Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: 3/4/2013
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The Good: The new Lara is memorable and more human, the gun play and exploring mechanics are tight and cinematic, lots of fun collectibles to find, interesting and engaging story, outstanding graphics and sound
The Bad: Boring multiplayer, not enough tombs to explore
This is exactly how you do a game series reboot right. I wish I could end my review on that, but I need to tell you why. Tomb Raider suffered through a few mediocre games during the first run of the series during the late 90's-early 2000's. The first reboot did well for the series by maturing Lara and giving us better controls and a more cinematic experience. Now comes Tomb Raider in 2013, a fantastic game that shows the more human side of Lara. The game starts out with you and a science crew on a ship on the way to an achealogical site, but things go awry when Lara decides to head to the Dragon's Triangle off the coast of Japan. A mysterious storm destroys the boat and Lara and team are stranded on this island. There is a mysterious cult trying to sacrifice people to a sun goddess to end these storms. Lara has to deal with this if she wants off course.
What makes Tomb Raider so memorable is the struggle she goes through while surviving. She is nearly raped, suffers tremendous injuries and has to cope with herself in dealing with the fact that she has to kill to survive. She is not comfortable with this at first and really struggles to pull the trigger. This adds layers of depth to her character that weren't seen before. Not only is her personality more memorable, but her looks have changed. No longer is Lara wearing the short shorts and tight shirt with her huge bust. She has been knocked down a few cup sizes and is much younger, straight out of college in fact. It's hard to really describe her more than this, you have to play the game to really connect.
The gameplay in Tomb Raider has completely changed, but yes there is platforming and gun play. Both are tight and very well crafted. Gun play consists of using scraps to create a pistol, bow, machine gun, and shotgun. That's it. As you progress and find salvage in crates and dead bodies you can upgrade these to look like and feel like better weapons. There are many upgrades that increase damage and accuracy as well as adding new ammo types. Lara's animations are very well done and realistic and this falls into combat. She scrambles around and ducks behind cover, the guns feel great to shoot and you can see how inexperienced Lara is, she's not a Navy SEAL or commando. Unlike other games like this her stumbling animations don't interfere with the game at all. You can still move around, you can dodge, and there's even some melee thrown in. As you upgrade your skills (done at various campfires throughout the game) you can dodge and through quick time events can do some pretty gruesome kills.
While gun play is tight and fun, exploring is just as important. This island is massive and you can go anywhere, there's no limits. Fast traveling via camps really helps, but there's a reason for moving around everywhere: collecting hidden items. These range from relics, GPS caches, documents etc. There are hidden tombs found throughout the game that hold area maps for these items. These tombs consist of cleverly made physics puzzles that are really fun to complete. You get rewards like art and 3D models to view. The whole game just has an amazing atmosphere and is just so much fun to explore.
On top of all the climbing around you get a climbing axe which is an important tool for climbing and combat. Your bow is used for shooting ropes across valleys and canyons to pull items to solve puzzles, break doors, and access to new areas. The whole exploring ideal in this game is just fantastic and really fun. I did have to think about how to get to new areas and actually try to navigate and experiment, that' good game design. There is a Survival Instinct ability that highlights map markers, objectives, and when you unlock the skill, you can see items through walls.
The story itself is a bit confusing, the whole spirtual thing is a bit unbelievable in such a realistic world like this, but that is what Tomb Raider is known for. Lara is the main character here and what she goes through was the main story for me. I loved every second of the story. The voice acting is awesome and the graphics look amazing, some of the best on PC yet. The new DirectX 11 features like Tessellation and the new TressFX technology applied to Lara's hair look nice, but there were a lot of bugs and glitches for Nvidia users during launch (they are now fixed). You will need a monster rig to play this game on highest settings.
The multiplayer was tacked on late in development and is pretty boring. The combat was designed for cinematic game play, not multiplayer. It feels just like it does in the story, but it just doesn't suit multiplayer well. I played all of three rounds and got bored of the game. Some people may like it, but there are better multiplayer shooters out there.
Overall, Tomb Raider is one of my favorite games of all time and is really memorable. The voice acting is solid, and Lara's new personality makes her more human and more relatable. The graphics are outstanding and the gun play and exploring mechanics are fun and very cinematic.