Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Tomb Raider M for mature because of strong language, violence, and blood and gore. You can shoot an arrow through a person’s head. That should be enough to tell you this one isn’t for minors. It’s a much more adult-themed Uncharted, with scatterings of curse words here and there when appropriate.
Plays Like: There’s no two ways about it, Crystal Dynamics took inspiration from the Uncharted series, and that’s great news for fans of the series. Lara has never controlled better, featured smoother gameplay, or had such an emphasis on exploration. There are even some Metroid-like elements whereby Lara can upgrade her items to traverse previously unreachable areas.
Review Basis: Finished the single player game in a dozen hours, and then tried the multiplayer.
Tomb Raider is the result of what happens when you take a talented studio and challenge them with the task of reinventing Lara Croft for today’s modern gamer. It’s visually powerful, thought-provoking, and above all else it’s incredibly fun to play. Crystal Dynamics has done a superb job in creating one of the very best action games of 2013, and one no one should miss out on playing. Here’s why.
Hands-down the audio visual presentation is incredible. From the superb use of its orchestrated soundtrack, to wonderful and strong sound effects, the audio experience enhances the true masterpiece, the graphics. This is one of the most stunning videogames released this generation. Every single graphical technique is used at one point, sometimes all at once. From breathtakingly lush forests, to a giant mountainside, the environments are varied and mind blowingly detailed. Towards the end of the game there’s one scene where you’re overlooking the ocean and thinking to yourself how are graphics like these are possible, only to realize moments later that you’re about to actually head down there for a little exploration time. It’s just out of this world how impressive looking this game is, and how much fun it is to explore.
+ Very strong storyline. While not flawless, seeing an innocent Lara marooned on an island and forced to do whatever it takes to survive is great way to relaunch the franchise. The story only continues to darken as players progress. It’s a very serious tale about one young woman’s fight to survive, and it rules.
+ Phenomenal combat system. Lara can use cover naturally, without having to hit a button and it works perfectly. While only a handful of weapons are featured in the game, each can be upgraded by scavenging parts scattered all throughout the environment.
+ Exploration is so much fun. While there’s a set path to follow, the game allows you to go where you please. From leaping, to climbing and puzzle solving, players have to master all of Lara’s abilities in order to access hidden areas. The main path is always clear, but some of the secret areas are extremely well hidden and because of that you get a true sense of accomplishment when you discover them.
+ Metroid-like system where new items unlock previously unreachable areas. Hidden tombs are also scattered throughout the game, which only the truest explorers will find, and offer some truly challenging and intelligent physics-based puzzles.
+ A.I. will always try to flush you out of hiding spots, and if you’re not careful you can easily get flanked. While Normal difficulty never proved frustrating, playing this on one of the harder settings would be quite challenging.
+ Survival Instinct mode highlights key objects Lara can interact with in the environment. Some may find this cheap, but it does help new players ease into the game, so I welcome it. For the hardcore, don’t use it as it acts as the ultimate hand-holding mode.
+/- The first hour is nothing more than an extended cutscene with quick-time events thrown in for good measure. It can be a little off-putting, but after the first hour the game opens up and players are free to explore the island.
– While the storyline and character progression are great, there is one jarring issue. We’re meant to care about Lara and really feel for her when she’s forced to kill for the first time. It’s a very powerful moment which is spoiled when three seconds later she mows down a dozen or so enemies. One second she’s crying over killing someone, the next she’s a stone-cold killer.
Completely forgettable and unnecessary multiplayer. Four game modes offer standard fair, team deathmatch, free-for-all, and two objective-based modes round out the package. This game didn’t want, or ask for multiplayer, and after a few rounds you’ll never bother with it again even though there are rankings and tons of unlockable goodies.
Of all the remakes and reboots we’ve seen over the years, this is my personal favorite. The Tomb Raider series has always come so close to greatness, and this time it finally achieves it. By taking the combat system from Uncharted, and customizing it to meet their needs, Crystal Dynamics have recreated an aging franchise for a brand new generation of gamer. If you’re a fan of action adventure games, this is one of the best currently available on the market. Buy it right now!
Final Score: 9/10