cyclonus_the_warrior's Tomb Raider (Xbox 360) review

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The rebooting of an icon with positive results.

Originally written: 8-9-13

Lara Croft, a young archaeologist is searching for the lost city of Yamatai with her expedition team. The ship is heavily damaged by a raging storm and they're forced on an island. Lara is captured by an unknown assailant and she later awakens in some cavern. She plans her escape with intentions on finding her teammates. -summary

Tomb Raider 2013 went down as the most highly anticipated game of the year. The screen shots for the game were more than enough to leave even those unfamiliar with the franchise salivating. However, it was those already familiar with the franchise curious to see the new direction for the game's heroine Lara Croft. It was mentioned that this video game was a reboot of the franchise, and also a brand new take in regards to the game play. Originally, Tomb Raider, which had debut back in 1996, was an adventure/action game with a heavy emphasis on the former. This time we were going to witness a switch around with the gun play taking center stage. Of course, this was met with harsh criticism as the franchise has been notorious for its puzzles and plat-forming. Personally, I felt any new development would only benefit Tomb Raider moving forward. The franchise had become somewhat passable to dreadful with developers appearing to be more focused on Lara Croft's bust, and not really focused at all on the game being a bust. This reboot is indeed a step in the right direction despite focusing more on action. The game has been heavily compared to theUncharted series; there are strong similarities between the two but Tomb Raider manages to outshine Nathan Drake and his treasure hunting campaigns.

Story:

Tomb Raider shines a great deal in its game play, yet at the same time it hopes to raise its story to the same level. The story has been met with quite a bit of praise as we witness Lara grow from an innocent young woman to hardened survivor. I'm pretty much mixed on the story, but I'm leaning more towards the negative though. Now first of all I will mention that I was never very fond of the original Lara. She appeared too superhuman and not down to Earth at all. She never displayed weakness and if she did it was due to a loss. This new Lara has far more depth than the original ever had. For the first time I can remember, I actually care to see her make it and put the big hurt on her tormentors. The problem I have with the story is that it feels quite inconsistent.

In the beginning of the game when Lara breaks free of her captor, she's forced to hunt animals for food. This is a great way to kick off the story because she needs to eat. We're treated to a cut scene of Lara's first animal kill in which she expresses sorrow. It's a touching moment, and this is a situation that works in developing her character, but when the cut scene is over, you're encouraged to kill more animals in order to gain experience. This also carries over into her first kill. She kills a man because her life is in danger. Then later on she takes another life, then she's mowing guys down as game play dictates and this is my problem. This is one of those occasions where video games and cinema blend badly. Her transition into someone fighting for her life would have translated better on film. The development of the plot does not match her transition through the game play. It could have worked though with better writing and a reliance on more thought out cut scenes in the beginning. Later on in the game, the writers introduce more sequences of Lara being abused (non sexually), and this is meant to drive her anger. It could have just been done differently instead of relying on torture-ish gimmicks.

I do understand not everything can be Metal Gear Solid; but it was difficult for me to completely feel for Lara since her transition was so swift. I'm sure some folks will probably accuse me of being nit-picky and the focus is game play. I do agree that game play is key, but this is an issue with the game itself because the writers heavily tried to sell us Lara's character development and they floundered it in translation. The game takes itself quite seriously with this. The rest of the cast are pretty disposable and are meant to fill up stereotypical roles and drive the plot. The plot gained my interest a little; it appears Lara and co. are stuck on the island against a very violent cult lead by a man named Matheis. The story is delivered through some cool cut scenes hear and there, but it's mostly through documents Lara finds scattered around the island. Some of the writings help in developing the mystery of the island, people's beliefs, and even hidden motives. Some of this interested me while others I just hit the skip button. For the most part I'm just mixed on the story, and I hope it's delivered better in a sequel.

Game Play:

Tomb Raider is a third person action/adventure game. From here on out this game shines brightly. There's a fine enough balance between action, plat-forming, and searching. The combat improved a great deal overTomb Raider: Underworld. Combat moves at a very fluid pace and it's none stop fun. The shootouts and melee confrontations never reach the realm of boring; they are quick pace and very intense. Lara picks up various weapons on her quest beginning with a bow and arrow. She later equips herself with an assault rifle, shotgun, and a pistol. These weapons can all be upgraded via a skill tree along with Lara's physical attributes. This is only done by picking up items being collected as salvage, plus finding artifacts or taking up challenges in the game which range from burning the enemies portraits to shooting down totems. There's always something to do; but further on to the combat. People are comparing this to Uncharted, but it's not on Tomb Raider's level though, this game is far above it. Lara automatically crouches in heated situations making herself a harder target. She can roll and is pretty quick with getting the targeting down. Enemies can be taken down with a single head shot unless they're wearing face armor. There are some enemies totally draped in armor which causes you to burn through ammo; I don't mind this actually, because it works in the games steadily escalating difficulty.

Another area Tomb Raider shines is in the melee combat. In the beginning Lara can't fight for shit, because you have to purchase the skills, but when you get them they are worth the wait. She can counter and stick her pick ax right in enemies faces; hit them with a stun, then move in close and blow their brains out. You can even shoot them in the knees to work on the gruesome finish. The action is just awesome and I would have a problem with the easy boss fights, but since the grunts give you such a good battle and they could kill you in seconds I think it's a wash. Especially the warriors towards the end; they will give you a fight to remember.

Plat-forming is pretty cool here and again it's very similar to Uncharted; but while I was playing this, even though this game lacks the flash and imagination of that game's plat-forming. It feels more in line with the mature feel here. While I was climbing ledges, running across bridges, etc. I kept on thinking if this wasUncharted, that bridge would have broke, that brick would've came loose, my character would be holding on by one hand for the 1000th time etc. Tomb Raider makes the plat-forming situations in Uncharted 3, most notably, look lame and cheesy as hell in comparison. The level design has moments of being amazing, plus there are some very cool hazard situations that should be experienced and not spoiled.

There's a good amount of searching here as well and Lara will even raid some tombs. These almost come off as bonuses since they aren't necessary in completing the main game, but they shouldn't be ignored though since the items you obtain reward you with skill points. You will do a lot of backtracking here, but it's definitely rewarding as you will be able to upgrade all of your weapons and attributes. I enjoyed doing this.

There's a stealth element where Lara can creep up and strangle enemies to death with her bow. I think the stealth portion of the game doesn't get enough credit. I like how you don't really need it to win most battles, plus it doesn't take the game out of its comfort zone. I made it through a couple of situations killing everyone without being detected. I had fun with it.

The puzzles are decent at best; hardcore fans whom have played all of the games up to this point, most notably Tomb Raider 2 will be very disappointed in the puzzles here. These are unbelievably simple in comparison. The longest I found myself stuck on any puzzle in this game was probably about 5 minutes, plus I finished this game on my first run through with a 88% completion rate. It's a fairly simple and linear game. There's the illusion that the game is grand on an open world scale but it's not. The game can probably be completed in about 7-8 hours if you run straight through the objectives. It took me longer though since I tried to find everything on my first play through.

Several people I know have a problem with the quick time events, but if you never played Ninja Blade then you have no idea just how bad that shit can get. If you're not completely focused on the game, then you can miss those button presses rather quickly and die a horrible death. I didn't have a beef here at all though.

Controls:

Tomb Raider excels here a great deal and the first thing that comes to mind is the targeting. If you can't hit the enemies heads, it's either because you need practice or they're just moving pretty fast. This game controls very well; Lara can load and switch weapons on the go. Button presses and movement over very narrow plat-forms along with scaling walls responds very well. Lara has plenty of things she can do and the controller uses all the buttons, sticks, and pad.

Graphics/Music/Sound:

For those who praise graphics above anything else then Tomb Raider is a treat for you. The visuals are outstanding from the settings to the action. The carnage is very well captured as you receive blood splattered finishes for your effort in head shots. The death sequences are brutal, and the ones for Lara when she's killed during hazards are downright disturbing. Honestly, they could have held back on some of this shit. I would rather see Nathan Drake or any other male video game lead die like this.

Many of the set pieces are attention grabbing; the snowy landscape towards the end of the game pushes the system's capabilities. Lara finds herself in the middle of a white-out due to a severe blizzard. The limited visibility and frightening, furious snow fall looks quite realistic. The ocean and mountain sceneries are gorgeous as it displays the island's illusion of innocence. The camera work is amazing in capturing the distant view. The inner caverns are sinister, and the paths Lara must traverse are better off left unspoiled. One thing about this game is that it comes out of left field with some of its locations. Also, love Lara's more normal character design. There was actually an attempt to make her into a natural pretty girl instead of an over-sized boob freak. One huge improvement here over Tomb Raider: Underworld is that camera, most people will agree the camera in that game was nightmarish. Here, it handles very well and the worst thing I experienced was losing where the enemy chasing me was at, but this was because of me just getting the hell out of harm's way quickly.

The music at times works well with the jungle environments and fits properly as you navigate through the small waterways and come across the wildlife. The BGM really isn't memorable to me, but it gets the job done in establishing whatever mood it's aiming for. Sound effects are spot on with the gun fire along with the vicious slashes delivering a disturbing meat-ripping slice. The voice acting is very good with Camilla Luddington replacing Keeley Hawes as Lara. She delivers a good portrayal of what a young Lara Croft may sound like. The only problem here I can think of is the character of Reyes. It's obvious this character has a Spanish last name, but her design and voice actor is clearly of a black woman and I just find it an issue in regards to casting.

Replay:

I can imagine some people going back to get that 100% across the game and you will be unlocking quite a bit of achievements for your work. Other than that and increasing the difficulty there really isn't much to do. The multi-player really doesn't stand out from others of its type. You obviously have your team based death match, but the other modes aren't that bad. You have the Free For All if you prefer solo play, and the other team based modes will find you trying to either scavenge goods from others or activate radio towers. I didn't spend too much time here because this just isn't my thing, but I wasn't exactly bored.

Glitches:

Now I haven't experienced any glitches of any type through multi-player or single campaign; but I have heard some people's nightmares though with the game either freezing, resetting, or just straight crashing. I didn't even notice frame-rate issues so I'm among the lucky ones.

Final Thoughts:

Look folks, this is the skinny here. Tomb Raider has taken a new direction focused on action, but focuses less on complicating plat-forms and puzzles. It will more than likely appeal to newer fans. Those whom have followed the series I recommend coming into this with an open mind. I've played damn near the entire series, but I believe Tomb Raider needed the make over. I still had a blast with this one; the combat is that good, the searching actually rewards you with better weapons, and the game is beautiful to look at. The only glaring flaw is my issue with story elements and shaky character development that wants to blend with the game play. Many people don't have a problem with the story. So get this if you're in need of an action game with some depth.

Rating: 8/10

Pros: Visuals, Combat system, Skill Tree

Cons: Mixed on the story, quick time events will bother people

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