Tomb Raider Review

Now that's a nice title screen

  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Release Date: 4 March 2013
  • Time played: 13 hours

About a month ago, I published my First Impressions article for Tomb Raider. In the article, I was quite positive about my experience with the game despite the fact I've never played a Tomb Raider game since the original 1996 one or the fact that this was the second reboot to the franchise. Due to my relative inexperience with the franchise I think this review would be most suitable for those in my situation who have only played the earlier Tomb Raider games or have never played one at all. So is the 9th game in the Tomb Raider series a lemon or a hit?

Plot (4/5)
Since this is a reboot the entire premise of the game is to explain how Lara Croft became known as the Tomb Raider. The story starts off with Lara as part of an archaeological expedition searching for the fabled Kingdom of Yamatai. Unfortunately, the research vessel they are on called "Endurance" is shipwrecked on an uncharted island deep within an area known as "the Dragon's Triangle" (assumedly an Asian equivalent to the Bermuda Triangle). Lara manages to survive but is kidnapped and separated from the rest of the group. The rest of the story focuses on Lara's many hardships as she learns to become self-sufficient and survive in a hostile environment.

I'm not usually big fan of stories that are transformed into "darker and grittier" narratives but in the case of the Tomb Raider reboot, it works well. The plot is a bit like Indiana Jones meets survival horror and the many challenges that Lara faces makes you appreciate how she's such a badass when she finally becomes the Tomb Raider in several of the other games (and films) she features in. The only criticism I have with the plot is that you have to suspend your disbelief a bit at how quickly she turns from a seemingly innocent, shell-shocked archaeology student into an acrobatic, remorseless, killing machine. I mean some of the things that Lara does is pretty brutal and more powerful skills reward you with more brutal ways to kill people. Granted most of the people Lara are killing aren't very nice people but do we have to transform Lara into a bloodthirsty psychopath as a result?

Gameplay (4/5)
This Tomb Raider is more of a survival game than previous iterations, which makes sense considering Lara's predicament. A lot of the game (especially the early parts) will focus on you finding food and salvageable materials - materials you can use to upgrade your weapons. A lot of the traditional Tomb Raider elements are still retained though, like Lara's ability to jump and grapple ledges, the ability to scale around cliffs and also solve basic puzzles. There's even the ability to raid tombs as optional side quests.

Besides a minor annoyance I had with the tutorial (in that for one particular part it didn't tell you which key to press) I generally had quite a lot of fun playing Tomb Raider. While there's probably a lot more killing involved in this iteration making it similar to a Third-Person Shooter, it at least still retains the essence of the Tomb Raider games: a third-person platformer where the environment itself is your worst enemy and consequently the greatest challenge to overcome.

Gee, I wonder where this "secret" tomb could be...

Sound (5/5)
Voice acting is generally good with T.V. actress Camille Luddington providing the voice and motion capture for Lara Croft. The environmental audio is also top notch which definitely helps with the immersion.

Music (4/5)
While the soundtrack isn't that memorable Jason Graves has done a great job in making it creepy, suspenseful and orchestral. He's previously worked on the soundtrack for Dead Space so it's not entirely surprising that he was picked for the job.

Graphics (5/5)
The game's graphics are fantastic and are the best I've seen in a PC game in awhile and best of all, it works well on a moderate system.

Replay (3/5)
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience playing Tomb Raider and the campaign is of a decent length at 13 hours (and that's with me only completing some of the side quests). The game also has some multiplayer challenges along with Steam achievements and trading cards to collect.

Polish (4/5)
My experience wasn't completely bug free: the game froze on me once and also managed to Crash-To-Desktop during another playthrough. Also, during the game's finale there was a situation where the next scripted sequence didn't trigger for several minutes but after I restarted from the last checkpoint it seemed to be okay.

Score – 8/10

While I don't normally like reboots that involve the "dark and gritty" treatment I think in the case of Tomb Raider it works in its favour. The game still manages to capture the essence of the 1996 original while still being an origin story chronicling Lara Croft's traumatic journey as she survives on a dangerous island. The plot is good, the gameplay is good, the graphics are good, the voice acting is good, the music is good; there's not really much to fault with this game. And just when I was starting to lose my faith in AAA titles...

Tomb Raider is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Tomb Raider website ]