I’ve been holding this review back until I’d fully completed the game and now I finally have let’s get to it! Tomb Raider is essentially an origin story of how Lara Croft came to be the bad ass that we all know and love. Despite being a origin story Tomb Raider throws you straight into the action without so much as an introduction to who Lara Croft is and why she’s going where she’s going..
It’s hard decide where to begin, the game itself has so many angles and so many different side missions available it’s impressive to say the least. The game opens with a rather stunning cinematic of Lara going about her business on her boat named The Endurance, as we’re watching this Lara is speaking some inspirational quote and how he’s going to make her mark. It then skips to her listening to some music in her bunk, from here all hell breaks loose as The Endurance enters a crazy storm knocking her off her bunk. This is where the sometimes over the top cries begin.
The opening cinematic alone was enough to leave me gob smacked and a little exhausted with Lara having to jump across from one side of the ship to the other as it tears in half, an old guy is on hand to catch her but alas she slips being left plummeting into the rough seas. Through out all of this Lara occasionally narrates some more words to suck you into the story.
You can almost tell at this point, from this early on in the game that Lara doesn’t want to deal with this shit and personally I think it added to the experience I was about to have. As the crazy climatic cinematic comes to what seems like a happy ending, Lara is then smashed over the head and dragged into a cave. This is where the game begins.
From the very start you know the game is going to feature some beautiful surroundings, even with the island being engulfed in an awful storm. Everything, right down to the candle shrines within the various caves and tombs have been thought through with meticulous detail. It truly is a stunning game.
Now from the offset controlling Lara seems a little difficult with the various obstructions in her path as well as her being submerged in water, but you’ll soon realise that it’s not how the game fully plays out. Immediately you’re re-introduced to the classic button prompts that require you to press to mash a specific button at a specific time something which was a little overused in past games but Crystal Dynamics have hit the nail on the head in this one. What impressed me the most was that on occasion you could almost see that a lot of features from the classic Tomb Raider games have been quietly introduced into this game such as the way Lara shimmies across ledges the way her body sways is very similar to the way Lara moves in the first few Tomb Raider games which was really nice to see.
Essentially this game is open world – to a point. You’re free to explore your surroundings and stray off from the task at hand, but if you find yourself lost you can press the Left Bumper to activate her Survival Instincts, something that’s introduced almost immediately during the first task. What this does is highlight your way point as well as various other things depending on how you upgrade your skills. As this is a game published by Square Enix, famous for having the various Final Fantasy games under it’s belt you can’t help but expect some form of RPG element to the game and you’re right, it’s there, but it’s hardly intrusive and simple to pick up. Throughout the game Lara earns XP for doing various tasks, these mount up to earn Skill Points which can then be used to upgrade Lara’s skills giving her the advantage during the game. The Survival Instincts feature I mentioned can be upgraded so Salvage, animals, or even Artifacts are highlighted as well as the waypoint.
There are three categories of Skills that can be learned; Survivor, Hunter, and Brawler. Each category has a handful of skills that can be learned which are each separated into tiers; Rookie, Hardened, and Specialist. Each tier needs to be unlocked by unlocking a certain amount of other skills and give Lara more powerful abilities that help increase the game’s progress. All of this and more can only be done by visiting various camp sites dotted about each level. The Campsites are probably the most valuable in game checkpoints because not only do they help you upgrade skills, you can also upgrade your weapons using Salvage that you collect throughout the game. Salvage is also introduced to you seamlessly throughout the game and almost becomes an ubiquitous part of game play. That’s one thing that this game does really well, it introduces new aspects of game play that just fit in so well and becomes almost second nature without the need to remember each and every different ability.
Tomb Raider also has the perfect mix of slow and fast paced game play that doesn’t catch you off guard when you’re thrown into a fire fight between you and the various enemies that you come across. The original puzzle aspect is apparent in this game too with various scenarios that leave you scratching your head for a good ten minutes – well, in my case anyway! Navigating the various ledges and cliffs has been made cleverly obvious with white paint on most of the ledges that Lara can grab onto something that doesn’t upset the game, it actually adds to the feeling that you’re not totally alone on this huge island.
Now, as I mentioned at the beginning of the review the game has so many angles to it, and it really does. There’s not just the main story in this game, there are various side missions and hidden tombs that you can come across which increase the games playability. I completed the game a few days ago with 66% of the game completed which gives me a fair bit of game play left to re-visit. So how does this work? Let’s bring the campsites back. You’ll notice when you’re upgrading your skills or weapons that there’s a Fast Travel option, something I didn’t really pay attention to as I wasn’t sure what it entailed and I didn’t want to skip any part of the main campaign. I now realise that it takes you back or forward to the various campsites that you’ve already visited during the main game. What this helps you achieve is the ability to complete the mini missions such as lighting up all of the Goddess Himiko shrines, collecting all of the Red Cap Mushrooms, as well as discovering various hidden Tombs that themselves have puzzles to complete in order to get the artefact at the end.
Early on in the game it does become apparent that at the present moment in time half of the obstacles you come across aren’t needed for the task in hand, and it’s interesting to see how they merge into the surroundings or give you that feeling that you might have missed something. Again it’s something Crystal Dynamics have done perfect in this game.
Lara has changed a lot also, for the better I think. She’s no longer the tiny wasted, big bosomed bad ass we all fell in love with at a young age. Even though she’s apparently younger than the Lara in the previous games, she appears as more of an adult, with real feelings and a real body. You can tell she’s uncomfortable being thrown into this situation and that she’s really quite frightened. This all changes by the end of the game as Lara’s demeanour resembles that of the early Lara we’re all used to. Throughout the game you essentially see her grow and cry out a lot less which is an amazing side of the game, something which you don’t find very often in most games recently.
I also mentioned beforehand that you’re thrown into action with no idea why you’re there. Throughout the entire game you discover key items that reveal more of the story, at first is Lara’s close friend Sam’s camcorder that shows the reason why they’re travelling to the island and the doubts that Lara’s friends and the crew members have about the direction that they’re going. Along the way you’ll also come across journals that are hidden in different places in each area. These journals reveal the more personal stories of Lara’s friends revealing more about the story and why they’re there. Something which I think was perfectly executed.
Overall Tomb Raider is a fantastic game and a refreshing outlook on the Tomb Raider series, though it’s an origin story it wouldn’t really be a suitable start to the series as you couldn’t go from this game to the older 1996 game, but for fan’s of the series it’s definitely worth getting, it perfectly mixes newer Tomb Raider with old Tomb Raider which I think will appeal not only fans of the entire series, but fans of the earlier games that fell out of love with the series.
One thing that I’m not going to focus too much on is the Multiplayer. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t love it, personally I don’t actually have an opinion on it. It doesn’t effect the core part of the game, it’s just a feature that’s there if you want to try it. It’s undoubtedly fun, but not something hardcore multiplayer gamers could get into. It does have a few features that set it apart from more popular multiplayer titles such as Call of Duty, but I certainly don’t see it taking off and becoming the next annually released game series.
The Multiplayer doesn’t let this game down, unless that’s why you’re buying the game. If that’s the case, then you’re looking at this game for all the wrong reasons. I’d give this game a perfect 100 score, but I do have to take the multiplayer into account because it is a feature of the game which is a shame because it’s a really great game.