Let’s get this out of the way. Don’t read this review if you’re expecting impossible jumps, crazy puzzles, and short shorts. This reboot isn’t for you my dear friend. Because this is a Tomb Raider game in name only. So run — run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Okay, now that they’re gone let’s get down to business.
The Story – Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.
- Quite the Looker – The art direction is stellar and graphically this gives most modern games a run for their money. Now keep in mind that I played the PC version. But I’ve seen the console ones in action and in my opinion they look great too.
- An Interesting Tale – The story borrows heavily from LOST, but it’s an interesting enough tale.Everyone loves a mysterious Island, right? And it’s smoke monster free!
- Shoot – The shooting feels just as good as it does in any other third person shooter. Aiming is easy and you’ll be pulling off headshots in no time. Wait – I can’t believe we’re talking about headshots in a Tomb Raider game. It’s kind of weird, but you quickly get over it.
- Loot – You gain salvage and weapon parts by looting dead enemies, killing animals, and opening crates. This quickly becomes addictive because it feeds into gamers’ basic desire to collect tons of useless junk.
- Upgrade, Upgrade, Upgrade – Okay, salvage isn’t useless. It’s used to upgrade your gear. I put most of my points into the bow because I wanted to reenact the Hunger Games. The system isn’t extremely deep, but it adds a sense of progression. You can also upgrade Lara’s abilities. Want to use your axe as a mêlée weapon? Go for it!
- Katniss Would Be Proud – Lara loves her bow and it’s easily the best weapon in the game. Once fully upgraded it becomes a force to be reckoned with. There’s nothing more satisfying than pulling off a headshot with a fire arrow.
- Smart Cover – You won’t find a cover button here. Lara automatically goes into cover when you run up to something. Gone are the days of getting shot because you didn’t press circle fast enough. Every third person shooter needs to adopt a similar system.
- Lara the Explorer – Tomb Raider doesn’t have an open world, but it’s far from linear. It opens up more as you progress and you can use the base camps to revisit old areas. Some areas are inaccessible at first, but you can go back and explore them once you’ve upgraded your equipment.
- #Reborn – Camilla Luddington delivers a believable performance as a young Lara Croft. Camilla’s task wasn’t an easy one. She had to honor Lara’s legacy while displaying a certain level of vulnerability. She does this and more with ease.
- A Tight Squeeze – The camera always moved to the perfect position. When Lara enters a tight space it zooms in and makes things feel tenser. Prepare to freak out a little if you’re claustrophobic.
- Audio Logs – Reading someone’s diary is wrong, but that doesn’t stop Lara from reading everything she gets her bloody little hands on. These diaries provide insight into the minds of your crewmates and the island’s inhabitants. Oh and they’re fully voiced.
- Darkly Dreaming – I won’t give anything away, but this game can be really dark at times. Some sections had a survivor horror feel to them.
- Island Life – Yamatai is filled with wild animals to hunt, secrets, treasure, beautiful vistas, and bloodthirsty savages. It’s the real star of this adventure.
- The Little Things – Lara reacts to her surroundings. When she’s in a tight spot she’ll gently rub her hands against a nearby wall and when an enemy is close she automatically starts to slowdown and crouch. She also looks around frantically when she hears something terrifying in the distance. Lara’s believable interactions with her environments make Tomb Raider one deeply immersive experience.
- PC Options – I played the PC version and it’s a great port. There’s a wide range of options and it looks good even on normal settings. It also has hair physics and a benchmarking tool. I couldn’t crank the settings up on my iMac, but I’ve seen videos of the game on ultra and it looks wonderful. But like I said – the game looks great on normal settings too.
- PC Options II – My iMac has an AMD Radeon HD 6770M and I could play the game on normal settings at 720p. I averaged 43 frames per second on these settings. This isn’t bad for a computer that isn’t really made for gaming.
- Uncharted? – When Tomb Raider was first shown off everyone said, “It looks like an Unchartedclone!” Now, at first it does feel like Uncharted with a female lead. But as you progress you soon realize that this isn’t a carbon copy of Uncharted. Actually, at times it feels more like Batman Arkham City thanks to the hub areas and “Survivor Instinct”. The marketing team did this reboot a disservice by just focusing on the action and set pieces. There’s more to the game. Naughty Dog could learn a thing or two from Tomb Raider. Because this game easily tops Uncharted 3. The subtitle for this review isn’t Lara’s Deception because I think it’s an Uncharted clone. It’s because I feel like most of Tomb Raider‘s promotional material deceived the hell out of us.
- Magnetic Ledges – The platforming is automatic. Just jump in the right direction and Lara will magically fly towards the ledge. This will disappoint long time fans and anyone looking for a challenging platformer.
- Press ‘Y’ or Die! – The QTEs are kind of annoying. Prepare to die often until you get the timing right. I wish developers would abolish QTEs. They add nothing to a game. There are tons in the beginning, but they drop off by the end of Lara’s adventure.
- Hunting is Shallow – You don’t have to hunt to survive. You just kill animals for extra salvage.
- Wave After Wave – Really? Another wave of enemies? I just killed hundreds of your brothers – call it a day. Sigh, okay, here’s an arrow to the… face. Jokes aside – the endless waves of enemies can become tedious.
- You Call That a Puzzle? – The puzzles are a little on the easy side. A few of the optional tombs are confusing at first, but once you figured out what to do you can solve them in a matter of minutes.
- So So Multiplayer – The multiplayer isn’t bad, but it’s nothing to get excited about. Serviceable is the best way to describe it. I could go into more detail, but if you’ve ever played a third person shooter online then you already know what to expect.
- Walking Clichés – Tomb Raider’s cast of characters includes a tough black woman, generic geek, lovable big guy, supportive best friend, mad scientist, wise old man, and a few other stereotypical character archetypes. These walking clichés get some backstory in the form of audio logs, but they never become truly interesting.
Crystal Dynamics crafted one of the best third person shooters of this generation, but it’s also one of the most derivative games ever created. It shamelessly wears its influences on its sleeve (every popular game from the past five years). This doesn’t take much away from the game, though. It’s still one hell of a ride and a must buy for fans of the genre.