Set on an island in the Demon’s Triangle this Tomb Raider reboot see’s the young and inexperienced Lara Croft shipwrecked with her crew. Crystal Dynamic’s aim was to use this as a stepping stone for the franchise and to put it back into the higher echelon of games once again.
As you tepidly set out onto this dark and mysterious island you immediately feel the frightened and timid nature of Lara. This isn’t the happy go lucky dual-pistol wielding Lara we all knew and love. This is before that, when the only weapons she ever had with her was the love for history and a fascination for archaeology.
The game sets up the lost survivor situation so eloquently and poises Lara’s character development at a very good starting point. So imagine my disappointment when under two hours in the girl who would become a woman has very much turned into Rambo and can shoot a bow between the eyes from around 30ft away. It of course had to happen at some point but the jump from Lara being fresh out of school to hitman was all too quick, her first kill is very quickly glazed over and didn’t leave much of an impact. Perhaps if time had set into Lara having to digest the kill for at least a few minutes after then maybe things might have been different, but the game throws you straight into a gun fight, completely ruining any chance of an interesting story-arc. A story-arc that has been heavily played in any and all the upcoming release material for this game.
Invoking a high level narrative has never been one of Tomb Raider’s strongest attributes in any of it’s different guises and it’s no different here. Apart from Lara herself (who is superbly voiced by Keeley Hawes) the rest of Lara’s crew appear to just be there to get things moving in the right direction. Not a bad thing of course, but when faced with the task of searching or saving someone I’d like to have a modicum of self-reason to get the job done. All the crew of the Endurance by the end become not much more different than the enemies you routinely face on the island; lifeless, limp and not worth a dime.
But if the word count would let me (and it doesn’t) I could easily have spent much of this review talking about the leading lady herself. For once Lara does not fall into the stereotypical female trap of coming across as a sexual object in this male focused video game world we live in. It’s refreshing to see and something that I hope game developers can really get a grip of to give us more interesting and varied leading characters.
Once your accustomed to the world you’ve been stranded on Lara begins to make remarks on ancient paintings, rituals and trinkets. It was fascinating to hear her enthusiasm for history and archeology was unperturbed despite facing death head-on on more than a few occasions. The sad part is that listening to Lara’s off-cuff remarks on the island’s historical past is about as close to the feeling of the old Tomb Raider’s that your likely to get here.
All is not lost however as along your way through Tomb Raider’s numerous locale’s there are hidden Tombs. But these only last around five to ten minutes and in some cases that’s being generous. A wheel turn at the start followed by a jump here or there and you’ve pretty much raided a ‘tomb’. Some of the tombs actually contain weapon parts or just plain old XP, not quite the reward I was hoping the ancients had saved for me if I’m honest but handy nonetheless.
But the tomb’s do show what the Tomb Raider is best at and that’s traversal. It was a pleasure to scale cliff faces, crawl through cracks and jump between precariously high obstacles with the tools at my disposal. The ever handy bow and arrow that you receive at the start of the game quickly becomes Lara’s version of the utility belt.
By the end of the game you’ll be pinging off ropes from cliff top to building top, zip lining along and then jumping onto a wall barely clinging onto it thanks to your reinforced climbing axe. Tomb Raider tries to take on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted at over the top set-pieces but it never really gets the job done. When your out there doing it unscripted however the game really gets into it’s own, letting you feel out the environment and find your own path.
Along the way there isn’t too much to distract you from completing the main story which should take an average player around 10 to 12 hours. The small hub environments that you explore throughout the game can be explored after the ending credits, but unless your a collection enthusiast there isn’t to much of a reason to go back. But thankfully the journey to Tomb Raider’s conclusion is on the whole an enjoyable one.
Tomb Raider’s addition of multiplayer (a first for the series) comes off feeling more like a tacked-on element rather than a fully fleshed out idea. That’s not to say there’s much wrong with it at a basic level, you’ll find your alternative named Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag type games but just don’t expect it to reinvent the wheel.
Playing it safe with the multiplayer side of things appears to be what Crystal Dynamics went for. It’s a capable online shooter, featuring your usual swathes of XP doses and upgradeable items but it does nothing to excite or inflict anywhere near the sense of atmosphere or adventure that the rest of the game does.
Crystal Dynamics have been able to bring Lara Croft back from obscurity into being a strong relevant figure in modern gaming. The sum of it’s parts are brought together mostly by what’s come before, but a likeable Lara and an interesting traversal system gives Tomb Raider it’s own arrows to shoot at the competition.