Ever since the initial reveal of the Tomb Raider reboot, fans and gamers alike have been split on their opinion of seeing a more realistic and gritty Tomb Raider experience. Crystal Dynamics has created a new origin for the adventurer Lara Croft, complete with a new take on the series through the use of exciting action-packed sequences along with a rather dark, but well polished narrative. After a bunch of sequels that never matched up to the quality of the original, I was ecstatic at the possibility of playing as a still wet behind the ears Lara Croft and experiencing the events that transformed her into the dual pistol-wielding archaeologist that wouldn’t think twice about putting a bullet between the eyes of a T-Rex.
After a mysterious storm tears their ship apart, Lara and a small group of survivors find themselves washed up on the beach shore of an island off the coast of Japan. Almost immediately the island inhabitants, comprised of blood thirsty scavengers and cultists, seize the crew and Lara herself awakens hanging upside down inside a cave with a madman.
As the story focuses on her struggle and survival on the island, Lara is put to the test through excruciating events through the entire 15 hour long campaign. The action sequences – much like in Uncharted – provide an exhilarating rush, although you won’t see Lara come away unscathed or delivering witty one-liners into the camera, especially after falling down a mountain or any of the other injuries that befall her. Watching Lara die in the game is almost unbearable to watch. From shooting her at pointblank range, tossing her body off a cliff or even engulfing her in flames, you can’t help but feel a willingness to see her survive and endure the ordeal.
The scavengers aren’t the only danger, as wild animals – especially wolves – are just as deadly for Lara. Reacting to their wounds, foes will clutch injured arms or fall to the ground after injuring a leg, allowing Lara to use melee moves to finish them off. If you choose to do so, these execution style moves are fully upgradeable, allowing Lara to take care of her enemies in gruesome ways. At times I didn’t know if I should be concerned about her safety or that of her foes. One thing I know for sure, the entire experience will leave an everlasting effect on Lara, as she no longer struggles with having to kill to survive.
Exploring new sections of the environment, lighting candles on statues and finding hidden resource caches provide Lara with experience points to spend on new skills and weapon upgrades; such as holding additional ammo or increasing the accuracy of her weapons. I spent most of the game trying not to be seen and limiting myself to the bow, which negated the need to upgrade many of the items, but the option was always there if I decided to change my mind.
Discovering ancient shrines, hidden caves and climbing radio towers, Lara must traverse the environment by using zip lines, leaping across crumbling roof tops and even gliding through a forest – while trying not to hit every branch along the way. There are plenty of collectibles hidden throughout, which provide a break in the action sequences and feel more in line with the original games. The hidden tombs provide puzzles that aren’t particularly challenging, but the rewards make it worth your while to explore the environments before moving on to the next area – I just wish there were more of them.
It seems every game released today needs some form of multiplayer, although providing plenty of action, it feels more like an afterthought. Developed separately by Eidos Montreal players either control members of Lara’s misplaced crew or the scavenging cultists found in the single player campaign. The leveling system allows for improved weaponry and equipment, giving players the ability to kill each other quicker and more efficiently. Game modes range from the standard deathmatch variants, to those with each side having different set of goals, but none of them feel anywhere as fleshed out or enjoyable as the single-player experience.
As a fan of the original Tomb Raider, I came away quite impressed with the new direction Crystal Dynamics is taking the series. Providing satisfying set pieces and an excellent pace to the action and exploring, Tomb Raider’s narrative provides an enjoyable, albeit a dark tale of heroism and the struggle to survive. The included multiplayer feels more like a cash-in on Uncharted’s multiplayer success and while mildly entertaining, it began to lose it’s luster after a dozen or so matches.Note: Tomb Raider was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.