Since 1996, Lara Croft has been somewhat of a video game icon and sex symbol, and has since expanded across various form of media. The female bad ass and her tight short shorts spawned two rather atrocious films in the late 90′s and early 2000′s. She has also been portrayed in comic books and graphic novels. Yet for all her renown, I have never once played Tomb raider game. In fact my only experience with Lara Craft has been through Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of the fictional, English archaeologist. Suffice it to say, the reboot seemed like a good place to get into hype surrounding Tomb Raider. I would be unbiased, and would only judge the game that I am playing, rather than letting past game influence me. Is this Lara Croft’s finest hour? Or should this game be left at the bottom of a mass grave of technology, only to be discovered by adventurous women with a penchant for inappropriate outerwear? Read on to find out.
Since I would to leave the best until last, I have decided to review the multiplayer first. Tomb raider is the first outing in the series to include a fully functional online, Player vs Player multiplayer mode. Much like the single player game, you play in third person, and use parkour to navigate the environment. The player is given the option to choose which weapons they take into battle in the form of customization loadouts. These are scant and basic to begin with, but the options for weaponry begin to increase as the player levels up. So far the multiplayer seems rather standard. There are five different maps to slog it out on, all of which take inspiration from the locales of the single player campaign. In addition to this, there are also four different game modes. The first two are your standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The latter two are objective based gametypes.
Rescue is a game mode not too different from capture the flag. Supposedly, some unseen survivors are in need of medical aid. You are and your team are required to seek and capture medical kits. However, the opposing team have a kill count to reach, and if that limit is reached before your team can escort five med kits back to base, then it is game over. To balance this, the capturing team have a bleed out timer, and can shoot whilst downed and waiting for revival.
The final game type is something. Ok I forgot what it was called, and had no idea as to what I was doing. Speaking of, he general feel of the multiplayer is that it is quite forgettable. Whilst it has it’s unique moments, such as using the environment to gain an advantage over other players, the multiplayer as a whole feels unnecessary. There are enough in game options to keep you playing, but there is little there that actually makes you want too. There is not enough variety with the maps or game mode. Many a superior multiplayer game are available, and this just can’t compare.
Onto more exciting endeavors. Watch out for potential, albeit minor spoilers ahead: Lara Croft is a young, 21-ish archaeologist on an expedition into an ancient Japanese kingdom known as Yamatai. This civilization was supposedly ruled over by a legendary shaman: Himiko, the “Sun Queen”. Aboard the Endurance, a ship bound for Yamatai, Lara is accompanied by Roth, an ex marine and mentor to Lara, sort of the Sean Bean of the group – a tough but compassionate northerner. Reyes, the ships mechanic. Jonah, a guy who looks like Vas, but has indulged himself in far too many pies. Sam, Lara’s best friend and camerawoman for the expedition. Grim, a bad ass Scottish sailor. Finally, Dr.Whitman, the resident arse hole – also an archaeologist, seeking to hit the big leagues and leave bankruptcy.
All hell breaks loose when the Endurance is caught in a storm and is shipwrecked on an island. However, the quickly find they aren’t the islands only inhabitants and are quickly captured by the current residents. Lara must now survive, kill and hunt for a way to escape the island. The story is certainly an emotional telling, that can get quite dark and gritty, whilst maintaining an air of mystery throughout. It focuses on how Lara becomes the iconic bad ass that she is know as today, and gives more character to her, well, character.
Lara is no longer in the short shorts that, for little more than a decade, have been making teenage nerds’ crotches just as tight. She has been given a more up to date, modernised look, whilst still retaining that beautiful recognisable appearance. The game looks incredible, and the effects of the environment and situation are exceptionally detailed on Lara. As the game progresses, she becomes dirtier (not like that), beaten and worn. Seriously, the amount of abuse this girl can take is staggering.
Not only is the game aesthetically pleasing, but the mechanics are as smooth a babies bum. (And no I don’t go round touching babies, it’s a saying). The parkour, climbing and cliff scaling are unbelievably easy to use, and probably outstrip Assassin’s Creed’s controls. The animations are extremely detailed as Lara moves from one surface to the next. She automatically adjusts her stance to suit the situation that she is in, whether it be near, but undetected by enemies or moving around the side of a cliff face.
Dispatching enemies is also varied and highly engaging. At times, you are required to face them in open combat. This is probably the most challenging aspect of game, as enemies shift around constantly trying to avoid your attacks, whilst trying to keep you out of cover. The combat requires a lot more moving around and dodging in comparison to other shooters, as the different classes of enemies will quickly beat you if you stay in one place for too long. This level of challenge can be occasionally frustrating, but not insurmountable, even on the hardest difficulty. Having said that, I did throw my controller, like a child, more than a handful of times.
That aside, Lara is given five weapons to upgrade and kill enemies with as the game progresses. To do so, you must hunt for salvage and weapon parts, which can often be found in crates and on enemies. There is also an experience system, that allows you to level up Lara at campsites, so that she is more capable of surviving in, and adapting to, the environment. Experience can be garnered from killing enemies, hunting the local wildlife and finding treasure.
The world that is available to you to explore is fairly open, with branching paths that lead to different opportunities. However, it is not a sandbox, and you cannot go where ever you please. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as a guided path allows for a more tightly nit story telling experience. If you do go off the beaten bath, there are seven possible tombs to enter, each with puzzles to solve and treasure to discover. They are the game its best, where exploration and platforming combine. Additionally, there are dozens, if not hundreds of collectibles. They not only provide the player with something to prolong the game, but also with insight into the island and its many inhabitants as well as background story for Lara and her companions. Much like Batman: Arkham Asylum, areas previously unavailable to the player, become accessible as Lara finds more tools and gadgets.
Tomb Raider is a shining example that reboots can improve upon a franchise, and make them accessible to people who, perhaps, never thought to play the originals. Tomb Raider is an excellent start for new comers to bask in Lara Croft’s glorious radiance. Whilst the game isn’t perfect, with rare, occasional crashes and a tad overuse of quick time events, it comes damn near close. Everything is so well executed, that singleplayer alone is worth the full retail price. The story clocks in at about 12 hours, but with tombs and collectibles, the game could last a potential 15.
Now, you will notice that the word badass is used profusely in this review. That’s because Tomb Raider is exactly that: Badass. The game combines several different elements to make this colossal piece of Badassery. There hasn’t been this much Badassness since Far Cry 3, which, admittedly, wasn’t that long ago. Tomb Raider is most definitely an early contender for game of the year. You could even go as far to say that it is the Cream of the Croft. How about it? No? Shut up.
In closing, good job Crystal Dynamic.