Oh, Lara Croft. One of the earliest examples of hot female protagonists, and yet one of the poster children for franchises that just needed a good kick in the pants in needing to just take a break and put on a new pair of shoes. For a while, the Tomb Raider franchise was highly praised, but as the franchise went on, let us just say that things didn’t look good for Lara. She couldn’t just survive by good looks alone. Sure, the franchise did get a good facelift when the downloadable entry, Guardian of Light was released in 2010, and is one of the best downloadable games around. However, I have already reviewed that game! Let us move on to today’s review, Tomb Raider, the reboot to the franchise. This game tries to bring Lara Croft’s past into the light, and make an entirely new storyline for her. Let me just say right now that I am GLAD they decided to scrap everything and start fresh. You can only go so far with a female protagonist who is really only remembered for one thing (no offense to anyone who likes Lara Croft for more than that one thing). As far as reboots go, well, they did some things extremely well, and they made some rather questionable decisions, but from where I stand, this is one of the best games on the consoles, and I highly recommend you either rent or buy this game if you already haven’t. Let us get started then, shall we? Let’s raid the tombs of Tomb Raider!
The story sets us up with a young Lara Croft, voiced by Camilla Luddington, who is on what is basically her first big adventure with a couple of friends and specialists to set off to a place called Yamatai, which is located in the Dragon’s Triangle. The Dragon’s Triangle is also known as Devil’s Sea. As they enter the forbidden location, the ship that the whole crew is on gets torn apart by a storm, and all of them end up on an island. Lara finds herself being separated from her friends, and now must survive on the island, fighting against the elements, and some unknown cult that has taken refuge on the island, while making sure to find her friends and get off the island in one piece. The story for the most part is well done. Throughout the game, you feel for Lara and her need to find her friends and get off the island while fighting against the stuff that is thrown in her way. This Lara is no Bayonetta. She actually reminds me of the main female actress of The Hunger Games film in a lot of ways. While other critics have been more critical towards the story, I think it’s done well, overall. It actually almost matches the adventures of Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. The side characters are slightly generic, but I grew to like some of them, even though you can tell they didn’t really want to flesh out the side characters as much as Lara.
The game, in my opinion, is a third-person shooter, mixed with some stealth, platforming, puzzle-solving, RPG elements, and some survival. At the beginning of the game, it is just you and your wits, but early on, you get a bow and a set of arrows. At the beginning of the game, the island is there to teach you how to use the bow and arrows (as if it wasn’t already easy to know), how to stealth-pass enemies or kill them, and the RPG elements of upgrading your weapons and personal abilities. Throughout the game, as you explore this large island, you will find more weapons and upgrades to your weapons that will give you a multitude of different abilities from fire rounds, explosive rounds, less recoil, and you get the idea. The personal abilities include taking on enemies more easily, better takedown moves when you are up-close to the enemies, and gaining more loot from the corpses of dead enemies and animals, just to name a few. In a sense, you can tackle the game by either going in guns blazing or sneak your way through, but a good majority of the areas you traverse are set up to where you might want to sneak past your enemies or stealth kill them, or else you will end up with 8 to 10 enemies up in your face, filling you with lead and dynamite. There is a lot to explore and many small puzzle-oriented tombs to find, and you travel to each of the island’s locations by campfires, so if you want to travel back to earlier areas to go do some old-fashioned looting in areas you couldn’t get to when you were there before, you can by using the campfires. The difficulty is actually pretty solid. It is tough, but not overly tough. The AI can be surprisingly smart, and will dodge and weave through your gunfire, and will take cover when getting shot at. I was surprised, since most shooter games can’t make enemies smart enough to duck in cover, let alone be a threat to you. Now then, multiplayer is um, interesting, but I’ll leave that for a later part of the review. Overall, the single player is filled with many hours of fun stealth, shooting, treasure-hunting, and platforming gameplay to fill the void of having to wait for another Uncharted game from Naughty Dog, while they work on something for the PS4 and while people enjoy their most recent game, The Last of Us.
Graphically, words don’t do justice to how beautiful this game is. It is right up there with Lords of Shadow, Uncharted 2 and 3, and God of War 3 as one of the best-looking games on the PS3, PC, and 360. A huge amount of money and time went into making the whole world as pleasing-looking as possible. The voice acting, while slightly goofy at times for the side characters, is well done for our main female character. They definitely got a good cast of actors to portray said characters, but the performance done by Camilla Luddington outdoes the others in spades. The music is also good. Even though there isn’t that many tunes to speak of, the ones that we get are really well done and bring a level of immersion that fits the game perfectly. Jason Graves, the composer of Tomb Raider did a great job. He has also done work on games like Dead Space 1, 2 and 3, Wheelman, Section 8, Alpha Protocol, Rise of the Kasai, and Area 51. The game’s atmosphere and feel is amazing. This game is intense, and you will be clutching your controller the whole time, especially when you have to either get past guards or go through a cinematic sequence in the game.
So, what is wrong with this almost perfect package? I mean, what could be wrong with it? This game has a lot of amazing things going for it! Well, you know how I said that this game has multiplayer? If you have heard every other critic say this about it, then you won’t hear anything new from me, but THE MULTIPLAYER SUCKS! I mean, it isn’t the worst thing ever, but you can tell that they put in multiplayer just for the sake of having multiplayer. The developers of this game shouldn’t have wasted their budget on this part of the game and instead should have used it to flesh out the minor issues, like the slightly bland secondary characters and the little stumbles Lara’s development as a character goes through. This shows that not every single freaking game needs multiplayer. If you are going to add multiplayer, make it interesting! I mean, there are multiple times in the story where Lara’s friends are together and they could have easily made a unique co-op mode covering those times with Lara’s friends. Or maybe do a fast-paced treasure hunt multiplayer or something that would be much more interesting than what we got. It drags the game down, since a lot of the issues the story has could have had been fixed if the money used for multiplayer was used instead of focus on a pretty much perfect single-player experience.
All in all, as reboots go, Tomb Raider passes with flying colors. It’s one of my favorite games of this year so far, and if you haven’t picked this game up, just make sure you stop what you are doing and et it! There is a normal version and a collector’s edition, and I say get either. While it might not be my favorite game of this year, which is taken by Ni No Kuni, it is a fantastic game that no gamer should pass up. Well, no gamer old enough to play it. Let us hope we see our favorite tomb raiding vixen in yet another game on the next gen consoles.
This game gets a 9 out of 10.