Lara Croft is back, and this time in the form of a young Tomb Raider stranded on an island with the mission to find her friends and raid some tombs. Sound too good to be true? Not necessarily! In Square Enix’s reboot of Tomb Raider, we see Lara evolve before our eyes from the shipwrecked damsel in distress.
As for evolving, that’s all we see. Save from being able to upgrade Lara’s equipment and doing most of the hunting as part of the game, as well as choosing skill points that boost several aspects of your survival, is all the evolving you’ll be doing. As for Lara, she seems to be able to take care of herself just as well without you. Gameplay on its own is painfully linear in the sense that all you need to do is push the left stick forward (or hold W) to progress through the environment, challenged only by several junctions where you are required to button mash.
Unfortunately, as this sequence of events would have it, having to push a stick forward and button mash several times undermines the feeling of exhilaration the developers were so desperately looking for. For the record, I’m sure Lara Croft is terrified, but I’m as comfortable as ever as I kick back in my sofa and lean that stick forward.
Dodgy gameplay mechanics aside, there are other elements, great elements, that make Tomb Raider a fun game to play. Such elements such as the addictive salvage system, which will have you back tracking for salvageable materials in order to upgrade your equipment. Then again when you upgrade your equipment you’ll be able to back track once more to open that chest you couldn’t open because your make-shift pickaxe was too make-shift. With the cunning use of Survival Instincts (which works kind of like Eagle Vision in AC), salvageable materials and boxes are easy to find throughout the level, making for a both easy and addictive addition to the game.
As for the story itself, it’s a tug-o-war between being a Tomb Raider and actually surviving on the island and rescuing your buddies from the crazies that inhabit it. On one hand we have moments reminiscent of the old Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, the other side brings back the crazy that Far Cry 3 brought about. One surprise for me was how quick Lara learnt to deal with the fact that she was in a kill or be killed situation, one moment she was bawling her eyes out, the next she was stealth killing people with her bow. That’s no news to the saturated mind of a gamer, but to a character who’s first adventure goes haywire, she’s quick to come to terms with it.
Personally, the third person view didn’t do it for me, getting stuck in tight corners and sometimes glitching through objects threw me off. However, I don’t think the real beauty of the game lies in the gameplay mechanics, or even the story. Although brilliant, the story is surpassed by how the game looks. With the odd rendition of Lara’s hair, I decided that this Tomb Raider game looks fantastic, with scenery and cinematics (accredited to the scripted linearity of the game) akin that of a movie, it was incredibly satisfying to follow.
Once you’ve managed to conquer single-player, multiplayer awaits you. With ranking system and XP and the standard unlock-able weapons, Tomb Raider makes its unique stamp on the multiplayer world by focusing (sometimes excessively) on teamwork and bizarre game modes. When you play it, it’s kind of reminiscent of the Unchartered series of gameplay. Once again, I’m not a huge fan of the third person view so whilst mildly enjoyable, the multiplayer doesn’t offer me as a gamer much. To the enthusiast, however, various loadouts will have you customizing your favorite survivor or Solarii to conquer it’s various game modes (team death match, rescue, survival of the fittest and cry for help). In essence, Tomb Raider multiplayer combines the unorthodox multiplayer modes of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 3.
Tomb Raider overall is a good game that really didn’t need the multiplayer aspect to make it special. Linear gameplay and boring gameplay mechanics aside, Tomb Raider is a great game with addictive features and so many beautiful moments where the scenery takes your breath away, even Lara herself is a character revamped in the good way. A reboot is a reboot, it’s just a matter of how good (or bad) it is and I would say that despite the linearity of it all, Square Enix has done a brilliant job and made Lara Croft and her tomb raiding a new and exciting yet familiar adventure.