Game Review: Tomb Raider

If you’re barely aware with Lara Croft, you might remember her as being graphically over-designed in certain areas, with a penchant for dual-wielding guns. If you’re familiar with her games, you know that her story starts out going through complicated death traps of ancient burial grounds, more puzzle games than shoot-‘em-ups, and ends with her battling demons and want-to-be gods of ancient myth.  Lara has found everything from Excalibur to Thor’s hammer.

And then, there’s her beginnings.

tomb raider

Genre

Action / adventure

Platform

Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Xbox One, PS4 (the “Definitive Edition”)

Story

Lara Croft, college grad, is on her first archaeological venture to find the land of the mythical “storm queen.” When her ship crashes on an island filled with a strange cult, Lara has to learn how to survive under fire and solve the mystery of the island before she and her friends are destroyed by it.

Gameplay/Mechanics

It’s a surprisingly simple mechanic for a game that’s so in-depth.  To select a weapon, you hit a direction on the D-pad. To select what fire mode Lara is using, tap the weapon button a few times (some weapons have exploding ammo, some have silencers, that sort of thing).  To bring out your weapon, pull the left trigger, to fire, pull the right trigger. The weapons include a shotgun, a pistol, an arrow, and an old-fashioned assault rifle. And when things get really bad, Lara can whack people over the head with her claw hammer.

Speaking of her claw-hammer, Lara can use the tool to climb up walls.  When jumping from one wall to another, the player must carefully time the leap and the proper button, otherwise, Lara falls to her death.

Each weapon is fully customized using materials scavenged from the surrounding area, either in nice, neat little boxes, or from hunting animals. The equipment advancements will influence how you approach certain puzzles, such as the famous tombs the franchise is known for.

There is also the standard “Eagle vision” from Assassin’s Creed, or detective mode in the Batman: Arkham games, that allows Lara to see enemies clearly, animals, and parts of the environment she can interact with.

There are also a few quicktime events that require timing with the proper buttons.

Music/Graphics

The graphics are breathtaking. The environment it beautifully rendered, and Lara herself is quite well done. One or two of her colleagues could have used some work, though, and the enemies are standard generic faceless adversaries, for the most part, with the exception of one or two along the way. Let’s put it this way, the graphics were so detailed and amazing, I was even impressed with the physics of Lara’s hair.

The music was well done, and tightly written, used to great emphasis in the game, though you wouldn’t believe it when listening to the soundtrack separately.

Morals/Appropriateness

The morals are easy. Good and bad are perfectly delineated, with bad guys you want to see defeated and good guys you want to win.

I wanted to rate this game perfectly appropriate, but dang it, every time there was a pitch-perfect moment that makes Indiana Jones look like a calm stroll on the beach, someone in the script decides to throw in a four-letter word. It’s not really gratuitous, nowhere nearly as profane or as annoying as Crysis 2 or the opening of Bayonetta, but there’s just enough that it might be off-putting. The annoying part is that that previous titles in the Tomb Raider series felt no need to have such language. It’s a little annoying.

Another thing about the graphics. There will be blood, though usually not rendered half as well as the surrounding game. There was one part I played close attention to, where Lara is forced to shoot someone, in the head, at point-blank range. While I was expecting a gruesome scene, the camera angles were such that any hideousness was off screen.

There are some moments, when Lara dies, that the scene cuts to an animation. Some are relatively painless, and some hurt to look at.

There is implied cannibalism, an underground lair that has bones scattered around, and floors covered in “blood,” but looks more like strawberry syrup. There is one scene where Lara has fallen into a river of this “blood” (which, come to think about it, blood would have clotted, so it was probably just sewage) and her head emerges in a direct homage to Apocalypse Now.

In short: I grew up on Die Hard and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, so the language and the bloodier elements wouldn’t have phased me at age 12. Judge appropriately.

Community/Multiplayer

Very little in the way of multiplayer. Yes, it’s there, but not what one would call highly recommended.

Addiction Danger

Moderate. This was a fun, fun game, and the story was very much like that novel you want where you want to see what happens next. Full completion is easy and quite satisfying.

Problems/Ending Comments

I loved this game. Every problem with the previous Lara Coft titles have been fixed, and this was a solid game from first to last.  The tension was high, making every experience nail-biting. Even the simple act of traversing the woods, or climbing a mountain can be a thrill, because you have no idea if you might have a boar come charging at you, or if part of the stonework might crumble out from under you.

For example, one of the best scenes in this game is the end of act two, where Lara has accidentally caused a chain reaction in a cavern filled with natural gas vents. The ensuing run has Lara climbing to the top of a flaming temple, the floors crumbling around her, hoping to leap atop a moving helicopter before the temple collapses.

And, really, why couldn’t the last Indiana Jones movie have been like that?

While I want to recommend this game to everyone I know, I can’t, in all honesty, say it’s for everyone.

ESRB Rating: M for Mature, 17+.  For once, I won’t argue, mostly for the language.

My Rating: 9/10. An above average game, though probably average, if it were released today.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2014 John Konecsni

One Comment
  1. Dn Elias Bailey
    July 6, 2014 | Reply

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.