Alex Lynch Reviews: TOMB RAIDER (2013) - [Xbox 360]
Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix have given us a brand new Tomb Raider game making Lara Croft feel very real and human, but also giving her a proper origin story. Does this 2013 reboot deliver a great gaming experience?
A survivor is born in Crystal Dynamic’s extremely thrilling brand new installment in the iconic Tomb Raider franchise. Following the adventures of a younger, new Lara Croft, her ship is wrecked upon an island populated by the Yamatai. However, with Square-Enix rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise, many people were very unhappy with this idea. Therefore, does Crystal Dynamics’ new game prove to be a success or a bad remake?
First off, the story of Tomb Raider is one of the most fun and immersive stories that I’ve played in the last few years. Our hero, Lara Croft, is thrust into a world where hope is very scarce and sacrifice is common. As a result of this, Lara learns plenty of survival lessons and starts her evolution to become the gaming icon we’ve known for the past few generations of gaming. For example, the story starts out with a damaged Lara, fearful for her life, her friends and the island itself. Particularly to show the player that she is human just like us, and doesn’t live in a fantasy world. Afterwards, Lara realizes the scope of the island and the truth around it, hoping to get out of the island. Her fear very slowly dissipates and determination is all that clouds her mind, therefore ensuring a survivor, is indeed, born. Throughout the course of Tomb Raider, you will be an amazing supporting cast full of diverse character types, most of which come from Lara’s boat crew. In fact, these characters seem very real even though they are somewhat stereotypical. For example, Alex is the “geek” type character who helps with all the technological problems aboard the Endurance. He also, however feels the need to be the hero in any way possible. In addition to the characters feeling very real, a lot of them are also well developed to the point of which the player will actually care about them. Unfortunately, I cannot provide any examples without some major spoilage, so you’ll have to take my word for this. Also, Tomb Raider touts a scary villain in [REDACTED], who just seems incredibly insane, but he does have a method to his madness. One the other hand, we don’t know much about this villain other than his main goal that’s central to the story of the game. We barely learn of his past before the island, and much more. It doesn’t necessarily make the character bad, it does, however make the character seem slightly one-dimensional. Nevertheless, the story to Tomb Raider has incredible pacing throughout, knowing exactly when to stop the action for some good character development or to tone down the action for stealth, Tomb Raider exemplifies in delivering an overall great story, one of the best in recent gaming experiences.
Tomb Raider’s gameplay is very unique, but at its core very simply and uses the formula that we’ve been used to for generations. For example, one of my favorite features in the game is the cover system that Crystal Dynamics has implemented. In most games over the past few years, your character would take cover via button press, which quickly thrusts your character behind some sort of block that was however until the first Mass Effect game came along which allowed the player to move towards a piece of cover while the game would automatically stick the player to it. Unfortunately so, this system was quite flawed…until Tomb Raider came along and perfected it. In Tomb Raider, Lara will slowly (or quickly, depending on the situation) creep behind a barricade or wall very naturally whenever she is around it during combat. Thankfully, the animation is gorgeously smooth and Lara looks very natural when taking cover. This cover system is extremely ideal for not only combat, but also stealth action when the player attempts to silently move around the level to try to take out unaware guards. Next up, is the ‘Survival Instinct’ feature. This is activated by pressing LB, which feels very similar to Batman: Arkham City’s Detective Mode. Survival Instinct mode adds a black and white filter to the screen, which in turn highlights enemies around Lara (which may be aware of her presence) or objects that Lara can light on fire to help finish a puzzle, which in turn is very useful towards the player. Speaking of puzzles, Tomb Raider’s puzzles feel very real for the environment and don’t rely on ancient relics being moved from point A to B like in the Uncharted series. For example, there is one puzzle where Lara must release a heavy bell from the ceiling to destroy a floor. I can’t say how she does it, but it all felt like it could be done in the real world. In addition to this, the combat system is very basic that allows smooth gameplay all around. Lara’s bow is my favorite weapon that has a wonderful and very real way of shooting that can be quite challenging at first but is later upgraded by collecting ‘Salvage’, which helps to upgrade all weapons to different levels and perks. Although I felt that Lara’s rifle isn’t as useful as it should’ve been, the mechanics were well designed. The system that Crystal Dynamics uses to upgrade Lara Croft is great and doesn’t restrict much gameplay for the player to have fun from start to finish. Tomb Raider’s combat system is a lovely one but still has room for improvement.
Tomb Raider touts outstanding graphics with beautiful scenery which definitely matches the scope of which the game was designed. On the contrary, the graphics definitely could have been better for the game which also may have restricted gameplay. Nevertheless, the game looks gorgeous in all aspects. Bloody death scenes and gorgeously flowing waterfalls all make the island look spectacular. From eye-scathingly blinding sandstorms to overexposed snowstorms, Tomb Raider’s graphics manage to do it all. In addition to the beautiful environments, each character’s design greatly represents who they are down to their last detail with each texture looking smooth on the models. For example, when Lara Croft is hurt and starts to bleed, or falls in a huge pile of mud, the skin is seamlessly changed even though, at times, it does look really odd on her. Similarly to character details, the facial expressions of each person are superbly shown which enough detail to take a small peek into their mind. The game impeccably portrays determination, fear, anger, and any other emotion that comes the character’s way. Tomb Raider’s graphics remarkably sets a gorgeous atmosphere and prominently portrays the game’s scope very well.
Lara Croft’s newest adventure touts an astonishing voice actress in Camilla Luddington, who uses a distinguishingly great vocal range to depict plenty of emotions and expressions that flow through Croft herself, accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack composed by Jason Graves. At 20 tracks long, Tomb Raider’s music will get you emotionally invested in the story, the action and the characters. Such as tracks like ‘Adventure Found Me’ and ‘First Blood’, Lara’s newest adventure is escorted by definitive music by a soulful composer. In addition to the soundtrack, Tomb Raider provides an astonishing voice cast headlined by the beautiful Camilla Luddington with the incredible Robin Atkin Downes, Arden Cho, Robert Craighead and Cooper Thornton on the supporting cast in key roles. Each and every one of these actors was fantastic in their respective roles, providing great range, emotion and passion. I feel that any former voice actors for Lara Croft could bring what Luddington brought to this type of game, despite most of former actresses being great as well. Tomb Raider boasts an amazing soundtrack alongside stunning voice over artists which help define the characters of the game.
To finish, Tomb Raider is an incredibly exciting game that will definitely get the blood pumping and allow you to get passionately invested into these characters. Because of it’s amazing soundtrack composed by Jason Graves, the stunning voice cast headlined by Camilla Luddington, the awe-inspiring graphics that create the island and the ever-lastingly dangerous storyline, Lara Croft’s newest adventure brings the refreshment needed for the popular iconic franchise and we look forward to many, many more adventures of Lara Croft from Crystal Dynamics on next-generation consoles.
Tomb Raider is an undoubtedly unique gaming experience that combines sprinkles some of the old elements of Tomb Raider onto a delicious, fresh cake of a video game. This game is a definitive early pick for Game Of The Year.
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