Game Review: Tomb Raider

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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

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About Author

John Konecsni writes under the alias Declan Finn, and has published a novel, It Was Only On Stun!, a murder comedy set at a science fiction convention He also maintains a blog dedicated to his more important novel, A Pius Man. A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller is an anti-Dan Brown novel, centered about clearing the name of Pope Pius XII. The sequel, A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller focuses on the Catholic church in the modern world. A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller has recently come out, finishing the trilogy. John lives in New York, where he has grown up Catholic, right wing, and a complete and total nerd. After getting degrees in history and philosophy, he has dedicated himself to bringing Truth, Justice, and the Roman Catholic way to anyone he meets.... or at the very least, correct their misapprehensions. It's a full time job, and the pay needs work, though there are some nice benefits attached.

1 Comment

  1. Dn Elias Bailey on

    I am a Melkite Catholic Deacon.
    My wife (who has lost me for countless hours to Ms. Croft. the other woman in my life, since the late 90’s) sent me the link to the article. And to be fair, if she wants to get her writing done she will often say, “Oh go play with Lara!”
    I had bought the original game in a pile with other games for my kids. I remember one day being bored and decided to try a few of these games. Nothing struck me until I put in Tomb Raider. At that time there was truly no game like it. I was dropped into this fantasy adventure full of puzzles and the sense of danger always nearby. It was also just fun wandering through the beautiful scenes.I was hopelessly hooked!
    That the character was female also made it different.
    The game has always had that ability to make one say “Just give me five more minutes. ok!” hundreds of times. I remember playing Tomb Raider III for the first time and leaving late to go to a youth retreat because I just had to finish it! Worry not, I was only late for the setup and not the retreat itself!
    Repeat playing is always encouraged as one can play the older games in different ways. There are also enough of the games to keep a new member of the world of Lara Croft occupied for years to come. I highly recommend Tomb Raider I,II (Still rated as the best of the series), and III to see where the series came from.
    The new game was designed to attract new fans used to the “modern” and more crass video game world and to hopefully keep her more skeptical long time fans in the fold. It pretty much succeeds on both counts.
    I found the game very enjoyable if not easier than I expected. If you are a seasoned “Tomb Raider” than you know what is expected of you. I have played 3 times since as well.
    There are complaints from the old guard like myself that they have “reset the canon” of Lara Croft that had been well established for nearly 20 years.
    As in the past I wrote to the makers of the game with my review. Like many of the older fans I asked for less violence and more actual tomb raiding.
    Apparently they have listened as the new game to be released in 2015 will do just that!
    Enjoy!

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