A polished treasure
Lara Croft’s latest adventure shines in the new ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 00:03
“Tomb Raider,” the 2013 reboot of the long running, action adventure series is an astounding achievement, without a doubt marking Lara Croft’s best outing since the original “Tomb Raider” back in 1996. True to the game's tagline, a survivor has indeed been reborn.
Featuring a young Lara right out of college, “Tomb Raider” immediately thrusts the heroine from a shipwreck onto a mysterious island where she must do one thing: survive.
No longer an idealized sex symbol for the masses, this Lara Croft is frightened, yet fearless in the face of adversity, indeed instantly jettisoning herself to the very top tier of all video game heroines with the possible exception of Samus Aran.
The gameplay in “Tomb Raider” is a blast. If you have ever played the “Uncharted” series, you’ll feel right at home. The game mixes up platforming and exploration with occasional firefights. Whether it’s a gun or the games’ trademark bow, the third person duck and cover mechanics work extremely well and are complimented by fantastic enemy AI. The ability to fire from the hip is lacking, but is rarely missed. If you prefer, the game allows (even encourages) you to use stealth to sneak around most enemies, effectively turning Lara into a female Solid Snake. The games’ optional hidden tombs provide classic “Tomb Raider” gameplay, featuring puzzles and a treasure to be claimed at the end of each.
Loads of amazing set pieces (rivaling those seen in “Uncharted”) often accompanied by quicktime events will blow you away in “Tomb Raider. Amazingly, the 14+ hour core campaign (add another seven or so hours if you decide to complete the optional side quests) never lags and always keeps you on the edge of your seat, right until the jaw dropping finale. There are next to no weak points.
The game (wisely) takes numerous cues from “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” All weapons and many skills can be upgraded with XP as in the “Batman” games. Tomb Raider’s “Survival Mode” conveniently highlights objects and enemies in the environment much like Arkham’s “Detective Mode”. Like “Arkham,” the game provides a quasi-open world environment which progresses linearly, yet with locations that can be returned to discover hidden objects later in the game, including voiced diaries which reveal the mysterious island’s dark history. A fantastic musical score compliments both set pieces and the general environment with tones reminiscent of “Arkham.”
This is an M rated game, a first for the series. Lara is truly on a struggle to survive and the developers don’t let you forget it. But while some of the games’ most brutal moments truly add significance to the story, there are multiple overly gruesome character death animations for Lara needlessly included.
The game does feature a bare bones competitive multiplayer component, which is average at best. As was the case with games such as “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” and “Grand Theft Auto IV”, the multiplayer mode may provide some amusement but it is needlessly added to a fantastic core single player experience. Multiplayer is not the reason to play this game. “Tomb Raider” is a fantastic and engrossing single player experience, the mere existence of the multiplayer mode should not detract from that in any way.
Also disappointing is the under utilization of the game’s survival mechanics. Hunting and foraging are introduced early in the game, but are never utilized again and do next to nothing to advance your character. Unlike similar mechanics in other games, such as “Red Dead Redemption”, there is little to no incentive for the player to engage in these activities at all.
While the core plot and character development of Lara Croft herself are fantastic, unfortunately the title flounders in its representation of the supporting cast which is mostly forgettable. Baring an exception or two, most of Lara’s comrades come across as stale, unremarkable, run of the mill archetypes none of which are as intriguing, interesting or well developed as Lara herself.
Filled with an awesome combat system, and grandiose set pieces that would make even Naughty Dog’s best efforts blush, “Tomb Raider” blows away all expectations out of the water and raises the bar for future titles exceptionally hight. Developer “Crystal Dynamics” deserves high praise. Despite a few shortcomings, “Tomb Raider” stands as an outstanding action adventure game, the best in the “Tomb Raider” series, and much like “Uncharted Drake’s Fortune”, has sown the seeds for what has the potential to be a genre-defining sequel. Make no mistake, Lara Croft is most definitely back.