March 8, 2013 by thedavidryan
Lara Croft is back with a bang
It has been far too long since gamers have been able to raid mysterious tombs and ancient crypts as Lara Croft, but thankfully the British bombshell is back in her most accomplished adventure yet.
As the first entry in a new Tomb Raider series, this most recent iteration is a reboot that emphasises the reconstructed origins of cult character Lara Croft, as she becomes shipwrecked on a mysterious island, which is inhabited by local residents who don’t take kindly to the latest crew to arrive on their shores.
The story itself is an unrelenting barrage of action, drama and intense gameplay. Lara is a naive wet behind the ears university graduate, who is more used to textbooks and exams than fighting for her life on a strange island.
The opening twenty minutes is a white knuckle ride into the humble beginnings of Lara Croft. There are thrills and spills in abundance, with a variety of button massing quick time events (QTE’s) that turn up the intensity to eleven, as Lara tries desperately to claw, climb and scramble her way to safety in a world she is just not familiar with yet.
Arguably the most impressive thing about Tomb Raider is its wonderfully simple control system. The aforementioned quick time events all use the same button control each time a QTE pops up, making a potentially frustrating experience a lot more straightforward. Unfortunately, these QTE’s do occur a little too much and can pop out of nowhere, which does sound exciting at first, but can grow tiresome when you realise the developers have seemingly just thrown them in at times to prevent you from getting bored when travelling from A to B.
Equally the controls for combat are just as fluid and rewarding. Lara’s now trademark bow makes shooting arrows at people ridiculously addictive. In fact, even after unlocking the hand gun and rifle, the bow was still my preferred weapon due to the sheer enjoyment of pinging arrows from afar. The straightforward snap on aim is a hugely fulfilling feature that supplements the combat very well and makes Lara feel like a lethal assassin when faced with a barrage of oncoming enemies.
Tomb Raider also includes a particularly gratifying upgrade system where you have to search enemy bodies for loot and treasure in order to unlock survival, skill and weapon upgrades. This system is not only an enjoyable element to make Lara as formidable as possible, but it also encourages you to explore every corner of the map looking for trinkets and accessories from crates in order to earn more XP for vital upgrades.
The Modified Crystal engine that powers Tomb Raider, delivers a visually breathtaking game from the outset. Sweeping hills, dynamic sunsets and torrential rain are all brought to life in a dazzling way as Lara sets out on her origin adventure. Thankfully in comparison Tomb Raider is just as beautiful when Lara is covered in blood, sweat and tears as the gritty surroundings wash superbly over the game adding to the feel of the hostile environment.
Unlike previous Tomb Raider games, this new iteration is extremely forgiving to the player when you make a mistake. For instance, during the first thirty minutes I was asked to find shelter from the down pouring rain by leaping over a sizeable gap to cover. However, I completely missed the gap and plummeted to the earth below. Where you would expect previous Lara Croft adventures to smack a cruel GAME OVER message in your face, this Tomb Raider didn’t. Instead Lara simply dusted herself off, surveyed the new location she had landed in and found her way to another area to complete the original goal. This kind of seamless transition made the game feel much more open and it felt like at any time you could go off the beaten track without being punished.
While Lara is an extremely engaging character that you can’t help but become invested in, the rest of her crew are much less developed. As a result, you simply don’t care whether they make it off the island or not. As callous as it sounds, you just aren’t bothered if a random camera guy from the ship gets a bullet between the eyes. While this is unfortunate and it does take away a certain element to the story, it’s hardly surprising considering this is the Lara Croft origin tale and all the focus is rightfully on her.
Lara is by no means a glamarous leading lady and Tomb Raider does an excellent job taking you on her emotional coming of age journey as she gets battered from pillar to post on her road to becomming the fearless hero we all know and love. This engrossing narrative really makes you care for Lara in a way most games fail to do.
Tomb Raider is a truly exciting and dynamic action adventure tale that will have you bowled over from the second you embrace Lara back into your life. Tomb Raider is a welcome return to form for one of gaming’s most beloved heroins and the future looks extremely bright for this revitalised franchise.
While Lara Croft might not have knocked Nathan Drake off his treasure hunting pedestal just yet, she has certainly earned a seat at his exclusive table.
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