I’ve never been much of a fan of the Tomb Raider series, having played roughly half of the series’ previous offerings and not really coining on to what made the game so successful, I didn’t have much interest when Square Enix announced Lara’s impending return.
Then I saw the teaser and finally became interested in the antics of the lovely Miss Croft, especially in its new gritty and brutal setting. After seeing the gameplay I was basically hooked and waited for the release date with great anticipation.
Finally it dropped and I got to play the first Tomb Raider I would actually enjoy playing… And I really enjoyed it!
The story takes a naïve and innocent Lara on a brutal journey that takes her from gunshot virgin to straight up badass killing machine, taking on waves of machete and rifle wielding cultists, scaling mountainous terrains and radio towers and out running collapsing buildings and airplane crashes.
The game goes in depth into breaking down Lara and building her back up both physically and mentally which makes for a masterful character piece, teamed with the epicness of the story, the game is just as much of a joy on a storytelling level as it is mid action. The voice acting is spot on with Camilla Luddington providing a sterling performance that really brings Lara to life as she discovers her survival nature. The supporting cast provide strong performances, but the more interesting characters in my mind are underused in place of weaker ones.
The gameplay works as any standard third person actioner would, nothing particularly new, just highly polished. You have a choice of four ranged weapons, all fully customizable, a bow (arguably the best weapon in the game), a pistol (with optional silencer DLC), a shotgun and assault rifle with grenade launcher attachment. As a multi tool, you have a climbing axe good for scaling walls, sliding zip lines, opening doors and crates and caving skulls in!
The game plays much like a cross between “Uncharted” and “Resident Evil 4”, with the former providing the action and climbing aspect and the latter providing the shooter aspect and atmosphere at certain points in the game (the shanty town section in particular).
The set pieces transition perfectly into gameplay without loading and everything just fits together to make a truly magnificent cinematic game experience.
This all seems a bit too perfect, so what’s the catch?
The game suffers from horrendous bugs on multiple platforms, the PC version most horribly so, but I can only go off of what I played and so the glitch I came across was the infamous, game stopping rope ascender glitch. What should be a simple act of grappling a swinging crate and dropping it into a weakened section of flooring turns into a frustrating waiting game for a simple patch update that still remains elusive. The solution at the moment is to make use of another glitch that sends you through the floor into the corridors below.
The ropey multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired with a single game mode and limited customization it might as well not be there, perhaps the extra development could have gone into adding some weightier side missions and of course ironing out the bugs.
All in all, Tomb Raider is ball growingly good (lady balls included) and a strong opener for a fresh reboot on a stale series, and despite the bugs the game is easily one of the best third person actioners of the current gen consoles.
Slick gameplay, punchy set pieces and intense character development have really set the bar high for the franchise follow ups and similar titles of the genre alike.
Lets hope that the development team at Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics can continue the series with as much quality as they have started it. Lara’s back and better than ever!
4/5 (minus the half point for the bug issues)