Available on 360, PS3 and PC l Published by Square Enix l Developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1-8 players
REVIEW IN BRIEF > Tomb Raider reboots a series that had well and truly lost its way. As Lara Croft you’ll be fighting for your life and the lives of others in this rousing action adventure epic. It’s a totally absorbing experience, from the story to the gameplay and the moody graphics. The campaign is incredible, but you’ll probably be disappointed by the tacked on multiplayer.
REVIEW IN FULL > I had high expectations for this one, and I must say, I was hooked from the very beginning. As the young Lara Croft, I found myself aboard the Endurance, a ship in search of the lost kingdom of Yamatai. After a nasty storm split the ship in two, I somehow managed to survive the wreck, only to be bonked over the head, captured, and hung upside down in a grotty cave. Believe it or not, this was just the beginning of my bad luck. At various stages throughout the campaign, I fell from great heights, waded through bloodied water, slid down rough embankments and was skewered in the stomach. I couldn’t even cross a bridge without it being blown away by a violent wind. Yep, I did it pretty tough.
Throughout all the trials and tribulations, I encountered some spectacular set pieces and action sequences. Whether I was watching a cut scene or dodging, jumping or sliding away from near death, it was immensely absorbing. I felt utterly immersed in my fight for survival and I was desperate to figure out the mystery of this island and save my friends.
…the bow ended up being my favourite weapon. I loved (yes, loved) sneaking up behind enemies and strangling them with it…
The series has come a long way since its modest origins in the 1990s. Instead of feeling like I was in a shooting section or a platforming section, I felt like all aspects of the gameplay and story formed a completely integrated experience. I had to make that jump or take out that enemy or else it would cost me my life.
I found myself happily surprised by the variety of environments and scenarios that were offered to me. At one stage, I walked into a trap and was flung upside down. I pulled out my pistol and shot a series of goons as they charged me in slow motion. I love a good headshot, but a headshot whilst upside down was just too cool. There was also an ongoing call for stealth. Just charging into a situation was often not the best approach.
The combat felt very natural and intuitive. It was easy to use, swap and aim my weapons. I started off with the bow and I thought ‘gee, I wonder when I’m going to get a real gun?’ Well, the bow ended up being my favourite weapon. I loved (yes, loved) sneaking up behind enemies and strangling them with it and took the opportunity to upgrade the bow more than any other item. Soon enough I felt like Daryl from The Walking Dead.
It was so very satisfying every time I took the opportunity to use the environment against my opponents, especially when my back was against the wall and I was being overwhelmed by the mysterious denizens of the island. Shooting exploding barrels or pulling down structures often gave me enough breathing space to continue on.
There were difficulty spikes in combat and attempting to figure out certain puzzles, however there were no ‘search the internet for a walkthrough’ moments of frustration. Instead, it had some challenging parts that provided me with a sense of achievement (rather than tears of relief) when I eventually figured them out.
Croft’s attitude evolved throughout the game. In the early part of the narrative, she expressed regret over the taking of a human life, but by the halfway mark she was giving opponents a bit of lip as she sent them to their doom.
At times, it felt like I was playing a survival horror game. Hearing a noise as I crawled over the bones of less fortunate explorers was a little scary, I admit.
Although it was difficult to be wowed by graphics at this stage of the console cycle, I was impressed with the use of light and shadow and the gloomy design of some of the areas. At times, it felt like I was playing a survival horror game. Hearing an unidentified noise as a crawled over the bones of, shall we say, less fortunate explorers, was a little scary, I admit.
The story, which was told via voiced letters and videotape footage salvaged from the wreckage, maintained my interest to the extent that I wanted to find out more about the mystery, not just push on to the next adventure. Both the plot and the gameplay came to a satisfying conclusion.
I didn’t have high hopes for the multiplayer facet, mainly because I didn’t see a point to it. Unlike Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the new Tomb Raider featured solid shooting mechanics, so it was sufficient in that sense, but it just didn’t feel like it belonged. Tomb Raider should be about playing Lara Croft, battling alone against the elements and fighting like hell for survival. I didn’t get a sense of that at all in the multiplayer. It felt very generic. The typical capture the flag and death match categories didn’t feel related to the core Tomb Raider experience. I also discovered that the bow, such an integral part of the campaign, was useless to anyone other than Olympic level archers. I wasn’t even allowed to play as Lara Croft unless I gained enough XP to unlock her. She’s the damn Tomb Raider, people!
Aside from the meaningless multiplayer mode, this was a blast from start to finish. Developer Crystal Dynamics left a dark chapter of Tomb Raider behind and started again with a suitably butt-kicking action hero. With seamless and varied gameplay and an intriguing story, it was one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time.