Tomb Raider Review
Lara Croft has never been a role model for young women. She has always been a character created by an industry that sells sex and their idea of what the female image should be to anyone who is willing to pay. But with the 2013 reboot, Lara is far different; she's a survivor, she's desperate and learns to adapt facing the struggles that are placed in front of her - at least it starts that way.
In this Tomb Raider, Lara is much younger and obsessed with Archaeology. She's on her way to a group of mysterious islands known as The Dragon's Triangle when her ship crashes, and she's separated from her expedition team. It's not long before things go even worse, and Lara and her team are being hunted by a group of ruthless mercenaries. Having never been in a situation like this, it's the game's earliest hours that are the most interesting. They show Lara in her most vulnerable; she's unsure of herself and doubts how she can survive against the odds in an area she knows very little about.
This is Tomb Raider at its most thrilling. You're looking for ways to sneak past enemies, you're using the environment - -and failing before you get to a solution. Sure, you dispatch those looking to attack you, but you do so often by the skin of your teeth, and often thanks to the environment around you. I thought it was a very interesting choice that it isn't until about an hour in when you even receive your first weapon - and even then, it's a hand crafted bow and arrow that you take from a downed enemy. When you do finally find a gun, the game makes Lara's first kill an emotional moment and something she'll have to come to grips with quickly if she wants to survive.
"...Lara changes drastically.."
It's not long after that though that Lara changes drastically. Perhaps it was that first kill, but Lara becomes less of a terrified survivor and much more of a ruthless and blood thirsty survival expert who wouldn't bat an eyelash at taking another's life. Sure, you could make the point that she's just doing what she needs to survive, but the transition is one that can be a bit rushed. The first hour or so, Lara is unsure to even scale a large wall in front of her because of what is on the other side, later on - she shoots a seemingly endless amount of enemy soldiers, scales and wall and then climbs across a large chasm on a rope. The journey and transformation is still a fun one to watch, it just seems a bit lopsided at times.
Action in Tomb Raider usually takes place in remarkable Hollywood style set pieces that rival those of fellow adventurer Nathan Drake in Sony's Uncharted series. You'll explore everything from abandoned facilities to factories, caves and jungles, and each one is even more of a thrilling set piece than the last. This is of course a Tomb Raider game and there are plenty of hidden objects and locations to uncover, and the search for them will often find you playing through sections multiple times, but the additional of a detective mode style survival instincts mode makes everything incredibly easy to find - in fact, almost too easy. Oh there's a hidden Tomb over there? Just hit that shoulder button and it'll become easier to find. I'm a master archaeologist.
Combat in Tomb Raider is mostly of the weapon sort as you'll use your bow and guns to take out the vast majority of the enemies, and its usually satisfying and the controls are responsive enough. You'll be able to sneak up on enemies and choke them out using your bow and use your arrow to distract others and initiate environmental kills, but the game lacks any sort of dedicated melee combat system, and you'll likely find this out the hard way - as early in the game you rarely have to get close with an enemy. When I did, I frantically searched for a way to punch, kick hell…even head butt, but no, I was left with one choice, get some distance to me and my attacker and fire an arrow into his heart. To be fair, the game does offer a few contextual kills in place of melee combat, like taking a rock from the environment and smashing it over your enemies face or using an arrow to stab your opponent in the knee (Oh, I see what you did there) and then the neck, but these are done with quicktime events and are often unavailable in a pinch.
"...being attacked often result in a one button quicktime event..."
That being said, the game does feature a large amount of quicktime events, but not nearly as much as we originally feared. Moments when you're being attacked often result in a one button quicktime event, and you're likely to fail at them multiple times, because the game doesn't really explain how you'll pass them. You've got one circle, and then an ever-shrinking circle inside of it with a button to press. It may seem simple enough, but the game doesn't tell you at what point exactly to press the button. Is it when it reaches the middle? When it's about to go away?
At least failure often results in some of the most insane death animations you'll see in modern gaming. Bordering almost on a "that's too much" level, Lara faces some rather horrifying death sequences. She get's choked out, gets an arrow to the throat, and even crushed very violently by a boulder. The animations, as they are throughout the rest of the game are superb, even in these most uncomfortable moments.
Tomb Raider takes from some of this generation's most loved games - the Hollywood presentation from Uncharted, the open style of the Arkham series -- and combines them to create something all its own. With its remarkable (yet questionably paced at times) story, incredibly animations and addicting gameplay, Crystal Dynamics and Square have taken the Tomb Raider series and done much more than reboot it; they've made it relevant and dangerous again.
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