Tomb Raider Review (Updated with Video Review)

Tomb Raider ReviewTomb Raider (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: March 5th, 2013

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.

Exploring will take you to all new heights.
Exploring will take you to all new heights.

The Great:

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.

He won't feel a thing.
He won’t feel a thing.

The Good:

+ 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.

+ Exploration is rewarded. While not forced, players that do take the time to explore are given more experience, which is used to increase Lara’s skills such as being able to execute a stun maneuver on enemies, or being able to gain bonus parts from scavenged goods, etc. Exploration also enhances the storyline by filling in the blanks not revealed in cutscenes and other in-game communiques.

+ 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.

Stylized menus keep you connected to the game at all times, even while you make a few upgrades.
Stylized menus keep you connected to the game at all times, even while you make a few upgrades.

The So-So:

+/- 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.

If you're too anxious to run and gun, you can easily be surrounded.
If you’re too anxious to run and gun, you can easily get surrounded.

The Bad:

– 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.

One of the most breathtaking portions of the game.  What lies just around the corner is incredible.
One of the most breathtaking portions of the game. What lies just around the corner is incredible.

The Ugly:

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.

You aren't prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.
You aren’t prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.

The Lowdown:

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

5 thoughts on “Tomb Raider Review (Updated with Video Review)”

  1. This is awesome. I played through tomb raider a few months ago and felt the same way about the game. This game would be amazing (graphically) if the PS3 version looked like the PC version. This game was wonderful in presentation and gameplay. If Tomb Raider had the same “character quality” that “The Last of Us” had then it would be a great contender for Game of The Year. Awesome job guys.

    1. Thanks Jerrell. Due to unseen factors I had to delay the video review until tomorrow, but I’ll be editing this review with the video review tomorrow so be on the lookout for that. I took direct feed from the PC version so it’ll give you an idea. I had to downscale it to 720p though, mainly because the video’s file size was ridiculously large. Hope you enjoy :)

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