Review – Tomb Raider
Reboots are a common thing in the entertainment industry, it doesn’t take a genius to see that established franchises sell a lot better than new IP’s ever do. Tomb Raider is an age old franchise that has become a household name, one however, which has been plagued with a number of mediocre (or worse) entries in the last few years. In order to keep Lara alive, developer Crystal Dynamics needed to do something big and fast. Enter the Lara Croft origins story. Named simply ‘Tomb Raider’ this new game tells a story that strangely has never been told, how does Lara wind up spending her life raiding tombs for a living? Is this new take on a fan favourite a great leap forward or a fleeting attempt to save a franchise that should really be left alone?
Tomb Raider opens with a young Lara on a ship heading towards, what she hopes to be, her first Archaeological discovery. This hope is short-lived when the boat gets hit by a violent storm causing it to wreck on a nearby island. The plot follows Lara’s plight as she struggles to survive on the island and sees her trying to escape. It soon becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems however when the island locals turn out to be more than just a little crazy. The plot is actually really satisfying and covers a lot of the main events in Lara’s transformation from scared girl to cold hearted survivalist. A lot of media surrounded her first kill in the weeks leading up to release and a few people have criticised the game for how quickly she recovers after making it. I actually feel as though this would be a fairly realistic take on how she would tackle the situation. Past this, there are plenty of high-octane set pieces as well as a few emotional and tranquil moments too. I really enjoyed the narrative and I think it drives the game really well.
The gameplay itself is where this game truly shines however. Tomb Raider is primarily split between platforming and combat, both of which are vastly improved over previous iterations of the series. The platforming is improved from the previous games in that there are a number of wide open environments throughout the game which allow for multiple routes throughout the game. There are still sections of very defined climbing with obvious ‘Climb here’ bricks/ledges. I would have preferred if the game was built out of more open environments as these are by far the best sections in the game, allowing you to choose how you fight or progress. The main improvement to the platforming is actually the animation. Laras animations are far more involved and human than they have been in previous games, largely due to the fact that the game was motion captured as it was acted. Combat is orders of magnitude better in Tomb Raider than it has ever been. Encounters are tense affairs, Lara is just a girl and she isn’t going to survive more than a few bullets so scrambling between areas of cover and picking off enemies in an organised fashion is the name of the game here, and boy is it enjoyable. Laras bow was easily my favourite weapon in the game, it allows for stealth kills which means that you can play the hunter. I really enjoyed picking enemies off 1 by one and creeping around in the shadows. Of course if you do get noticed Lara has a few more weapons in her arsenal and each of these are upgradable to a large degree, opening up extra firing modes and ammo types.
The visuals in Tomb Raider are great, the game has some absolutely stunning sections. Even though the game is set on a forest covered abandoned island it still managed to cram in a number of locales. You’ll be climbing through trees, shanty towns, shipwrecks, icy cliffs and more with each area looking brilliant. The sound is also very well done in this game, the music is rousing and fits the game perfectly. One of the standout parts of this game has to be the voice performances. The supporting cast is good, if the game contained just them it would still be good, however the voice actress for Lara herself is stellar. Camilla Luddington delivers an incredible and highly believable performance that really increases the emphasis of the whole game. Lara is a character that you care about and as such it becomes uncomfortable to see her in the pain, Camilla plays the part very well and really makes you invest in the character.
I suppose I should mention the multiplayer if only for the fact that it’s there. I wouldn’t even bother playing it to be honest with you, luckily it was developed by a separate studio and so didn’t impact the incredible single player. I’m not going to say anything more about it, buy this game for the single player campaign and ignore the multiplayer, it’s really not worth your time.
Crystal Dynamics have definitely succeeded in creating a brilliant Tomb Raider game, if games like this are what we have to look forwards to in Lara’s future then I will be a very happy man. The acting in stellar and believable, the gameplay is fun and involved and the plot is satisfying. Normally such a poor multiplayer offering detriments the campaign but fortunately Crystal Dynamics were clever enough to leave it to someone else, allowing them to focus on the most important part of the game. I highly recommend picking up Tomb Raider, Lara’s back, hopefully this new version of her is here to stay.
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