Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed by: Brady Ruiters
Gamers have always known Lara Croft to be a strong, tomb raiding, battle hardened British woman. However, we have never really seen Lara before she became that woman. Thankfully Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have given us an opportunity to see exactly what happened to mould her into what she is today.
Tomb Raider follows the story of Lara Croft, not the iconic woman, but more the inexperienced young lady who will become the Lara we know so well. The game opens up with Lara aboard a ship by the name of the Endurance. However, it is not long before the ship sails straight into a storm and is torn apart. Most of crew seem to make it to safety but Lara ends up separated from the group, gets knocked out and is taken captive. Lara will have to do whatever it takes to survive the various dangers of the island, uncover the sinister plans of the island’s inhabitants and ultimately find a way home. The story is enjoyable and has many ups and downs to experience. There are scary, sad and even some funny moments. The supporting characters aren’t very well developed so they can somewhat forgettable. Lara’s story will however, keep the player glued to their screen to see what the young lass might have to endure next. She becomes stronger as the game progresses and ultimately substantially more hardened. She gets shot at, thrown around, burnt and beaten. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this adventure alone was enough to mould her into the Lara we’ve known for so long. There was one thing that I found a little odd when it came to the narrative though; Lara’s first kill is a dramatic scene which traumatises her but shortly after that scene, she kills with no hesitation or emotional trauma. I can understand that in a situation such as hers, she’ll have to adapt quickly but it just seemed a little unrealistic. Other than that moment, the game is paced perfectly.
In previous Tomb Raider games, combat would usually consist of Lara jumping around in circles to avoid being attacked while firing off her dual handguns. Thankfully that is not the case this time around. Combat is great and can be done using a number of different weapons. The game plays very much like a third-person shooter during combat but thankfully it isn’t the run-of-the-mill cover-based shooter. Lara is still able to survive encounters when not taking cover by scrambling low to avoid getting shot; scrambling also helps players close the distance between Lara and an enemy without taking too much damage. However, not all encounters have to end in a shootout; Lara is able to practice some finesse by utilising close-quarter stealth attacks or attacking from a distance with the bow. Being a Tomb Raider game, climbing and exploring is a big part of the gameplay. Navigating the environment is a breeze and making giant leaps from one ledge to another is exhilarating. This is especially true when leaping to a climbable wall with nothing to support Lara but a climbing axe.
Nearly every action performed will reward the player with XP; after enough XP is collected, a skill point is earned. These skill points can be used to purchase abilities for Lara to use during the adventure. The upgrades include finding more salvage, climbing faster and better weapon handling. Weapons can also be upgraded by finding salvage and using it to purchase enhancements to improve handling or to add alternate firing modes. The upgrade system is really easy to use and always leave the player wondering which upgrade to purchase next.
Tomb Raider isn’t completely linear and gives the player some freedom to explore while rewarding them with opportunities to earn XP and salvage. There are also a number of artefacts and documents to be found, contributing to the story of the island’s past inhabitants.
Lara also has a Survival Instincts ability which can be activated by pushing a button; it turns the screen grey but highlights important objects such as climbable walls, explosive barrels, collectables and lanterns. This comes in handy when trying to find all the collectables on the island and is especially useful when fighting enemies taking cover in low light areas.
The game also features some optional tombs which can be raided for loot. However, getting to said loot requires the completion of a puzzle. These tombs are a nice break from the gunfights and puzzles aren’t too complicated either so players won’t be getting stuck on a single puzzle for hours, trying to find a solution.
There was a game-breaking glitch that I encountered during the second half of the game. After exploring a little too far and climbing something I shouldn’t have been able to climb, the story progressed past a point where I was supposed to get an important item in order to navigate the area, thus resulting in me being permanently stuck and forced to start the game over. It’s a frustrating occurrence and I sincerely hope that a patch is released very soon to fix this issue.
To increase replayability, the developers have added multiplayer to Tomb Raider. To be honest, it feels rather tacked on and the game probably could’ve have done without it. It does nothing new in terms of multiplayer, including Deathmatch and Objective-like match types. It can be fun for a few matches but this ultimately wears off thereafter.
Tomb Raider looks beautiful, during both cutscenes and in-game. Character models are incredibly detailed and it’s possible to see the emotions on the characters’ faces during the tense moments in the narrative. The same can be said for the environments as they are a joy to explore and navigate, with excellent lighting and textures contributing to the experience. Animation is also extremely realistic, making pretty much any movement by Lara look natural; this coupled with brilliant camera work makes it a pleasurable, somewhat cinematic experience.
Audio is definitely on par with the visuals in Tomb Raider as I felt that they really complimented each other. All sound effects sound as you would imagine them to sound; from gunshots to sharp objects piercing flesh, players will not find much fault here. Scoring also seems truly well done as the music in-game changes to suit the appropriate mood; this is especially true during the early parts of the game where Lara seems to have the odds stacked against her. The voice acting is very well done and Camilla Luddington does a fine job of voicing the young Lara. Her performance certainly makes you feel for Lara and what she is going through; the emotions, the vulnerability, the essence is captured so well and is in fact, truly believable.
Tomb Raider is a wonderful game that really captures the origin story of Lara Croft perfectly. It also doesn’t hurt that the game is really fun to play and Lara’s story is compelling enough to keep the player pushing on to see what might happen next. However, like all games, this one isn’t perfect and takes a bit of a knock due to its tacked on multiplayer, which wasn’t really necessary and a game breaking glitch that I have encountered. Other than those things, the game is fine example of what an origin story should be like and I think that it would be a great addition to a gamer’s collection.
Reviewed predominantly on the PlayStation 3.