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Published on June 4th, 2012 | by PJ Douglas

25

Review: Tomb Raider



 

“A lot of things that happened would have broken anybody else. I was able to survive. That’s all that really matters.”
-Anon

You start Tomb Raider suspended upside down in a bag, no rock solid pose clutching both pistols, you are out of your depth from minute one, surrounded by corpses hung in a similar fashion you swing yourself to gain momentum setting the bag on fire with a torch nearby and fall to the floor where you are impaled on a rebar and lie howling in pain. There is no snappy comeback, no graceful dismount, no health pack in front of you, hobbling and crying, Lara Croft, at 21 years old, on her first adventure is absolutely terrified, and rightly so.

‘Tomb Raider’ by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics is a reboot of the series that graced our playstations all those years ago, it’s a good thing they went in this direction as everyone can agree the games were getting worse and worse (always hard when you start with something so original and memorable) and although this game plays like the beautiful daughter of Resident Evil 4 and Prince of Persia with glitter in her hair from the plot of the TV show ‘Lost’ it is, without a doubt, an amazing start to the gaming year and an amazing new start for Lara.


Much like Far Cry 3 recently, the main theme running through Tomb Raider is the journey of Lara from frightened young girl to hardened survivor, the game does this by throwing an awful lot at you and being very unforgiving, a combination of QTE’s (relax, they’re used rarely and look good) and mistimed jumps can cause some rather graphic instant death scenes as poor young Lara is bounced off rocks, impaled through the throat on metal bars and has her neck slit after being caught in a snare trap. It is very much out of the spiked acidic frying pan and into the even worse fire.

Which isn’t too bad a place to be as fire makes up one of the few new tools in Lara’s arsenal, burning new paths, illuminating dark caves and setting alight to arrows to help burn the various enemies who want to rip you apart. Along with your trusty torch you gain an ice pick for climbing / prying a bow to hunt and make rope bridges and three different guns (Handgun, Machine Gun and Shotgun) all of which can be upgraded with ‘Salvage’ that you find as you search the island and explore every nook and crevice. (Or mountain top and riverbed).

 

But before you get turned off by the idea of searching wide open plains, fear not, taking a leaf out of prince of Persia’s book (and maybe Mirrors edge before that) these levels are far more vertical than horizontal, with Lara running, hanging, wall climbing and zip-lining as if she wants to wear a white hood in renaissance Italy. All the nearby areas that can be accessed are marked with white chalk lines and glow yellow against a monochrome background when you use your ‘Hunter Instinct’ by tapping LB so you are never unsure of where to go next.

Equally impressive is the simple combat system that has been added to the game, with a weapon on each direction of the D-pad and a simple left trigger to aim, right trigger to fire mechanic you are always in control, throw in a few red explosive barrels and some waist high cover and you’re comfortably fighting battles in that familiar style you’ve been using since 2008.

The plot involves you and your rag tag band of researchers looking for the mythical island of ‘Yamatai’ (A real Japanese island whose exact location is a mystery to this day) and going off course as they head into ‘The Dragon’s Triangle’ (again a real place, read up on the ‘Devil’s Sea’ points for authenticity!) and end up on an island full of mental cultists worshipping a deity that can control storms and has a nasty habit of lightning strike / gale force winding anything that tries to leave the island. The plot twists and turns as your crew squabble, betray and befriend each other, and although some of the twists are as obvious as a flaming arrow to the face, it runs at a steady pace and makes you want to play ‘one more hour’ to see what happens next.

The island, despite wanting to kill you and being full of psychos, is beautiful, made up of several large explorable areas, which are coupled together with some fantastic set pieces and linked by camps so you can fast travel back and forth, you’ll go from snowy mountain tops, to lava filed geothermal caverns and the tight claustrophobic corridors of ships and research labs. Each of the larger areas has collectibles in the form of GPS beacons (little blinking lights), documents (to reveal the islands history) and relics (to prove Lara is an archaeologist I imagine) a large majority of which can’t be accessed until your gear is upgraded later on, leading a ‘metroidvania’ feel to the game as you revisit earlier areas all beefed up and swoop through areas that previously took you a good half hour to traverse.



Aside from upgrading the guns. Lara herself earns xp from exploring and killing enemies which you can use (to borrow a lyric from daft punk) to make her harder, better, faster, stronger. As you earn more skills, you can counter enemy attacks and stun them by sticking your axe into their knee or level up further jab arrows into their head and kill them outright, the level of exploration you do gives you more rewards so you are only ever as powerful as you want to be, and it never feels unfair (and if it does, go find another collectible ya bum!)

But what of the tombs? They are still in there, one or two in each large location, usually consisting of a clever puzzle that requires some or all of your gear to flip switches and leap gaps in order to get a reward. The reward being a load of xp, salvage, and the location of all the collectibles in the area added to your map, although this does make it easier to find the collectibles, no one forces you to use the map, and each area also has separate challenges (find all the eggs, burn all the posters) which aren’t on the map and encourage exploring regardless.

The graphics look beautiful, from the searing heat of the lava, the snowflakes of the mountains, or the mud and blood that cakes Lara as she scrabbles from fight to fight you can’t help but admire the work that has gone into making the island believable. Granted once or twice the game did suffer slowdown when showing an impressive windswept Japanese pagoda or swarming the screen with enemies, but these incidences were so few i’m only mentioning them as it’s hard to find a single flaw.

In fact the only other flaws I could level at the game are it’s length, (I clocked around 12 hours, all single player achievements unlocked) and the way Lara mentions how “Hard it is killing another human being” but ten minutes later is gunning people down at a rate that would impress Rambo, although I understand the story is also about adapting to survive so these are tiny, had-to-think-hard flaws in an otherwise amazing game.

Overall this is a beautiful return to form for everyone’s favorite video game heroine.
You’ll become absorbed by the gameplay, mesmerised by the graphics, energised by the explosive set pieces and come out of it covered in mud, blood and tears, but stronger, a survivor.

“Only difference between a nightmare and a dream is how big your balls are bitch”
– Fox.

Review: Tomb Raider PJ Douglas

Tomb Raider

Graphics - 100%
Gameplay - 100%
Presentation - 100%
Story - 100%
Challenge - 80%
Replay value - 80%

Summary: A must play game with the only downsides being the short campaign and the bolt-on multiplayer mode.

94%

Amazing game


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About the Author

Raised in the late 80s on a steady diet of Sonic the Hedgehog and Cherry Coke /// World traveller, Rum baron, Situation Defuser and All Round Good Guy /// “A lot of things that happened [in the past] would have broken anybody else. I was able to survive. That's all that really matters.”



25 Responses to Review: Tomb Raider

  1. liam andrew says:

    Awesome review, read it earlier this week 🙂

    This game is living proof that reboots can work and work well 🙂

    No farting butler though 🙁 haha

  2. HellspawnRei says:

    I’m happy that Lara’s return is successful.She is my favorite character,she deserves this!

  3. steelshox says:

    When this game comes down in price, i thinks its going to be worth it for the story alone. Im betting there will be some form of DLC soon enough.

  4. David Guild says:

    I can’t agree more this is amazing proof that if done right reboots can work and they did it so well. My only problem with the game is developers putting the usual multiplayer stuff. I felt if they didn’t add that and maybe did some work around the game it could of been excellent. I know i don’t have to play the MP but i felt their time could of been best spent somewhere else.

  5. Marcus says:

    Loving this game so far

  6. Rob Hestar says:

    Loved the game.My only gripe with the game was the optional Tombs..They were very easy to solve and there was so few of them.I hope they release some DLC tombs :)..First DMC reboot was great and now Tomb raider reboot was great. I hope this gets developers to reboot some other games 🙂

  7. Tony Winkett says:

    I was meant to add a MP review in with this, but to be honest, it’s nothing that good to write about, and MP fans will move on very shortly I think. To be any good it needs major tweaks and things made better to even become 40% decent.

  8. Nikmou says:

    I read that there is going to be no single player DLC which is a shame. I’ve just started playing this and after looking forward to it for so long (even pulled out the sega saturn to show the kids how awesome TR games used to be) am not disappointed with it.
    I don’t like how it tells you that there is a secret tomb nearby as part of my love of the original was the hunting around for what you needed rather than being told before you have even had an explore. Only about 30% through at the moment but as my kids don’t break up until Thursday I might get a few more hours in this week.

    • Robert Young says:

      SP DLC would be awesome but who knows we may get it.

      I recently traded all my PS3 stuff (cashing in before value really drops) and the console goes this weekend and I got a few Games I wanted for my Xbox among some blu rays and DVDs and Tomb Raider was one of the things I picked up… I got totally immersed in the game for around an hour before I had to make dinner… love it so far 😀

  9. Anthony Brown says:

    Everything about this game seems great; graphics, gameplay and story the only thing I heard on the downside of this game was the story is way to short.

  10. Gram says:

    I really like this game so far.

  11. Robert Young says:

    I’ve just completed this game, the most satisfying single player game I have played so far on the 360, I look forward to the next gen sequen and I think the campaign was of a good length not going near multiplayer though… I di hope they release SP DLC for this. Totally agree with the review and overall score…

    I need to go find me some more tombs and collectables haha

  12. justin forsythe says:

    loved the SP but will not be touching the MP. Wish they where planning single player dlc…

  13. ilRadd says:

    Got my copy of Tomb Raider – going to start playing next week once I finish up (finally) The Walking Dead.

  14. Jalen says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider myself. The Multiplayer side of the game isn’t terrible, but barely anyone plays it anymore.

  15. asmilon says:

    Loved the reboot of the series, the game is just perfect!

  16. Scot Mackay says:

    I have never really like the Tomb Raider games, I couldn’t get into them for some reason….but this, this is how to reboot a dated franchise and to do it with style, substance and flare.

    It reminded me of the Uncharted games but with a female lead. The exploration mixed with survival, combat and the evolution of Lara Croft not as a One woman super soldier with DD’s but as a scared girl pushed to the point of breaking.

    Story, plot development, puzzles and a gorgeous island to explore, it really is a well rounded game. The only downside in my opinion being the Multiplayer. I just felt that something didn’t click right with it.

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