If I am correct it was at E3 in 2011 that SquareEnix debuted the reboot to the classic adventure game Tomb Raider. I had to say that I was impressed. They were going for a gritty reboot. Lara Croft was proportional. Her boobs weren’t humongous. She was normal looking. And I was down with that. The visuals in the prerendered trailer got me giddy. But I knew that this game had the potential to suck…horribly. The most recent of Tomb Raider games have rather negative reviews attached to them.
I had never before played a Tomb Raider game before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would the game play more like Uncharted or more like the Arkham games, or even like Resident Evil 4. And that is when the reviews poured in. Most people were already hailing it as a GOTY candidate. An instant classic. IGN had an infographic that picked apart the game. It said if you enjoyed aspects from all three games I had mentioned then you’d love Tomb Raider. And so I bought it. When I put it in the console I was amazed and it was love right away.
The reboot is all about reestablishing Lara Croft as a strong female character, not one to be judged by her physical appearance. They make her a meek and timid character, she’s good looking but it’s not like she knows it. She has self confidence issues. She’s a human being, not a killing machine. She is on an expedition to find the lost island of Yumatai (or something like that). But their ship crashes and the crew is deserted on an island and they can’t get off for a reason. I don’t want to get too far into explaining the narrative because quite simply you need to play this game.
One thing I loved about this game was the evolution of Lara. It’s not the strongest of narratives but certain events change Lara. Early in the game you find a bow and arrow. You need to eat. So you hunt. Lara is panicking. She’s scared and not sure if the others survived or if she’ll make it out. But she gets past this and moves on, and finds Sam. But they get taken by the islanders and that leads to the most powerful scene in the game.
I had read at one point the developers wanted to leave a rape scene in the game. While that may or may not have been the most distasteful thing to do it wasn’t there but it sure felt like it was going to happen. After Lara is captured she makes her first kill. A gripping and emotional scene that displays the depth of the character. I just took a life, it was hard. Does it get any easier with each life? These are the questions this sequences makes you ask. It’s quite a shame they throw that out pretty quickly and we slowly turn Lara into a killing machine.
Lara’s latest journey features some phenomenal visuals that do feature some minor hiccups but none that ruin the game. Textures such as hair seem to be not as fluidly animated. Enemies all look the same after a while but the environments. God damn. I found myself just looking around to see what the world looked like at times. Beautiful and vast the developers created a world that just might seem realistic. The weather effects and lighting were fantastic as well as the voice acting and score. The only problem was the lighting. At times it felt like the game was just too dark and hard to see. Other than the few tears and the contrast the game is a wonder. At least as far as I can remember it. It’s been almost two months since I have played it and on to writing this review.
The game handles well, sort of like Uncharted with all the jumps you have to make and the gunplay. There is a flaw if I remember it properly. You have to aim when you shoot, you can’t run and shoot like in most games that are of this nature but it’s not that hard. I played through a majority of the game using the bow. I did use the other guns occasionally but that was few and far between and more for the achievements than for anything else. There is so much to do in this game. There are artifacts scattered all over the world. On top of that so many other things like GPS caches to pick up, diaries, journals and what not. Enough that if you want to 100% the game it will take you a long time and that might be just up someone’s ally, it’s not up mine, not at least right now. You can level up skills to help you through the game and level up your weapons which prove useful in the end game. Puzzles aren’t super challenging but I found a few to be a little puzzling but all in all it wasn’t the hardest of games.
My final thoughts would be this, honestly if it wasn’t for BioShock Infinite this game would most likely be a top candidate for GOTY. It still has a shot to take down BioShock but placing in a close second with a few hot titles coming including the highly anticipated Last of Us and Watch Dogs it might not stay in the top 3 but it is a game worthy of actually purchasing and owning even if you seem skeptical. Lara Croft is a franchise back on the rise thanks to the gritty realistic reboot that borrows influences from around the world of gaming. If you enjoyed the crazy cults and intense style quick time events of Resident Evil 4 then you’ll like Tomb Raider. If you like leveling up skills so that you can go back and collect like in the Arkham games or Metroid Prime games then Tomb Raider is for you. And if you love the blockbuster action of Uncharted then Tomb Raider is for you. Even if you don’t I still say go rent Tomb Raider at a redbox or something. While not the game of the year Tomb Raider is something you should have. (95/A)