(Note: This review was originally published shortly after the release of Tomb Raider earlier this year. I posted it on MyIGN, but was not a Kotaku reader at the time. So now its here. Enjoy!)
I have a confession to make. Despite having played videogames for a considerable amount of time, there are certain classic series I have never experienced. The Tomb Raider franchise is one of them, but with the event of the latest installment, I can now take it off the list. Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider reboot is an excellent game, and a shining example of what a modern action game should be. Tomb Raider is a gripping origin story combined with excellent platforming, fun combat, and a first-rate progression system.
Before this reboot, I had never played a Lara Croft game, but this experience has made me a true fan. Part of the reason is a legitimate care for Lara that started right at the beginning, when I was immediately able to connect with her in the struggle for survival. The gritty death scenes which can strike so frequently really push you to keep Lara alive; every hard hit and long fall made me wince. This connection with the protagonist continues throughout the game, giving it a very personal feel as you walk in Lara’s shoes. The empowering tale of the story, with its cast of people you can actually care about, makes for a great storytelling experience.
Tomb Raider is an excellent example of the modern platformer, with open levels forcing you to find routes to traverse via rope, ice pick, and pure muscle. A great variety of environments means you won’t get bored with the same areas throughout the single player experience, which I clocked in at 16 hours with 90% completion. Extra tombs that you can raid for XP and treasure maps also provide a fun, albeit relatively easy puzzle solving/platforming experience. Stunning vistas across the stormy island setting make for an excellent backdrop. While some may complain about the quick-time events, I found them to help connect with Lara as she struggles desperately against her surroundings.
Lara’s progression from inexperienced archeologist into a badass adventurer is shaped by a well-implemented combat system, where accuracy and intuition are rewarded. Using the much-hyped bow as well as an assault rifle, pistol, and shotgun, combat is a joy to play, with cover-based shooting taking precedence. A quick-time event driven melee component also exists, and is useful for taking out enemies in some of the more close-quarters situations. The weapon upgrade system gives good incentive to explore the environments for components, and you can eventually have a variety of extra killing tools, ranging from a grenade launcher to explosive arrows. I personally favored the assault rifle and pistol for their headshot accuracy in the heat of battle, and once I got their respective silencers, they largely replaced my bow as the stealth weapon of choice. The stealth system is well integrated; it’s not necessary to use it in most of the game’s areas, but utilizing it to achieve a goal is immensely satisfying, with bonus XP for stealth kills sealing the deal. The stealth also brings out the well-designed bow, which is satisfyingly punchy to use.
This reboot leaves me wanting more, as the single player campaign is truly an awesome experience. I haven’t actually tried out the multiplayer, but most players are agreeing that it is a rather unnecessary addition. As for the main game, I can do nothing but recommend it. I personally played the PC version, which looks great and has a few visual bonuses over the console versions. Plus it’s cheaper, which is good considering all the fantastic games coming out in 2013. Overall, a 9 out of 10 experience. Buy it. Now.
Screenshots from the Tomb Raider site.