This review is based on my playthrough on the PlayStation 3 version. Aside from differences with controls on the PC version, all three versions play the same. I didn’t play the multiplayer mode because it’s stupid.
I’ve played every Tomb Raider game. From her first outing on the PlayStation (geometrical boobs!), to the awesome co-op goodness that is Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Some I finished, some got sidetracked for other new games that came out when I was playing them, and on a few I got stuck on a stupid puzzle and never came back.
So like everyone else, the months that lead up to the release of Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the beloved relic-hunting heroine hyped me way up.
Tomb Raider lived up to the hype in spades.
In this incarnation, Lara Croft is not a cool and collected archeologist, no money for choppers and jets, no dual pistols that don’t run out of ammo, and no disproportionate breasts.
What you get, is basically a naive scared girl who is struggling to survive in a mysterious and danger-filled island while trying to rescue her shipwrecked crew from an unknown threat. The island, a character by itself (IMHO) is a well crafted assortment of obstacles that provides challenges and the perfect environment for Lara’s story. Lara versus Island.
Playing through the single-player campaign takes you on a journey not just to rescue your wrecked shipmates, it is also the journey of how a frightened 21-year-old girl learns to do whatever it takes to survive and coming to terms with the consequences. Lara reluctantly kills a deer for food, apologizing to it a number of times. Her resolve nearly breaks when she is eventually forced to kill another human being. Lara’s horrified reaction and the way the game presents it is amazing. It’s a nice change from fragging someone and teabagging his corpse right after. Heh.
The game takes about 12-18 hours to wrap up (more if you are a nerdy completionist). You spend most of those hours exploring the island and uncovering its secrets. And like I said, the main mission is to rescue you shipmates. The people who does not want you to do that are the island’s scavenging inhabitants, a savage cult with a sinister agenda.
Gameplay controls are the standard third-person action game you would expect from the genre. The game puts more emphasis on traversal than combat but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities to kick butt.
Tomb Raider’s combat mechanics are mostly cover-based. And I think this game has the best system of all the games I played that has the mechanic. You don’t need to hold a button or even press a button. Covering is automatic — Lara ducks behind crates and the like whenever she goes behind them and enemies are afoot. From cover, you can strategically come up with your plan of attack (or at least before one of the assholes throws a molotov to your face).
Ms. Croft’s arsenal consists of four weapons which you gradually acquire through gameplay. Three of them are your standard gaming guns like the pistol, shotgun, etc but the real ass-kicker here is Lara’s bow. The controls really capture the thrill of cocking an arrow and letting it fly straight to someone’s skull. In fact, I would have to agree with a quote I read from a different review: “I felt dirty whenever I used a firearm”.
Weapons are modified and upgraded with salvage. It is the game’s currency and can be collected by opening crates, looting enemy corpses, or carving up animals. It’s a decent system and well implemented, but it’s hilarious that you can upgrade your rifle by killing rats.
Graphics are great, overall. There are parts where the frame-rate dips but it doesn’t really hinder the gameplay that much. The environment is fantastically rendered though. Traversing the island doesn’t get boring and there are sequences that are just breathtaking. Death sequences are also “breathtaking”, you can see Lara get impaled in the throat with a metal bar in one of them.
The music in this game is awesome, it appropriately changes depending the current mood of the game. It uses one main theme and rearranges itself to suit whatever feeling the game needs to convey. Brilliant.
The voice acting in this game was done very well. I don’t know if they changed the voice actress since the E3 trailer (I hated how Lara sounded like in that), but british-born Camilla Luddington nails it as the voice of the new Croft.
In closing, Tomb Raider is my best gaming experience of 2013 so far and I highly recommend getting it. I consciously avoided comparing it to the Uncharted games which I also love but if you would really have to know:
Tomb Raider is better than Uncharted.
It’s awesome tits. Ed. Note: you’re not allowed to use this expression again. Ever.