Score = B+
Game Type – Action
Platform – Xbox 360
Developer – Crystal Dynamics
Publisher– Square Enix
ESRB – Mature
Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline – No one leaves the island
Reboots are fickle things. They can take you through the clouds and guide you among the stars in an ever-lasting state of bliss, or they can frustrate you to the point where you’re not even sure you want to be a follower anymore. Thankfully, Tomb Raider’s new gritty survival direction has us dancing on the moon. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have decided to dispense with the cheekiness this time around and take Lara Croft back to the cusp of being the bad-ass heroine we all know and love. And quite the interesting decision it is.
Having a genius archeologist in the family, by way of her father, Lara proves the apple doesn’t fall far as she ends up being the persuading factor of her crew traveling into Japan’s Devil’s Triangle; and also into the heart of a battle centuries old in the making. The course change is quickly regretted when the ship is suddenly swept up in a flash storm and becomes shipwrecked on an island filled with secrets and “other” life forms that don’t seem too happy about the intrusion. The crash leaves everyone in disarray and some are even split off from the group, which is where our heroine’s instincts kick in to survival mode while being forced to save herself from captivity.
Tomb Raider wastes no time connecting the player with Lara. Clever zooms and intimate first-person views put you right into her boots as you feel the trials experienced on-screen. When Lara squeezes through a tight wedge of rock, her movements, coupled with a re-positioned “snug” camera, reflect this. Get too close to a wall of flame or a windy cavern, and she’ll react in human fashion by putting up her arms for a face shield. Even walking too close to the wall has a reaction of reaching out a hand for support. The developers simply did a fascinating job with the human aspect of this game!
Combat is definitely an involved experience with the latest Tomb Raider. In all the other iterations, Lara usually starts out with her two pistols cocked and ready to mow down anything in her path. In this game, she starts out with nothing more than her wits and the torch she finds nearby. This only leads to the anticipation of weapons that are sure to turn up later in the game. A nice handful of weapons and makeshift versions of those weapons are present, but the one that seems to get the most usage would be the bow and arrow. There are a lot of necessary/forward progress uses for it, but the most satisfactory use is getting that headshot clear across the map. Ahhh, there’s nothing like a pin-pointed arrow that hits home from a few hundred feet to get the blood boiling. I kind of wish I was able to do it with something like, wait for it… a Wii nunchuk to enhance that feeling.
The upgrade system is a great enhancement to the Tomb Raider universe. There are upgrades for your weapons and also survival tactics that come in pretty handy later in the game. There’s even a brawler aspect to combat which may just have you sparing a few bullets and playing possum long enough to give your attacker a nice “slice” with your climbing axe. Again, more satisfaction. Whatever your style, the game’s got you covered. The one thing that is missing during combat is the ability to hip-fire. Pretty much any game dealing with shooting these days allows for a “spray-n-pray.” It’s understandable when it comes to shooting arrows, but when you’re in survival mode with eight guys coming at you at once, trying to carefully aim at your target becomes a liability. The last thing missing during the bulk of the campaign is Lara’s 2 gun salute; which is kind of bitter-sweet. Sure it’s desirable to dual wield her signature pistols during the game, but the different approach to battle is fresh and exciting as it unfolds.
The last point in this exciting game is the un-exciting multiplayer aspect. It has great potential with all the zip lining and such, that are still only seen in a few multiplayer shooters, but the jittery shooting aspect makes it a big fail in terms of fun. When you finally manage to hit someone, there’s just no sense of accomplishment, which is most likely due to the lack of “umph” in bullet connection and animation upon the other guy’s demise. It sort of reminds me of Shadowrun; and if you’ve played it, you know that ain’t good.
Overall, the reboot of Tomb Raider is an exceptional piece of work. Finding all the maps, relics, and goodies are great side dishes to the main course. We are certainly reminded of early Tomb Raiders by the way the tombs are connected throughout the island and of course having to figure out all the fun puzzles. Small drawbacks like having no hip-fire and the quickly forgettable multiplayer experience are minor issues that won’t keep me from taking a second run through the game to get those Xbox achievements. Even through a speed run, I’d say this game should keep your brain engaged while trying to get that 100% completion mark.