Tomb Raider review
Lara is back, and a new survivor is born
Over the past 17 years we have followed Lara Croft's adventures from the ground-breaking original Tomb Raider, through to the much maligned Tomb Raider: Underworld. Now Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have brought us the long awaited reboot of, probably, one of the best game franchises ever.
In this we see a young Lara who is vulnerable, distraught, scared and alone, with nothing but her determination to stay alive and her keen intellect to keep her from the clutches of the inhabitants of the island she finds herself shipwrecked on. It’s a harsh, horrible, dirty and scary environment we find her starting in. Where death is everywhere and portrayed in a grotesque fashion of mutilated, hanging corpses. It’s certainly a gritty game, and one where, after just a few moments, you find yourself feeling every cut, tear and abrasion Lara suffers. The atmosphere is incredible and leaves you as panicked and as traumatised as the poor girl herself.
The first part of the game, from escaping the cave to emerging into the islands exterior, to finding your fellow ship mates, to escaping from the inhabitants is a very linear, button mashing affair. Through various screen prompts you guide Lara through the various environmental puzzles and obstacles that bar her way, with sections of frantic, and unwanted, button mashing to avoid being killed in a number of graphically unpleasant death cut-scenes. However, after the initial part of the game is over, you are left in a game world that’s a sublime mix of open world exploration and linear, cut-scene progression through the main storyline.
Additionally, you are also offered a multiplayer option, which in itself feels a little bolted-on, and added purely for adding on sake. It’s difficult to comprehend the style of the game in multiplayer mode, especially after playing the main single player story, you’re kind of left feeling like it’s unnecessary and lacks the attention the main game received. There are various modes available and you can choose characters from the Survivors or the Solarii (the game antagonists), including Lara herself, although you have to be level 60 before you can purchase her. Despite the cast being the same, the multiplayer just doesn’t have the same edgy feel and atmospheric emotional content as the single player story, which lets it down. However, the inclusion of the familiar Tomb Raider concept of climb and combat may appeal to those who require more from the game once they’ve completed it, but for the hardcore Tomb Raiders, there’s little incentive to dip into the online multiplayer.
Visually, it’s as amazing as the trailers from E3 tantalised us with. Lara shivers from the cold of night air, the flames from her burning torch dance along the low celling of the cave she’s crawling through and the local wildlife leaps out of way as she plunges through the undergrowth of the jungle. But rather than boasting the spectacular graphics throughout, it’s the emotion they produce that makes for a more engaging experience. Lara’s world becomes a violent one, and there’s no escaping the feeling of dread that hangs over her every move.
Taking concepts from the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham Asylum, we see Lara climb, leap and tackle obstacles in a parkour fashion, viewing the world through ‘Survival Instinct’ (whereby hidden or interactive objects may appear, and important areas are highlighted). In combat, which when it comes is thick and fast, these skills will keep Lara alive, or hidden, and soon we see her transformed from the survivalist to the hunter and dual-gun totting tomb raider we know and love.
Throughout we listen to Lara occasionally reassuring herself, grunting with every hit and yelping in pain from a bad fall, escaping from a crashing airplane or when the teeth of a wolf clamp around her leg; but the dialogue seems shallow, and too often, too cheesy. While Lara’s ramblings may be tolerated during the game, we are subjected to a range of characters from grizzled Northerner, to dear supportive girlfriend.
There’s plenty to concentrate on, though; exploration is paramount, and through it you’ll find objects to craft at base camps, collectable items - and of - course hidden tombs to raid. Scavenging will unlock the games’ potential, and lead you to more areas and treats to, generally, arm Lara with.
Tomb Raider 2013 is the new beginning for Lara Croft, and although it’s not without its complaints, it’s certainly one of most impressive games to be released so far.
• Price: £29.99 via Steam
• Manufacturer: Crystal Dymanics/Square Enix
• Website: goo.gl/2SGBi
• Required spec: XP SP3 and beyond. Dual Core 2.2GHz+. 2GB RAM. DirectX Graphics with minimum 512MB.