A series that was declining in popularity and sales gets rebooted with a fresh new perspective and actually turns out to be good? I can give you very few examples. Tomb Raider is one of them.
Square Enix’s western studios have really been churning out some good games this generation and one of the reasons for that is due to the complete support their developers get.
It seems it has worked for Tomb Raider as well, as what we have here is one of the best games I’ve seen this generation.
A franchise reboot announcement isn’t usually met with a rousing applause from the fanbase. They know things they loved are going to be changed or removed altogether to make the game more accessible or in tuned with the current market trends. You can’t really blame the publishers for this; game creation is an expensive and time consuming process.
Lara and her crew get trapped on an island after making a decision of exploring it.
The thundering storms tear apart planes and ships that attempt to go or leave the island. What’s left to do now is to find out the secrets of this mysterious island and try to find a way to go back home.
This place is where Lara becomes who she is; a strong willed woman who learns how to survive in difficult conditions.
The first thing you will notice when you start playing is how responsive the controls are. This, in my opinion, is what makes the combat sequences so enjoyable, because Lara can do a lot of acrobatic moves and get enough time to shoot an arrow in a guy’s face.
In fact, the bow is the first weapon you will get in the game and is a very versatile tool for Lara to traverse large distances and also kill some enemies.
“A bow, used to traverse large distances,” what exactly are you blabbering, you may ask. Let me explain, the weapons Lara finds in this island are also upgradable, for example, a bow upgrade lets you to shoot a rope arrow and you can use that to reach specific places.
You have an Axe which can be used to climb rocks and open doors or break some enemy skulls. There are also standard weapons like assault rifle, handgun and the shotgun, that can be upgraded to deal some damage.
I love the bow, though. You will too. The sheer joy of seeing an arrow hit someone and watching the body fly back due to the impact is exhilarating. Lara was never a killer though. This island made her one.
Seeing her shoot a deer with an arrow for the first time and watching the deer writhe in pain as Lara says sorry and kills it for some meat is a defining moment in the game. In some ways that’s how the Romans used to create warriors out of their children by letting them wander alone in a forest so that they can get enough courage to kill a cute rabbit (with a large stone).
There’s also a weak attempted sexual assault scene in the game which I felt was pretty pointless. The baddie gets a bullet in the head though, so all’s good I guess. More importantly, how did these people get there? Lara will meet many enemies in the game, some of them are also the island’s inhabitants.
There are a lot of scripted events in story missions and they kind of give a Hollywood movie feel, which isn’t a bad thing because it’s also balanced with a lot of exploring and side activities.
The entire island is beautifully recreated and you can travel different areas fast using the camps that you find during your exploration. You can also level up your weapons and assign skill points to make Lara stronger.
These skill points are gained by just playing the game and doing things like killing enemies or finding collectibles. She can learn new attack moves and also become proficient in exploring the island. The salvage you find in crates and dead bodies of enemies can be used to enhance weapons.
The upgrading mechanic doesn’t feel like a gimmick as she gets proper items at regular intervals and it is actually fun to find weapon parts and salvage to enhance her equipment.
Fighting waves of enemies here isn’t an arduous task, and there’s not a lot of games I can say that made me go “Aww, that’s it?” It’s just a joy to be using the weapons and the responsive controls are an added bonus.
What I was disappointed in, however, was the rest of Lara’s crew. All of them were poorly written and didn’t support her much. You also got a feeling that each one of them will end up dying like in that TV series–Lost. Lara can also raid tombs in the game, and the puzzles I felt were poorly done.
There’s not a single puzzle in the game that made me scratch my head for an hour or so. Maybe one, but I wouldn’t call that a puzzle. This is the major change fans of the franchise have to be aware of, there’s only a single puzzle in each of the tombs and they’re easy to solve. Lara’s instinct aka ‘Here’s what to do button’, makes it even easier.
It’s quite a lengthy game and I felt the pacing was good enough to not find the entire thing overstaying its welcome. I’d say it was engaging enough that I finished it in two or three sittings.
The entire shrieking thing does go overboard sometimes but I felt it was fitting considering the troubles she has to face.
There’s a multiplayer component as well and I didn’t find it all that special. You can choose between two teams: the survivors and the island inhabitants. There are loadouts like every other online competitive games, and you can also customize things.
The netcode wasn’t that good either and I was teleporting due to lag in some maps–which really wasn’t a fun thing.
The multiplayer failed to grab me as I found the ones in Uncharted and Far Cry 3 better. However, people can still have fun here because you can use traps and other items to get an advantage over the other team.
The campaign is where the core of the game lies and that’s really well done. This reboot has been the best thing that happened to the franchise and I’d say they even earned a new fan.
I like this new Lara Croft–backed by incredible production values and a motivated team. However, I’m unsure how the next game, if any, will play out since this had a good closure and a satisfying ending, but that’s a good thing really.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Responsive controls. Open ended gameplay and environments. Gorgeous visuals. Upgrading mechanic is a good one. Intriguing story. Lengthy campaign. Great pacing.
Puzzles are underwhelming. Textures are inconsistent. Lara's crew mates are poorly written.