GAME NAME: Tomb Raider
DEVELOPER(S): Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal
PUBLISHER(S): Square Enix
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
GENRE(S): Action-Adventure, Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): March 5th 2013
She returns not as the badass we have come to know, but as a vulnerable warrior on the path of survival. This is the origin story of Lara, which might have brought up concerns to longtime fans of the franchise, but put your worries to rest right now. Crystal Dynamics has crafted a beautiful game with an equally emotional story. This is an action-RPG that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, no, emotional journey.
The tale begins with a crew of archeologists setting off for an expedition to uncover the lost Japanese nation Yamatai, located in the Dragon’s Triangle. As the new recruit, this is Lara’s first journey, which is cut short by a mysterious storm that rips the ship apart. The crew is scattered, and its up to Lara to reunite them. This isn’t the tale of a gunslinging adventurer on-par with Indiana Jones, this is a scared girl fighting to survive the life of an explorer.
Whether you’re traversing lush forests with running water, or jagged mountains that soar into the sky, the details are spot-on. This isn’t a clean game either, as the game progresses the characters will find themselves covered in dirt and blood that doesn’t magically disappear. Sometimes, it will wash away, but the cuts and gashes underneath will remain. [For those with the keenest of eyes, there are reports that the Xbox 360 version is a bit blurrier than its PS3 counterpart. Most people won’t care, but for those of you that do...].
The evolution of the franchise brought with it a bumped ESRB rating M, or PEGI rated 18 depending on your region. The change is noticeable, too, the violence has been amped up compared to previous titles. The shooting mechanics may not be any more violent than before, but there is a substantial increase in gore and language. The rating didn’t change the core mechanics of the game though, you’re still shooting, platforming and treasure hunting as expected.
Gameplay is a smooth experience, with an emphasis on sneaking (recommended) which opens up indirect opportunities and information. By listening in on conversations you’ll start to familiarize yourself with what is happening on the island, immersing you in the lore. If all you want to do is run-n-gun by charging in gun blazing – go for it. It doesn’t force you into a specific playstyle. You’ll also notice that although there may be “a lot” going on at once, including explosions, gun fights, and more, the game doesn’t slow down at all. It’s a smooth experience.
- A new introduction to the franchise are the RPG elements, which allow you to earn skill points by ranking up. This can be accomplished by completing challenges, which will increase your survival and hunting skills. Whether you’re looking for more ammo, health, or tracking skills there’s a development available to you. You’ll also find yourself collecting salvage to upgrade weapons to make your bow faster, or your pistol more accurate, embracing the RPG-light elements you see in most modern games.
The multiplayer was handled by Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex: Human Revolution), which provides a fun distraction from the story, but by no means is it the next great thing in multiplayer gaming. It feels like a different game, with washed out textures and unpolished character models. Every match I played consisted of everyone rolling, shooting, rolling, shooting, etc. It makes it hard to hit anyone (which I suppose is the point), but with four game modes it’s not likely to be heavily populated long-term.
Behind the young Lara Croft is Camilla Luddington, who has crafted one of the most connectable characters in the ages, she paints the perfect picture of Lara. The fear, pain, doubt and struggles are brought to life with her vocal performance, capturing every detail down to the quiver. The voice acting is performed so well that you almost forget you’re playing a game during cutscenes, but at such an outstanding level it stands high above the standards of the rest of the voice actors. By no mean is the voice acting bad, Camilla just outshines everyone around her in every conceivable way.
To top it off, Jason Graves (known for his music with EA/Visceral Games survival-horror series, Dead Space) has catered the music to each scene. By involving emotional music, each character resonates with the player in different ways, connecting the musical score to the tone of the scene. This is followed up with top-notch sound effects that have you twitching at the deep growl of a wolf, or the shuffling of a rabbit in the bushes. You’ll check your back more than once, at the faintest of noises.
Foundationally, Tomb Raider is fantastic – between beautiful set pieces, sound effects, and uncanny voice acting by Camilla Luddington, Tomb Raider is well worth the wait. While it’s nto an open world experience, you have the freedom to backtrack to areas you’ve already been to in order to acquire collectibles.
Prepare yourself for the ride, and prepare your emotions.
Will Lara and her crew survive? That is up to you.
Supplemental Reviews from the rest of the staff at GameFob
Action-adventure is one of the most distinctive genres in gaming, featuring some of the best titles such as God of War, The Legend of Zelda, and of course, Uncharted – aka: The reason most people own a PlayStation3. It’s no secret that Uncharted was inspired by the adventures of Lara Croft, and with the release of her origin story, Tomb Raider reprises its role as one of the best action-adventure games of all time.
This is Lara’s first voyage to find adventure for the first time, straight out of University. We see the human side of Lara, the innocent young girl hoping to find the mythical land of Yamatai. The experience of her first kill is a highly emotional experience for both Lara and the player, revealing a very human side to the story. As the story progresses, we see Lara as she is forced to become the survivalist we know and love, including a nod to the original Tomb Raider near the end.
The inclusion of RPG elements is very welcome (the rifle execution is brutal!), making Tomb Raider a fantastic adventure showcasing a young Lara Croft morphing into a true survivor. The other characters may not be as fully developed, in the way Uncharted revealed the story of Nathan Drake, Sully and Elena. If you make it past this, Tomb Raider is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat with an amazing storyline, emotional battery, and some of the best chase sequences I have ever seen in a game.
My first impressions of Tomb Raider have been mostly positive. The gameplay is exciting and the graphics are fantastic, but the timed attacks put me off a little bit. It feels like there are too many of them, and they are constantly reoccurring. I feel like it takes away from the game experience when the game tells you what to press, and when to press it, beckoning to the old arcade classic Dragon’s Lair when you had to move the joystick at exactly the right moment. As a third person game that plays out like a movie, it messes with the senses.
While the graphics are fantastic, the camera is a bit off-putting. The camera feels uneasy at times, like a mock-umentary with the camera constantly shaking violently. While it adds to the tension and drama, it doesn’t add to the overall experience for me.