New look same game, but is it worth it? You decide.
Originally written 2-1-14
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
In 2013 Lara Croft was reintroduced into the gaming world in the Tomb Raider reboot that was met with high praise. Many gamers argued during its initial release that it was a lock for Game of the Year, that was until The Last Of Us came around and pretty much closed that argument. Whether or not Tomb Raider was the best of the best, it was no doubt a great game. At the end of last year due to the game's success, Crystal Dynamics decided to rebuild this reboot from the ground up with intentions of showing us the potential in next gen visuals. They definitely succeeded at that; but I'm sure many people are wondering the same thing I wondered when this game was set to be released. Is it worth playing the same game again with the only difference being updated visuals? Let's find out shall we.
Tomb Raider is still a single player, third person action adventure that follows Lara Croft on this dangerous island, with a savage cult of men on her trail lead by a man named Matheis. Lara must rely on her survival instincts to combat against these battle hardened killers, by understanding her element and mastering various weapons. The game play is very strong and is quite the improvement from the original Tomb Raider series; for one thing, there is little to no focus on puzzle related elements. The puzzles in this game are very easy, and simply require paying attention to the surroundings and activating Lara's survival instincts mode which highlights areas in the environment. Most of these puzzle situations occur in optional tombs Lara can raid if the player wants to. I recommend completing these tombs because they reward the player with upgrades I will get into later.
Tomb Raider gives off this open world feel yet it's very linear with no confusion on where to go next. There's quite a bit of hand holding that I really don't have a problem with, because there is a good amount of exploration concerning items to find and enemies to take out. When the game begins, Lara is unarmed but this changes quickly as she acquires a bow/arrows, pistol, and other firearms; this brings me to the meat of everything, the combat. The action in this game never ceases to be gripping. Lara can upgrade her skills by collecting items called salvage; this allows her to learn melee attacks such as throwing dirt in enemies faces and attacking or finishing them with her axe. She can also move in close to finish guys with bullets to the head or shotgun blasts to the face. The upgrades do not stop there, as they carry over into the weapons; Lara will be able to use flame arrows, outfit her guns with silencers and grenade launchers, plus other cool features. The stealth moments of combat are awesome too, with death by strangulation using the bow or vicious stabbings with her axe. I still enjoy how these moments of stealth do not take this game out of its comfort zone; when the enemy discovers Lara it's not an instant defeat, the battles are only tougher to win, therefore you will always have a chance to wipe out a team. Combat is handled even better, as Lara will automatically crouch behind cover; this is very well balanced with rolling and aiming creating a very fluid action-filled experience.
I like the enemy AI in this game because when you're detected, they can give you a serious fight. The enemies will shoot from a distance while melee fighters will close in and others will flank. Lara must use her cover and be quick to evade, because a stationary target will be a dead one quick. The only disappointing element concerning combat are the boss battles; to a certain degree they can be overlooked though, because the random fire fights can be such close calls. The elements can also be a hazard as situations will have Lara washed down stream avoiding instant death scenarios. The game's plat forming elements are very easy. Although it's very possible to die some easy deaths; I just can't recall ever having a difficult time with a particular jump, and this includes out of nowhere bridge collapses. The game also has a few quick time event sections that gives you some time to react. I don't know if I was just out of practice though, but these moments felt a little faster than the original game.
The game's flaws are at a minimum and I guess this will vary among people. I know many folks to complain about the quick time events. These moments in the game just didn't bother me because I've seen this implemented much worse. The difficulty is moderate for the most part, however there are areas where the enemies can be quite tough. These segments aren't so much impossible as they require just getting good in combat. My personal gripe is still the story; although I find the premise very interesting and Lara is well developed as she transitions from innocent adventurer to hardened killer. I feel her switch was too swift, and this is mainly due to her change being more fit for film than a video game. In the beginning she seems full of regret for having to take lives from animals to people, but then she's later mowing down both as gameplay dictates. It can be considered a minor gripe, yet it still doesn't translate well through a video game.
This game still controls very well; Lara can load and switch weapons easily at any time. Movement is just as fluid and I never found myself struggling to pull off anything. I love the spot on aiming, it makes head and knee shots too easy to pull off. The PS4 controller now has voice command and while it is responsive I never felt they need to use it. Personally I thought it was unnecessary.
OK, I'll just come out and say that this game looks a lot better than before with a more refined picture. However, it's the subtle details that shows off what the next gen system can do in regards to taking their 3D models to a new level. Lara's hair seems a bit more life like as the wind brushes through it down to the last strand; it appears that they have features on their own that can be seen as she moves her head or around. The lighting effects are done better as the light reflects from her skin. It's quite life like and you don't need the greatest of eyes to catch these things. For those who never played this game, then prepared to be blown away by some of the locations such as very dark caves, very dirty and dingy underground prisons, abandoned ships, and freezing mountain caps. 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. The camera is definitely an improvement in the overall series as it follows Lara quite well.
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.
I definitely ran into some annoying glitches. The system reset on me during the helicopter escape scene, but it played just fine restarting from that area with the error being reported to Sony. I didn't see anything else like that again. Another glitch took place in the cult's town area during a revisit. Enemies respawned despite killing them which really isn't a problem because this happens in games. The problem is when there were supposedly only two enemies after me, but the voice work felt as if there were more. I was being shot at from unknown areas and upon further investigation I saw it was empty corners shooting at me. This was actually kind of funny until they killed me with no way to avoid them. When I came back to that area making as much noise as possible nothing happened. Too strange even for a game.
The game has a host of trophies to collect for that 100%, therefore the back tracking adds quite a bit. The game also has a multi-player that really isn't all that special. It has your usual death matches, and the stages are multi-layered adding to the depth of things; but it all feels tacked on and I would have enjoyed more of the single campaign.
Now if you never played this Tomb Raider reboot before and one of these new consoles is in your immediate future, then I think it's best to pick it up then, because you will be fresh to experience some very smooth game play and outstanding visuals. In addition, if you're a fan of the franchise then prepare yourself for something different, since this game is not puzzle heavy or filled to the top with overly complicated plat-forming segments at all. This is something different more in line with the Uncharted series. To those whom already played this and even collected all the trophies; then it's up to you if doing all that again for the sake of improved visuals is worth it. I enjoyed the recent play through and getting a look at the potential of next gen graphics; however, I kind of wish that I started off with something fresh. Tomb Raider is an amazing game but I didn't need this play through to remind me.
Pros: Gorgeous updated look, combat system, skill Tree
Cons: Mixed on the story, quick time events will bother people