Reboot. The word can give mixed feelings to an audience. The potential is huge as a once great series that has lost steam can be rejuvenated when a good reboot happens. On the other hand, if done badly it can spoil a franchise and with no potential sequels or fresh ideas on the horizon can almost bury it without a trace. Lucky for us Tomb Raider is most definitely a reboot that rejuvenates the series. Whilst not without it's problems, it's great to see Lara finally back at the top where she belongs.
This is the most real and most human Lara has ever been
The story sees Lara and an expedition team board a ship searching for a lost Japanese kingdom which is said to harness great power. After Lara instructs them to go on a more dangerous route they get caught in a freak storm and are shipwrecked on an island. Whilst trying to regroup with the team we encounter some strange inhabitants of the island and the story of survival begins. As this is Lara’s first big encounter in these situations she must adapt quickly or she will surely not survive this adventure.
Bringing Lara back to her roots was a great idea. It keeps the story grounded and really helps the player understand how much stress she is under as it isn't something she has done a million times. Lara’s learns her techniques she is made famous at the same time we do which really brings in the player into the adventure. This is the most real and most human Lara has ever been. And it is a joy to behold.
In the end I wish the story was better with more depth and something else to say to the player. Everything about the game screams survival which I like but I would have liked more to what's going on other than that initial concept. Perhaps more could have been done to establish the motives behind the character’s actions which would have resulted in me caring more about what happens to everyone . Still enjoyed it though but definitely a lot of room for improvement in a sequel.
Early on the game features a huge amount of quick time events which serve no purpose other than to frustrate the player. Rather than simply enjoy watching cutscenes you have to be aware at all times as if you don’t concentrate the game will throw a QTE that will more than likely result in your death. The game opens up eventually and with less scripted sequences there is a less of a need for QTE’s but early on they really make a bad impression.
Great to see Lara finally back at the top where she belongs
The set pieces and pacing is fantastic and at times can be rather exhilarating. When you are climbing up a collapsing building it even rivals Uncharted for spectacle, which is no easy task. Whilst it can be a rather bipolar game sometimes when it goes from the sublime to the odd it is still a very fun experience that many will enjoy.
When the game does finally open up we get a very fun action game indeed. Having all the weapons upgraded and being able to travel around the island freely is a joy. The only problem is that once it does finally feel like we are getting the game I expected it comes to an end. The game is relatively short and it’s a shame most of the time is spent feeling restricted and unable to fully engage with the island.
Outside of the main story there is many different ways to spend your time in this semi open world. The usual collectibles that you would expect appear but the most interesting side quest is the optional tombs. Whilst there aren't many of them and they are relatively easy to solve, the puzzles I found were very fun and offered a different pace to the game. Using fire and rope arrows to manipulate the environment is clever and feels way more interesting than most puzzles in games which are usually boring time wasters.
The game features a huge amount of quick time events which serve no purpose other than to frustrate the player
The overall tone of the game is very dark and gruesome and way more violent than previous games. All enemies seem sinister and intent on murdering Lara at all times and aren’t afraid to kill off anything or anyone to get Lara at all costs. Locations are dark and sometimes can be very claustrophobic resulting in very tense situations in order to get out alive. The QTE's are also much harder than most games, almost forcing you to watch the graphic ways Lara can die at least once before timing it right. This is not a game for children.
The gameplay is really fun and a big change from previous games which most of the time would involve a struggle just to get Lara to do what you was trying to do. Traversing the environments is tight and fluid and rarely boring with the use of the pickaxe to scale certain areas adding a level of threat as it doesn't always secure Lara to the wall she is scaling. The guns feel very smooth and satisfying when executed properly with the bow and arrow in particular being a surprising joy to use. Even though it’s ineffective in close range, it will mostly be the main weapon of choice when taking down the multiple enemies the game throws at you.
Changing weapons controls well for the most part and is easy to pick up. One thing that did disappoint me was how the weapons completely disappear after Lara switches between them and puts them into thin air on her back as it really loses the realism the game does a good job of portraying. Max Payne 3 did it very well where Max could only hold two weapons at a time so it’s an avoidable problem in third person games, had the developer put more thought into it.
The progression system is very nice and a fine addition to the game. You unlock new weapons and skills by collecting salvage (loot) contained in boxes and on dead bodies which is very addictive you will search every area thoroughly. The upgrades are worth it too. Being able to use arrows that explode on impact and learning new melee moves such as stabbing someone with an arrow in the head really makes the experience a more violent and enjoyable one.
The puzzles I found were very fun and offered a different pace to the game
Environments are very well put together with each area offering something new and interesting to explore. The depth is impressive as you go from being in claustrophobic tunnels only to climb up high to then jump across cliff tops. Visually the game is very pretty as you would expect from any blockbuster title in 2013. Nothing blew me away but overall it's a nice looking stylish game. I also experienced zero glitches during my entire time with the game which is nice seeing as they seem to becoming more prevalent in games recently.
One joy is that Lara is no longer a overly sexualised stereotype but rather a bad ass lead character who is fun to play as. The main goal was to show the rebirth of this iconic character and they really did pull it off. Lara is smart, resourceful and a very diverse character. She really goes through the motions during the story and whilst not all emotional beats are successful at pulling the heartstrings, overall she is a fantastic lead character. Just please give her a partner next time so she doesn't always talk to herself whilst examining tombs. It's really annoying.
Multiplayer on the other hand is absolutely atrocious. I played one of each of the modes after I had done the singleplayer 100% and got so frustrated I never played the game again. The mechanics feel shoddy and unresponsive compared to the main game. The shooting just doesn't work and the modes were completely unbalanced. I literally emptied my gun into someone and they just killed me as soon as I finished firing at them. The fact that development time went into this tacked on disgrace of a mode is such a shame as a few of the story problems could have been fixed with the same resources. Also having beat the game 100% they then make you reach level 60 online if you want the platinum trophy/1000G. The multiplayer left such a sour taste in my mouth after playing the story I really wished I hadn't even curiously tried it in the first place. If you are going to get this game avoid it at all costs.
Stabbing someone with an arrow in the head really makes the experience a more violent and enjoyable one.
I believe Crystal Dynamics set out to first of all to reinvent Lara Croft and also make a game that was fun to play. I think they achieved this and now I hope they are more adventurous with the next game. Concept videos released show horseback riding and monsters which would have made the game way more diverse than it actually is. They perhaps felt that was too ambitious this time around which was probably the right choice to focus on getting the fundamentals right but I expect much bigger things next time around. Hopefully a sequel will make a good experience into an amazing one like Uncharted 2 did for that series. Until then enjoy this great game and experience a solid entry in one of video game's most famous franchises of all time.