Review: Tomb Raider


Developer: Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics
Platform: Xbox 360

This isn’t your typical Lara Croft. This Lara is insecure, lacks confidence, and requires constant reassurance: I love it.  The Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics reboot of the Tomb Raider series is an impeccable masterpiece that captured my attention until the very last second.  A new Lara Croft is reborn in a game full of gorgeous, immersive environments and a compelling storyline. 

Story 

The story begins with a young Lara and her crew at sea on the Endurance.  After encountering a storm, the Endurance breaks apart leaving Lara to wash ashore on an island.  Lara finds herself without her crew and the basic tools to survive.  In order to survive, Lara must explore the island, find food, and determine the best course of rescue. 
 
The story unfolds through three separate means: cut scenes, journals, and the fire.  The cut scenes are seamlessly integrated into the game and provide character development for Lara.  There were several moments I did not realize I could move and that the cut scene had finished!   The journals are strewn out across the island and the player must collect all of them to complete the short stories.  Each journal provides short snippets of a short story narrated by the writer of the journal.  The journals are worth seeking out if you are interested in the island’s history or the mind of the crazed antagonist.  Lastly, the fire provides Lara’s story and thoughts.  Lara reflects on the events that have taken place and short cut scenes show how time aboard the Endurance was spent prior to the storm.  I highly recommend sitting at each fire in order to ensure you trigger every Lara short story event. 

Game Play 

Tomb Raider provides fluid and simple controls that quickly become second nature.  From climbing looming peaks to shooting enemies with a bow, the experience is impeccable.  Unfortunately, quick time events are prevalent and can sometimes deter from the action.  I found myself missing several quick time events and having to redo a particular section.  On a whole, it is very easy to control Lara in order to navigate the terrain as well as the multitude of weapons she uses.   

My favourite weapon to use is the bow and arrow as it is the only silenced weapon in the game.  It can be used to draw the attention of enemies elsewhere as well as kill enemies from a distance without giving away your position.  Weapons are acquired at various intervals throughout the game and can be upgraded by gathering salvage.  Salvage is found almost everywhere on the island and is used to purchase upgrades at any camp.

Upgrades are crucial to the game as they increase damage, increase range, and decrease recoil.  In addition
to weapon upgrades, Lara also gains skill points through experience that can be used to gain abilities in the survivor, hunter, and brawler categories.  The upgrade system in Tomb Raider is well designed and forces
the player to decide which upgrades they will need in order to be successful in the next part of the game. 
The AI in this game is superbly designed.  Lara is unable to stay in one spot for an extended period of time as she will be bombarded by grenades and Molotov’s.  Enemies can be taken out using a variety of approaches, but once alerted, they will strategically surround you.  I found myself swarmed or running for cover on multiple occasions.  Cover is automated in this game and the game almost intuitively knows when you need it.  Once in cover, you can pop up or move from cover to cover similar to Gears of War or Mass Effect.  Combat is fast paced and very enjoyable in Tomb Raider.

Puzzles are an integral part of the Tomb Raider experience.  The puzzles in this game primarily take place in the optional tombs.  The solutions are fairly straight forward and the player is rewarded with a chest full of weapon parts or maps for completing each tomb.  Compared to other entries in the Tomb Raider franchise, puzzles seem to be on the easier side of things; however this is fitting as this is Lara’s first encounter with tombs.   You can tell Lara is intrigued by the tombs and how her first encounter with tombs leads to a lifelong passion for them.  Overall, the game play is superbly well done and it is a pleasure to play. 

Visuals/Audio 

Tomb Raider is a visually stunning game with exceptional attention to detail.  The beautiful environments are full of eerie abandoned planes, ships, and buildings.  Ancient Yamatai structures are interspersed with aged World War II buildings in a very believable way.  The lush forests full of wildlife complement the surroundings.  These rich environments are accompanied by a haunting score that creates a tense ominous atmosphere as you progress through the game.  Nothing feels safe even when at camp. 

Voice acting is very professional in Tomb Raider.  Camilla Luddington is an excellent Lara Croft providing a subtle blend of fragility and confidence to Lara Croft.  Lara’s emotions are expertly conveyed as she transitions from a frighten survivor to an empowered, strong willed character. 

Multiplayer 

The multiplayer is a unique albeit unpolished affair.   Players begin the multiplayer by choosing their character and customizing loadouts.  Similar to the Call of Duty franchise, players can customize their classes, perks, and gain experience to unlock new equipment.  Each character consists of two classes for Survivor and Solari.  Players choose their primary, secondary, grenade, and Matches consist of three rounds with players switching sides between each match.

Matchmaking itself was very uneven.  My first match, team death match, included a level 49 and level 26 against a level 1 such as myself.   This led to an easy victory for the enemy team who was able to successfully spawn trap my team.  There were moments I was sniped from across the map in the spawn area.  This was increasingly frustrating as the entire match effectively occurred in once tiny area.

The layout of the maps don’t always flow as some maps felt heavily one sided.  In a three round match, the starting side of each team almost guaranteed the outcome of the match.   Movement around the map was similar to the single player campaign.  Players can climb, jump from ledge to ledge, break boards to enter new areas, and slide down hills.  The movement is fluid and bullet/arrow tracking was accurate.  Overall, the multiplayer was an interesting and fun experience with deep seated flaws that made it feel as a standalone add on to an otherwise excellent game. 

Summary 

Lara Croft’s origin story in the Tomb Raider reboot is an excellent entry into the Tomb Raider franchise.  Stunning graphics, vibrant acoustics, and an engaging storyline come together in this masterpiece to create an unforgettable gaming experience.  If you have not played the new Tomb Raider reboot, I highly recommend this game to veterans and newcomers alike as it will not disappoint. 

Score

10/10

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