As everyone should know by now (if you don’t already) late 2012’s Tomb Raider is a reboot of the classic action platformer series. Started on the Playstation, and PC in 1996. Tomb Raider has followed the adventures of Lara Croft who much like Indiana Jones is an archaeologist. An archaeologist who often stumbles into danger throughout her adventures.
The reboot attempts to show Lara Croft’s evolution from a capable yet self doubting woman to the confident action hero fans have come to expect. The story centers around Lara’s crew searching for the mysterious island of Yamatai for historical evidence of a kingdom that is said to have existed on it. During the search the crew is stuck in a violent storm, and shipwrecked. They find that the island was not only the one they were looking for, but it has also been overrun by a dangerous cult. Lara has to solve the mystery of the endless storm that has trapped everyone on the island, save her fellow travelers, and defeat the sinister cult.
Things really become bleak when it turns out that the cult seeks out Lara’s friend to use as a vessel for the soul of the ancient deity they follow. Moreover, her other crew members find themselves under constant assault, the threat of being abducted, and tortured. Afraid, yet determined, Lara faces up to her fears in order to save the proverbial day.
The storyline is a pretty interesting one, even if it isn’t completely original. Throughout the game Lara discovers clues, artifacts, and historical evidence that tie everything together pretty nicely. There are some moments that come off as cliché’ or contrived. There are moments that are even quite predictable. But on the whole you will come away entertained. The theatrical feel is expanded when you are playing the game. The graphics are enough to give anyone pause. Player models have some of the best texture work seen over the last few years. Little details on clothing, accessories, items, and effects really display how painstakingly hard the developer’s art department worked on this title.
The sound effects are on par with the graphics, featuring some wonderful voice acting not only for the main characters during the cut scenes, but for every character. Guard banter is right out of a serial movie. The score accents the action, and adventure very nicely giving the game the Hollywood blockbuster movie vibe that it is obviously going for. Gunshots, wild animals, weather, are all other elements of sound that are exemplary in performance here.
The way the game plays is where some of the confusion will kick in. Tomb Raider’s world works much like a Metroid game. Every stage has multiple paths in, and out. These paths interconnect to each other so going off the beaten path, and discovering new things is indeed possible. There are also hidden alcoves in nearly every section that hide some lost tomb in a giant room. Each of these rooms is essentially a puzzle section. Solving these puzzles, and collecting the rewards gives players some back story, as well as a reason to go back, and replay sections that they might have missed. Much like the Metroid series, there are certain areas that require certain items to get into. Adding another reason for you to want to explore the island.
There are campfires in every level too. These work a lot like the save rooms in Metroid Prime or Super Metroid, where you can essentially have a checkpoint save. It is here you can also level up Lara, and her arsenal. As you go through the campaign you will find new weapons, search for salvage (either by solving an easy puzzle, or smashing a crate open) or taking out enemies, and searching their bodies. When in a campfire area Lara can upgrade her weapons, abilities, and items using the salvaged gears collected. There are also skill points she can use to buff certain attributes up. Much in the way modern military shooters allow in multiplayer. Campfires also allow for fast travel between areas.
Where the identity crisis kicks in however is oddly enough, in its story. The story unfortunately pushes the play experience into a linear one. Pressing a button will pull up a gray look to everything, and highlight where you need to go next, along with clues on how to get there. Instinctively, most of the people who play this will end up taking these paths. Solving a puzzle, going into a shootout section, then getting some more of the story. In a lot of ways it’s a missed opportunity. Instead of feeling like an open world you can explore at your own pace, you will end up feeling like you’ve been playing another linear third person shooter.
Thankfully, the shooting is never dull or repetitive. This is in part because of not only the well done mechanics, but because of the variety. Players can take a stealth approach, sometimes completely avoiding a firefight. Or they can go in all guns blazing. Weapons, and take downs feel satisfying. Stealthily taking down enemies from behind will bring up a Quick Time Event, that will keep enemy suspicion down if you are successful. Sadly, the game does have a bit too many QTE sections in certain theatrical areas of the story. They’re not implemented poorly, but there are a number of times you may wish you could skip them. The timing on some of them leave no room for error either. So you may find yourself replaying some of them several times before you’re allowed to progress.
The game also has a few multiplayer modes thrown in. One of them is the typical Team Deathmatch mode you’ve seen hundreds of times before. Another tasks one team with delivering supplies, with the opposite team trying to stop that team by killing them before they can complete their objective. The third is a variant of the second with one side exploring for parts to make an S.O.S. Beacon while the other tries to stop them. None of these will really hold your attention very long, as they aren’t going to have the focus of a competitive multiplayer shooter. As a result the multiplayer modes feel a little bit like a wasted effort.
Tomb Raider is worth checking out. It has an entertaining if derivative story. It has really fun shootouts, and stealth mechanics. It has some exploration for those who want it. Unfortunately, it isn’t as fleshed out, or as refined as it could have been. Hopefully, the upcoming sequel will allow exploration to deliver more of the narrative rather than linear storytelling. Tomb Raider is still a really fun ride however. If you never got around to playing it before, you may want to get around to it before the sequel hits.
Final Score 8 out of 10