Tomb Raider game review: This reboot gives Lara Croft new life
Lara Croft, an iconic video-game character, is a pistol-wielding archaeologist who loves exploring ruins as much as she loves action. This new entry is a reboot of the series—it explores Lara’s origins and starts the story all over again. Though the violence isn’t gratuitous, this title is too graphic for young ones.
Tomb Raider is the story of Lara’s first expedition aboard the ship Endurance. Against the crew’s warnings, Lara suggests that they search the mysterious Dragon’s Triangle for the lost kingdom of Yamatai. The Endurance is shipwrecked, and Lara is taken captive. Separated from the group, she escapes and quickly begins to realize that strange things are happening: The island has a kind of “Lost” vibe, with supernatural elements getting in the way of Lara finding her crew and completing her quest.
As much as the story is about survival and exploration, it is more about Lara herself. At the beginning of the game, she frequently begs her friend and mentor Roth (via radio) to come and help her. He can’t, but through his encouragement Lara quickly becomes adept at hunting animals, killing enemies, and making death-defying leaps. Before long, she is no longer the damsel in distress: She is the group’s savior. As resourceful as Lara is, though, she can’t seem to find a jacket.
Gameplay. Tomb Raider has a similar feel to other games in the series: As Lara, you jump from ledge to ledge, scale rock walls, and use zip-lines to get around the island. The difference is in the action. In previous games, Lara was an acrobatic, hardened action hero. This time, she is using whatever she can find to survive.
Lara’s primary weapon is a bow and arrow—handy, because stealth will be your best friend early in the game, and this weapon lets Lara sneak around and pick off enemies silently. You’ll find more weapons as you progress through the game. Quick-time events, which require you to hit a button that appears onscreen within a certain amount of time, also appear; they’re tough until you get used to the timing. If you miss, you die, but the game will restart you almost immediately before that event.
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Each area of the island is explorable, with plenty of hidden items that give you insight into the game’s storyline and the characters’ thoughts and feelings. These items, along with killing enemies and hunting animals, earn you experience points to upgrade Lara’s abilities—from her skill with weapons to her climbing abilities.
Visuals. The beautifully rendered environments on the island range widely, from lush forests and snowy mountaintops to dark tombs and temples. Each area has a feel of its own, with different types of animals roaming around and various ways to explore.
Lara’s appearance changes throughout the game. She becomes stained with dirt and blood, and her clothing is more and more tattered as the game goes on. The camera’s viewpoint is very cinematic, and keeps you close to the action and to Lara. As you navigate through tight caves where Lara can barely fit, you’ll see the flames from her torch fanning across the ceiling.
Replay. Once you’ve completed the game, you’ll have access to the entire island so you can continue exploring. This is a good opportunity to track down any of those elusive relics and tombs you initially missed. You’ll need gear found late in the game to access some of the hidden items in earlier areas, which gives you a reason to backtrack.
Multiplayer. Multiplayer mode will give you something to do after you’ve completed the game, though you may not be entertained for long. Tomb Raider is a story-driven game, so without a storyline, the elements of multiplayer feel kind of flat.
In multiplayer, you can play as most of the non-playable characters from story mode. Some modes require a specific objective, like capture the flag and a traditional death match mode. You can also choose your character’s weapon loadout and skills (once they are unlocked).
Who’s it for? This game is rated M (Mature) for a reason: It’s a gritty survival story. You’ll deal with blood and injuries almost immediately, and deaths in the game can be gruesome: You can be crushed by rocks or impaled by sticks. Nothing seems gratuitous, though; the violence fits the tone of the game.
Bottom line. Tomb Raider has a deep story, great visuals, a cinematic feel, and fun gameplay. While it’s certainly not for children, adults who like action-adventure games or are fans of the Tomb Raider series will enjoy this game.
Also available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is a collector’s edition of the game ($100) with cool extras. It comes in a tin that looks like it was recovered from the Endurance shipwreck. You’re getting quite a bit for your money with this edition.
For PlayStation 3 ($60), Xbox 360 ($60), PC ($50)
ESRB rating: Mature
Reviewed on PlayStation 3