It’s been a while since we’ve ventured into the world of Laura Croft, 1996 to be exact, so I was more than curious to see how Crystal Dynamics would handle the reboot of Tomb Raider. After several hours of gameplay featuring wire-to-wire action, it was apparent that the rebirth of our adventurous heroine went very well.
Tomb Raider kind of has an Uncharted feel to it as It borrows from the DNA of Naughty Dog’s series, but it offers enough originality to stand on its own merit and not come across as a cheap knockoff. The first thing you’ll notice about this game is how visually stunning it is. It opens up with a cinematic of Lara and some of her comrades on an archeologist expedition only to see their ship get beat down in a ravaging storm with them barely escaping, only to be set upon some hostile island savages. Lara and a few of her comrades escape, and from this point the game’s thematic theme explores what exactly is required from Lara to survive the harshest of living conditions. For roughly about 50 minutes you don’t have complete control of Lara as there is a strict storyline path, but there are moments where you’ll be queued to press the “X” button to grab a torch or burn some debris to clear a blocked path.
After you get past this point though the real fun begins as Lara lets loose on the island called Yamatai. As you explore, you’ll encounter a lot of high risk maneuvers that require Lara to jump for a ledge and if you miss she will fall to her death. Luckily one of the game’s strong points is the impeccable control you have over her character so pulling off the moves is easily done.
Any great explorer needs to have survival instincts and Lara’s are a great asset to her. If at any point you get stuck in the game, you press a button to activate
her Survival Instincts and anything that can be used or attacked lights up. This comes in handy for those cleverly hidden totems or enemies lurking waiting in a cloudy environment. Relics, Documents and GPS Caches are scattered all around the island and earn you XP when collected. This is crucial because Lara learns a great deal about the island and what is currently happening from the Relics and Documents. While exploring, you’ll come across ammunition that is lying around and weapons that can be used on those pesky savages trying to take you out. Some weapons require that you find two or three parts to improve them.
In addition to the new and improved Lara, Crystal Dynamics has hit the mark with Tomb Raider’s gameplay. The combat is fluid, streamlined and one of the game’s impressive aspects. The wide variety of ways Lara can rub out enemies is to her advantage as she can engage them in hand-to-hand combat or from far away with one of the four available weapons. Up close Lara can stun enemies and then unleash a finishing attack to complete the kill.
One of my favorite ways to off a victim was using the bow and arrow. Pulling off a headshot on an unsuspecting enemy had me feeling like Darryl from the Walking Dead. Also since this is a quiet maneuver it didn’t alert any other enemies to her presence. As you play, you’ll learn the best way to eliminate foes is through surprise attacks as that earns you extra XP.
About the only negative I could find with Tomb Raider was the multi-player mode. There wasn’t a lot of fun to be had there and it felt like to me Crystal Dynamics added it into the game as an afterthought like, “hey guys lets add a multi-player mode because everyone is doing it.” The intentions were good as there a nice menu of maps to select from but the close combat was stiff and overall it wasn’t varied or flexible enough.
In closing we have to give up the props for the way the game was handled. With beautiful environments, a well developed main character, intense action and stellar gameplay, Tomb Raider stacks up well against games in its respective genre. If Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix continue to build on what they started, the rekindled love affair with Lara Croft will stay lit for a long time.
XXL Rating: 9.0