I can’t remember the last time I actually played a Tomb Raider game. Actually yes I can. It was Tomb Raider Legends which was pretty good but not great. Which is sad considering this was one series that has always had the potential to go far because of two things: A female lead which has always set precedence in gaming and a great take on the Indiana Jones adventuring genre.
A lot of fans were decidedly mixed when news came about that Square Enix was going to do a reboot of the game series and also present us with more or less an origin game about the events that made Lara Croft from a frightened survivor to a tough as nails no nonsense adventurer.
Insofar, it’s a great setup with her and fellow archaeologists and adventurers setting out to go to an island in the Dragon’s Triangle only to be shipwrecked there by mysterious storms that plague the region. As the story progresses you get to see firsthand how relentless this game gets as far as the story telling is concerned. Lara barely gets a moment to rest before being pushed headlong into the next part of her adventure and the game pulls no punches. There are modern day pirates who have no qualms with hitting and killing anyone in their way and this includes Lara and even the people who are with her seem to have their own agenda and almost every step of the way there is something that makes you shake your head and say, “Wow, Lara just can’t get a break.” This game is of course going to draw comparisons to Uncharted which has been the big game of this genre in this console generation but the only limitation was that you needed a PS3 just to enjoy it where Tomb Raider is across all systems giving everyone access. I think it may be fair to also state that while Nathan Drake has had to put up with some ordeals in his games but so far just within the first 2 hours of TR Lara just may have him beaten!
Graphics and Audio
I am running this on my PC (6 core AMD chip, 8 gb of memory and a Nvidia 460 GTX card) and it looks astounding on my HDTV. The only thing I haven’t been able to do is use the TessFX for the hair. Once I turn that option on the game comes to a crawl. Other than that, the visuals on PC are astounding. The draw distance to mountains and other faraway places are credible and even one particular mission where Lara has to climb a tower gave me vertigo. It’s well designed and we can see why this game took so long to come out. The sound is also excellent from the raging storms to voices and natural ambient sounds all around. What’s even cool is as Lara explores places, she gives commentary as to what you the player are looking at and what it might be. In conjunction with the graphics, you have everything this game can immerse you in except the heat and the smell.
This is where the game really shines because as the game progresses, so does Lara. You get skill points for doing certain things and those points add up to all kinds of upgrades and this is where TR takes its cues from Far Cry 3. Lara starts off with minimal weapons but by the time she advances the Mountain Village, you can really feel how far she has advanced and it’s still very early on in the game. You also get to track down journal entries and treasures scattered on each level and for even more replayability, some levels you will want to revisit as not every place is reachable unless you have some kind of advanced gadget like rope arrows or a pickaxe to scale mountains which gives this game a slight one up on Uncharted. Control-wise, it’s an easy setup to figure out and I had no problems with the basic controls. My only slight complaint is that with the QTEs certain actions may not quite register with a quick push of the button. Certain things I did required me to mash the button and hold it until it registered which caused me to repeat a few QTEs before I figured out what I needed to do. Another small complaint I have is when using the pickaxe for certain levels and having to use a button to jump between cliff faces and instead of automatically latching on like you can in Uncharted, there is a separate button press. Small complaint sure and just something new to remember as I play through the game. Also accessing and using the weapons is pretty standard and easy and I do love using the bow and arrows. Maybe even more than the guns! Of course there are puzzles galore and also ways (lifted from the Batman arkham games) to get a clue to where you need to be going
In conclusion, if you have been waiting for a good Tomb Raider to come along, you really can’t miss with this one. The past games got more and more about Lara’s boobs (ha!) and less about the game. It’s nice to see this reboot ground the game and give players another look about the events that made her what she is. It just makes one wonder that with this and Uncharted, why hasn’t there been a good Indiana Jones game made for this console generation yet?