Game Review: Tomb Raider
Pros:Polished, grown-up, responsive gaming
Cons:Tomb Raider without actual Tombs is a new concept...isn't it?
Ann says her days of hotpants and climbing around tombs are behind her, so why does she find the latest edition of Tomb Raider kicking all kinds of arse?
Know thy audience, game companies! Tomb Raider’s original fanbase is not just female gamers; we are parents, we have kids, we want to escape, or we have kids we want to escape. So what genius to restart the saga with Lara as a teen adventurer… finally, a teenager who will respond to us! (Lara does not sulk when pressed to do her homework.)
Gone are the pneumatic breast enhancements and forgotten is the disastrous Angelina movie. Instead, we have a polished, beautiful game with a reborn, vulnerable heroine. Tomb Raider is designed for the fans. The series has grown up with us, the children who partied to ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ who became the adults smelling like broken spirit, too busy to find time for jumping 12 foot chasms and landing flawlessly with semi-erotic groans.
This past winter has been a gift in terms of gaming, but Assassins Creed, Far Cry 3 and Dishonored are but forgotten hours now. Tomb Raider has come along at just the right time. The plot follows young Lara, marooned on an island in the Pacific ocean distinguished by stunning scenery and fantastic new Japanese-inspired architecture. The gamer learns to fight from first principles, developing Lara’s bow along the way. Eventually, Lara will start to use tools to climb, which gives you access to way more options and routes as well as making it at least seem a little more plausible that a young one who’s been skewered, shot and beaten can make those sweet jumps.
The rebooted Tomb Raider is a linear adventure, like Uncharted, and it has largely moved away from the puzzle-based tombs of the original series. What you lose in tombs, you gain in characterisation. I didn’t miss the head-wreckingly difficult tombs or deadly, time-dependent jumps that used to see controllers fired across rooms. That said, you can return to explore areas in more detail after the main quest has finished, so you can mop up all those achievements and find the hidden items.
As far as flexibility and motion go, Lara is defined by her grace. Actress Camilla Luddington provides both voice and character modeling, and the motion capture technique used makes this reboot a more physically real experience than previous incarnations. That said, it is every inch a Tomb Raider game, from the familiar chink of broken earthenware pots to the furious button mashing required to get out of cut scenes.
Combat has always been a letdown in Tomb Raider – remember jumping cartwheels while shooting a T-Rex? There was no chance of that this time ‘round, as I opted for the bow throughout. The ammo was relatively easy to find and the bow is ideal for long-range stealth takedowns. Combat feels almost like that of Arkham Asylum; you have a number of options for how you approach combat, from going all out with a shotgun to the face, to silent kills on ledges to dispatch with the bodies. The single player game has considerably less combat than I had expected. There are more options in the multiplayer mode, but as a gamer who prefers single-player campaigns (I’ve always been a one-woman kind of woman) I found the combat comparatively restrictive. The developers have stated that they don’t intend to flesh out the single player campaign any further, and that all DLC will be multiplayer-only, which is a shame.
The cut scenes are worth waiting for and the occasional deaths make you want to avoid any further accidents. Gone are medipacks and a host of other annoyances. The saves are regular. This is a installment that has focused on what we want from games; we want to enjoy them, not be punished for trying.
Any itchythumbs out there will know the misery of a backseat player, but Tomb Raider is so incredibly beautiful it is the first game I’m happy to watch somebody else play. The lighting effects, intuitive character modeling and tiny touches added make it worth the price and worth the wait.
In fact, there aren’t enough good things to say about Tomb Raider. The only shortcoming for this gamer was that I played through it in a 3 day marathon session.
While I wait with bated breath for the next Bioshock title, my heart belongs to Lara. As the very clever marketing campaign spells out, ‘I am Lara Croft’. So intense was my wittering about it that I convinced Phill, who doesn’t usually indulge, to play. I noticed a distinct lack of contact for days, punctuated by occasional ‘This fucking rock keeps crushing me’ messages and eventually was rewarded with this picture:
Yes, you ARE Lara Croft.