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Long time fans of the record-breaking heroine waited in high anticipation for the release of the Tomb Raider reboot that would define our leading lady in a way that we've never seen before, and on March 5th of 2013 she finally returned to our screens and into our hearts.
The franchise previously saw Lara Croft as an adept, unnaturally gymnastic gun-wielder climbing her way through long-forgotten tombs and cities of mere legend to uncover the truth behind myths and ancient relics lost in time. With levels upon levels of puzzle-solving antics, and equipped with her infamous dual pistols, Lara became the highest grossing female in the video game industry. However, all of that was about to change.
In the brand new reboot of the series, simply titled Tomb Raider, development team Crystal Dynamics (teamed with Square Enix for the project) strip back everything we once knew about our female protagonist and give her the origin story that she so desperately deserved. Storytelling in video games is becoming increasingly popular, and almost integral, with each new release, and Tomb Raider is now no longer an exception as we begin a whole new journey into next generation.
The game takes place on the paranormal island of Yamatai, a lost kingdom that archaeology graduate, Lara Croft, believes to exist outside of mere stories, and convinces a family who are descendants of the people of Yamatai themselves to fund an expedition to the island. You are accompanied by a brand new cast of characters, never seen before in previous games, who become stranded on the island with you after the ship is struck by a storm. However, the island is inhabited by savages and mercenaries who will stop at nothing to find and kill you. The details of the story itself are spread between cutscenes and collectible notebooks that are scattered all over the island, leaving the plot stretched out until the very last section of the game. Although the story may not lead up to the incredible impact you might expect from an origin tale, you can still walk away from this experience feeling satisfied with the direction this reboot will eventually take you.
Gameplay: My relief at the ease of movement and access to weapons was immeasurable once I had played for an hour or two, because only briefly watching the game mechanics online left the prospect of navigating through the game quite daunting. However, that was definitely not the case. Despite the inevitable glitch here and there (nothing that interrupts the experience), movements such as running and jumping may feel quite stiff at first, but after some time you won't even notice it and eventually it feels alot smoother to control.
Weapons come in a variety of long guns, a pistol, ranged weapons such as a bow, and an axe that takes place as your only melee weapon. Don't be put off by the small selection of artillery, though, because everything is fully upgradable and can be customised at the campsites placed throughout every location. The campsites offer the opportunity to access your weapons and skill sets where you can use salvage and skill points collected throughout the game to spend on various aspects of your gear. The upgrade system may appear complicated, but it is incredibly straightforward and easy to navigate. In addition to salvaging, you can also find parts that are specifically designed to upgrade a particular weapon - the axe, however, is an exception to this system due to the fact that it can only be upgraded through story progression.
You may find that the bow is the most useful weapon to you in all circumstances, but that isn't to say that you should use it at all times. Each weapon becomes stronger and more versatile the more it is upgraded; the bow, however, is accompanied by rope arrows (which adds a rope as an alternative firing and travelling method), fire arrows, explosive arrows, napalm arrows, and penetrating arrows that can pierce armour or pass through multiple enemies.
There are alot of varied travelling and fighting methods throughout the course of the game, which makes for an interesting battle system and leaves some room for personal adjustments to the player's ability and personal strategies. There are certain sections of the game that can become quite intense and overwhelming with an onslaught of enemies, which, if you've experienced Uncharted, you'll understand what this means. However, once you've had some time to dabble with the gameplay mechanics, everything can be easily controlled and increasingly good fun to play.
Characters: Character interaction is sparse throughout the story because there are only a few integral cutscenes that define Lara's relationship with each crewmember. The most notable relationship is that of her and Roth, who is a personal mentor and close family friend. The other is Sam's, Lara's best friend and colleague, who is in fact central to the storyline. However, each character is designed with their very own unique personalities, only opening up the opportunity to explore them further in later instalments of the franchise. The voice acting can be a little hard to chew at times; there are brief moments when Lara's tone feels very out of sync with her character and can come off as unrealistic, but, along with the rest of the cast, the majority of the game is made up of fairly believable acting. I don't feel that this takes away from our heroine, but there are some mixed reviews on character and story development.
Graphics: The real-time and in-game cutscene graphics are rather standard by today's generation and possibly don't quite match up to that of Naughty Dog's 'The Last of Us'. Even so, movement and flow feels easy and concise to watch on-screen. Disappointingly, there is only one CGI sequence throughout the entire game, most of which we had already experienced from the trailers, which occurs right at the start. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the CGI is in fact beautiful. There is plenty of notable detail, making the environments that cover the island's terrain a pure vision to explore, with earth tones and remarkable Japanese landscapes that will leave an impression.
Soundtrack: Scored by Jason Graves, composer of other games such as F.E.A.R. and Dead Space, the once memorable theme of Lara Croft is gone. The soundtrack is fuelled by intense drumbeats and pacing, matching some of the survival action sequences of the story to really give the player a feeling of desperation. After all, the newly rebooted Tomb Raider focuses on the survival instincts that awaken the explorer in Lara's heart. Although the soundtrack is not wholly memorable apart from the main theme, it cannot be denied that it truly adds to the game's experience.
As said before, this is undeniably the reboot that our beloved Lara has long deserved. This Tomb Raider instalment is more brutal and in-depth like we have never seen before, and it makes for a truly dynamic perspective on a character that has held an iconic place in gaming history. The trials and tribulations that Lara has to suffer to become the survivor that she needs to be is truly a magnificent and engrossing theme in her new origin story, and with the sequel already in development, I can't wait to see where they take her next. There are no words to describe just how gritty this reboot is!
'Tomb Raider' does a lot of things well. The island that Lara Croft finds herself trapped on is one of the best locations in gaming, and is incredibly well designed as a playground for the young adventurer. From a looks and game play perspective 'Tomb Raider' represents exactly where gaming is in 2013. Unfortunately, in the other departments it feels like it is playing catch up to the big boys.
Story is becoming an increasingly important part of gaming, but the story here was straight from dark ages of gaming with Lara's crew a bunch of stereotypes that I felt no connection to. Many critics have praised the depiction of Lara Croft in this version, but I didn't really find her particularity appealing. She bounces around the place groaning constantly, talking to herself and I actually found her a bit grating. The set pieces were also disappointing and didn't really excite. Every time Lara takes a step it triggers a series of falling buildings, or brittle wood crumbling around you. 'Tomb Raider' has always been best during its quieter moments and the same is true of this game. When you're alone in the optional side tombs or figuring out how ascend the game's mountain faces it truly shines and this should have been the focus.
If you like action-adventure games, 'Tomb Raider' is certainly worth a play, but unfortunately for me, it is not the return to form that some publications have suggested. Crystal Dynamics have a good foundation for a sequel and should allow 'Tomb Raider' to carve its own identity instead of trying to imitate other AAA games.
I have been a huge fan of Tomb Raider games for a while. Like many other I am also a fan of the film franchise. This game is completely different from other Tomb Raider games. Whereas the other games have complex narratives and puzzles and this does not.
Though the game is admittedly very short, it is still a work of art. The game is entirely different from all the preceding Tomb Raider video games and this should not be taken too lightly. It must be known that Tomb Raider is originally a campaign video game. However, this medium was destroyed for the long lasting fans by making majority of the material within multiplayer. The art is beautiful and the storyline is at its maximum potential. The making of Lara Croft is everything an enthusiastic fan could wish for and more. However, the two downfalls within the video game bring its potential down to a minimum. The game could be argued as a miniature Call of Duty substitute, in the persona of a woman.
The plot follows an adventurer, Lara Croft as she leads her research team into a vicious storm on accident. Washed up on the island Yamatai, she learns how to hunt and kill but not without its consequence. There are others on the island, others who also cannot leave. Going to tremendous lengths, Lara attempts to find and rekindle with the rest of the remaining party. However, majority of the single-stranded narrative is Lara trying to find her friend Sam, with Lara finding herself amidst the journey. The plot is gripping and keeps the player on their feet, particularly collecting the treasures afterwards. The video game is not very time consuming, but is well worth the time play.
I rate this game 6/10.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: To tie in with game released March 2013, GK Films and MGM have gained right to a reboot of the films, but with a young Lara.