The origin story of the sleek, sultry, ass-kicking Lady Croft has been in need of telling since we were first introduced to the short shorts wearing tomb raider over a decade ago. As fun as it’s been travelling to ancient ruins across the globe taking down hordes of hunters, mercenaries and the supernatural, the reasons behind the fearless femme fatale have been unknown to us – until now. As someone who is generally unenthusiastic towards reboots, I have to say my jaw dropped when the Tomb Raider trailer was unveiled at E3 two years ago. It just made sense, given the recent trend in humanizing iconic pop culture figures like Batman and James Bond. For the first time though, we’re taking the journey through the eyes of a female, something that carries the risk of being melodramatic or cliché. As an action-adventure loving female myself, I was not disappointed. Despite the infamous “mis-speak” by one of the game’s developers following a certain QTE shown in one of the earlier trailers, I never felt Lara’s gender was exploited for cheap story development. I was involved every step of the journey, and found great satisfaction in watching her grow as a survivor and adventurer.
Despite some of the criticisms out there, I thought the narrative was smooth and it evolved well. Although there is a pretty fast turn in Lara from being hesitant and disgusted over killing a deer to blasting automatic rounds through hordes of enemies, I didn’t go into the game expecting to not kill anyone so it didn’t come as a shock. Perhaps the brutalities of Lara’s kills were a bit out of character compared to some of the dialogue in the cutscenes, but an action adventure game wouldn’t be any fun if you didn’t get to single handedly fight your way out of impossible situations.
I have to admit that Tomb Raider’s one disappointment was the lack of depth in its storyline. Being shipwrecked on an island in the Dragon’s Triangle really sets it up for something huge, but it falls just slightly short of being amazing. The fact that you are limited to the island plays a big part in this; unlike the Uncharted franchise, where you travel the globe and meet many new characters, the mystical island is unable to offer the same amount of new scenarios. There didn’t seem to be any urgency to move the plot along, and I found myself getting distracted discovering tombs and exploring the ruins, which at times were more fun than following the game’s main story. Although it does pick up towards the latter half of the game, I felt some questions were left unanswered or had me wanting more. In the end, it was still an exciting story with great moments of tension and suspense, but after the nearly flawless story telling in Uncharted 2 I had my standards set pretty high. Just a first world problem I guess.
What the game lacked in story telling it made up for in its incredible gameplay. The physics in the game were unbelievably realistic, with each new environment bringing a new surprise for me to say “wow”. The island is almost open world and has lots to explore and collect, and I was pleasantly surprised when I would run around to discover there were still more areas left untouched. Of course there are many tombs to be discovered, and that is a plus, but I do admit that I was disappointed in their level of difficulty. I felt they relied on old tricks we’ve already seen as I was able to complete most of the puzzles in only one try; however, there are many challenges scattered throughout the game that satisfied me where the tombs failed to.
I really enjoyed the collection of XP points allowing you to upgrade weapons and skills. By the end of the game you are equipped with a modest arsenal of salvaged DIY weapons, like arrows with grenades attached to them or a rope bow that makes both ziplines and allows you to pull down structures. I chose to upgrade most of my weapons and skills, although a more skilled player will likely only need maybe half of what is available. You have a bow and guns at your disposal as well as your multi-use pick axe that is used to pry open doors, climb walls and impale enemies through the jaw. I preferred to use the bow as often as possible, as it allowed for silent kills and had some very satisfying headshots. The enemies didn’t get redundant either, and I found they let up just in time before I started to get annoyed. Although they do show up quite often and sometimes seemingly without purpose, they were quick enough to get through and kept me on my toes. The abundance of enemies was a good way to practice some seriously cool finishing moves.
The end of the game didn’t have as big of a pay off as I had hoped, but it left the door wide open for a sequel that I hope will be able to overcome some of the aspects this one had trouble with. Tomb Raider delivered what it promised, and is hopefully the first of an exciting series reboot. There are lots of areas to go back to once the game is finished, which I will choose to revisit instead of the severely lacking multiplayer. The multiplayer just doesn’t make sense in a game like this. Sure, I commend them for trying to add something new but it seemed out of place. That being said, I didn’t expect anything from it so I wasn’t overly disappointed, but in the end it made me wish they just scrapped it and spent the time further polishing the game’s campaign.
Visually, I have nothing bad to say about Tomb Raider. The game looks good and there were some great sweeping shots of incredible landscapes. One that particularly stuck out for me was Lara’s ascent to the top of a radio tower that seems to bring you to the top of the world. The sun flares through the cloud cover as the camera angles accentuate the dizzying heights as Lara climbs her way up the rusted ladders. There was a definite sense of awe and accomplishment when she finally makes it to the top and stops to appreciate the view. The details in the game are amazing in every aspect from the rust on the abandoned planes to the blood and dirt on Lara’s face.
As for the games sound, it is a total package. In addition to the incredible voice acting from Camilla Luddington, Lara’s character really felt complete in every aspect, from the rain falling during stormy weather to the “twang” of your bow as you crept up and launched a deadly arrow as one of your many foes. There is also a fair amount of dialog between the enemies as they stand their posts or search the area for you as you hide. Our Editor-in-Chief also commented to me on the use of surround sound. He was fairly impressed with the workout that all his media rooms speakers got and said that it really helped pull him deeper into the world that Lara was exploring. Don’t worry though, even if you don’t have a surround sound set-up you’ll still enjoy everything offered here.
Whether or not you’ve been a fanboy of Tomb Raider since her pointy breasted days on the original PlayStation (PSone), or just wanted to see what the female version of Nathan Drake would be, Crystal Dynamics takes you on a thrill ride that delivers everything except a girlfriend like Lara in real life. I have to say that this game is definitely worth the price of admission and is definitely worth playing.