Tomb Raider (360)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Saturday, March 23, 2013

Graphics: 10.00
Sound: 10.00
Gameplay: 9.50
Replays: 9.00
Gamelength: 9.00

I want to start off by saying that I never really played many of the old Tomb Raider games. The whole action/adventure genre was never really my style before the last few years. After finally getting around to the Assassin’s Creed franchise I discovered a new niche that I could explore. I’m so glad I did.

After seeing the reveal trailer I was intrigued, but not sold. The months leading up to its release (coincidentally the same period of time I was finishing up the AC series) were when I really decided to take a leap of faith on Tomb Raider and boy was I rewarded.

As most people know, this isn’t the first Tomb Raider game, but it is a fresh face for the franchise. 2013’s Tomb Raider serves as not only a reboot of the series, but a prequel as well. The story follows a young and unsuspecting Lara Croft as she sets out on her first adventure aboard the Endurance. The crew of the Endurance is off to find the ancient city of Yamatai. Much to the displeasure of project lead Jim Whitman, the crew decides to follow Croft’s suggestion of heading into the Dragon’s Trial (similar in nature to the Bermuda Triangle). As expected, this leads to monumental problems for the crew. Soon after entering the triangle they find themselves shipwrecked due to a monstrous storm. As Lara wakes up, she finds herself completely alone and unsure if anyone else made it. Soon she discovers a group of violent people who are attempting to bring back the ancient queen Himiko and will do anything they can to do it. You’re racing against the clock to not only to save your friends, but to be rescued as well.

Unlike the previous installments of the series, the Lara Croft you play as is very unsure of herself, her abilities and the world around her. Through the course of the game she’ll find various weapons to use such as a bow, shotgun, assault rifle and pistol. She seems very tentative at first but the more XP you gain during the campaign (from killing enemies, completing objectives etc) you’re able to help mold Lara into the hardened explorer she’s portrayed in latter years. It’s very easy to level up in the game due to the pacing. There are two ways you’re able to upgrade in Tomb Raider, first is through collecting salvage (boxes scattered throughout each level) which allow you to upgrade your weapons and then through leveling up. You’ve got three categories of traits you’re able to upgrade after you level up: Survivor, Hunter and Brawler. Survivor upgrades allow you to retrieve used arrows, accumulate more salvage from looted corpses and climb faster (amongst many others). Hunter allows you to carry more ammunition and perform brutal executions with the weapon you’re carrying. Brawler upgrades your health, use your climbing axe as a melee weapon master the dodge kill. These upgrades make your play throughs substantially easier.

While the combat is very well done, it’s the way the story is told that makes Tomb Raider the masterpiece it is. I can’t put enough emphasis on how great of a job developer’s Crystal Dynamics did with the story of this game. From the very first moment you meet young Lara, you’re able to feel for her. This is some of the best character development I’ve ever witnessed from a video game. Lara goes through so many highs and lows throughout the game and you truly feel her pain as she grows as a character while dealing with loss, pain and disappointment.

What may be on equal level to the story telling is the games graphics. While Crysis has somewhat set the bar for game graphics, I can say with the utmost certainty that Tomb Raider is nipping at their heels. The environments in Tomb Raider are absolutely gorgeous. Ranging from lush forests to beaches littered with the wrecks of other boats and planes to old ruins of the previous islands residents. It’s a truly breath-taking world.

I can’t state enough just how good Tomb Raider is. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve ever played and definitely the best so far this year. I tip my hat to Crystal Dynamics and hope we can see the next game in the Croft saga in the next few years

Overall Rating: 9.5

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