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Back in the groove: A Tomb Raider review

Posted by on March 18, 2013 – 7:49 pm

Lara begins her adventure anew, but is it enough to break free of the mold? Image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics.

Long stuck in a rut of short downloadable games and infamously known for its well-bosomed protagonist Lara Croft, Tomb Raider has struggled a lot since its heyday with the PlayStation One. The recent reboot released by Crystal Dynamics earlier this month has finally snapped that streak however, and created an in-depth character revamp with a few snags on the way.

Tomb Raider begins simply enough with a up and coming Lara Croft acting as a supporting researcher on an expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai and evidence of the legendary Sun Queen, Himiko. However, Lara’s ship the Endurance hits a bad storm and crashes on an unknown island. This is just one unfortunate event in the long series of trials and tribulations Lara suffers as she attempts to survive. The game seems to do everything it can to make Lara an independent character.

Lara Croft 2

Wild wolves can sometimes be more of a challenge than the human enemies. Image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics.

She can hunt for experience points and scout areas for salvage (both used to upgrade skills and weapons respectively), as well as climb into higher vantage points and get into firefights. For all intents and purposes, Tomb Raider plays like a clone of the successful Uncharted series, barring the fact that the melee combat is wildly ineffective and Lara lacks a blindfire function. The lack of both mechanics can sometimes make combat in linear areas frustrating when enemy AI smartly swarm and flank you.

Unlike Uncharted however, Tomb Raider gives players a little more freedom with areas to explore. The environments are beautiful and not overwhelming like in Assassin’s Creed III, giving just enough to feel like you’re not limited in your otherwise straightforward path.

The story itself also lacks any lightheartedness or snark typical of Nathan Drake, and pulls no punches (literally in a few cases) in pitting Lara in the fight of her life. As the game progresses, Lara evolves from a scared young girl to a brave and confident hero who fights her way through the island. Sometimes the amount of violence Lara is exposed to is borderline over the top, as if every enemy received a memo to punch her in the face as a part of her island welcome, but it works with the tense mood and feel of the game.

The biggest issue with Tomb Raider, isn’t an issue with the campaign but rather the multiplayer. The multiplayer facet of the game feels like a cheap ripoff of the stronger multiplayer component Uncharted 3 carries. Parties can’t be made except in unranked private matches, melee attacks are even more inaccurate against other players, and the lack of blind fire is even more irritating in this setting. The games that it provides are run-of-the-mill variations of team deathmatch, capture the flag, capture the base, and free for all, with nothing unique about them that makes it a worthwhile part of the overall game.

Tomb Raider has finally succeeded in regaining its status as a respectable game about a treasure-hunting adventure. The campaign is definitely worth a single playthrough, but the game’s multiplayer doesn’t really contribute to its replay value; making it a worthwhile rental for most. Welcome back Lara, we missed you.