen you are to find collectables and hunt animals the more salvage and experience you’ll earn. This can be used in turn to upgrade your weapons and learn new abilities such as throwing dirt in the eyes of your enemies then impaling their legs with arrows, before smashing their stupid face in with a rock. Put simply the upgrade system wonderful, and really exemplifies Lara’s progression from innocent schoolgirl to hardened adventurer. Most of these abilities and upgrades can be purchased in almost any order too, allowing you to tailor your Lara to your play style a little.
And as Lara evolves, so does the Island. The island is entirely open world and if you want you can travel the entire length of the island without ever seeing one loading screen., which I personally loved doing as the island is a beautifully crafted world with surprises around every corner. What makes it so great to explore is the centuries of shipwrecks, ruins, shanty towns and wartime outposts that have accumulated over time thanks to the paranormal storms that shipwrecked and imprisoned so many poor souls.
One of the best parts about the game is the way that the game transitions from area to area; sometimes you’ll be swimming through swamps, climbing mountains while enemies try to kill you with rock slides and running for your life across burning bridges and crumbling rooftops. It’s ll incredibly cinematic and dramatically ups the tension. There are a number of quick time events to keep you on your toes and make moving to a new area exciting. Your often presented will multiple ways to transverse through areas too depending on the equipment you have, interesting features like rope arrows give you more freedom of movement, while well placed arrows can cause environmental damage, effortlessly clearing out a large group of enemies, if you chose to use them. It’s a lot like a platformer really, there’s defiantly a lot of climbing involved but nowhere near as much as previous Tomb Raider games, it’s familiar gameplay with a refreshing twist.
One slight downside to the focus on cinematic gameplay is that there are significantly fewer tombs to raid in this latest reboot. Previous instalments had you solving huge, complex and often frustrating puzzles, which some people loved. The latest tombs however are significantly dumbed down by comparison, requiring a lot less time and effort to solve while still being highly enjoyable and whats more, yielding helpful rewards. Solving a hidden tomb reveals locations of other collectables in the area, allowing you to boost your experience points and collect extra salvage for upgrades. Additional tombs could certainly be available in DLC form and hopefully extensions to the island. Despite how incredibly enjoyable this reboot is, after fast traveling between all the different areas, collecting everything and one hundred percenting the game, I felt there wasn’t much left for me to do, except hunt rabbits and shoot seagulls. Unfortunately but that’s only entreating for so long…
The biggest highlight of the whole game is Lara, she’s a fantastic character who you really root for, with great voice acting from Camilla Luddington, and a story you can really sink your teeth into. The supporting cast do a great job too, you’ll bump into them every now, saving them from death many times, but they have a habit of walking off to search other areas of the island or getting themselves captured, conveniently leaving Lara to fend for herself again.
There is Multiplayer of course, as is the standard these days, that too is a fun and challenging addition but quite obviously taking inspiration from the online mode in the Uncharted series. Modes on offer include the obligatory Team Deathmatch and Free for All, with more original objective-based modes like Cry for Help, being the most enjoyable. There are five maps available from the start, with more planned as DLC. Each map is based on areas from the single player, offering unique traps and devices to help get kills. Breakable doors and zip lines, plus the ability to rock climb make things a little more interesting but on the whole it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill multiplayer. If you’re the sort of player that doesn’t like unlocking new gear you can use the in-game micro transactions to buy your way into levelling up, earning new weapons and characters too but I don’t think it’s worth it, as the game generously awards experience points even if you’re losing.
At the time of writing the multiplayer mode is a bit glitchy, suffering from lag and unresponsive controls from time to time, but that should be patched out fairly quickly.
Good Points: Beautiful Visuals, engaging story and rewarding gameplay that never stops being fun.
Bad Points: Enemy A.I is too predictable, a few too many cliches, not enough Tombs to Raid
Advice: If you liked any previous Tomb Raider games or even Uncharted, you’ll absolutely adore Tomb Raider. I would argue that Tomb Raider is a more significant game for Xbox 360 owners who, until now, have not had a game that is so similar to the PS3 exclusive (and excellent) Uncharted series.