Available on PC (Reviewed on a Sapphire HD 7970), PS3 & XBox 360
Move over Nathan Drake... Lara is back
to take the crown!
One of the most anticipated games of 2013
has finally arrived... Tomb Raider. Unlike the previous games in the
series, the franchise has been rebooted which now stars a young Lara Croft (Camilla Luddington)
who is just out of University and is beginning her career as an archaeologist. From the moment Tomb Raider
loads on the PC, it's like you are watching a Hollywood
blockbuster as the game starts with a bang.
Developed by Crystal
Dynamics, they do a marvellous job at bringing the franchise into the
21st century with almost flawless gameplay and gorgeous graphics. This current story is the
mould that shapes our
heroine for the future and turns her from frightened young woman to
hardened adventurer. It should also be noted that this game contains
some mature content and is definitely not for children. Expect to see
Lara die in some very painful and extreme ways...
story begins with an amazing CGI cinematic that has Lara fighting for
her life as the Endurance, the ship that she is travelling on crashes during
a violent storm in the Dragon's Triangle. As Lara is trapped on one of
the decks and on the verge of drowning, she is rescued by a colleague
and eventually awakes on the beach. As Lara is separated from her colleagues, she
is violently abducted by a stranger as she finds herself in another dire
predicament. Bound and hanging upside down, the game eventually gives
control of Lara to the player as the first level serves as a tutorial
which requires you to guide her to safety.
Although Tomb Raider was the game that started the action/adventure
genre, the current incarnation does have some parallels with Sony's
Uncharted Series with not just the gameplay but also the characters.
The game also feels like an Indiana Jones movie! Apart from exploring the island, attacking enemies
and solving puzzles,
Tomb Raider contains some great quick-time events which really enhance
the excitement of the title. And just like Uncharted, the characters
that Lara encounters are all realistically written with some great voice acting
to match. However where the game differs from Uncharted is the
experience system and the ability to hunt and craft your own items to
further Lara through the game.
Item/weapon upgrades play a large role in the game as does the experience
system which allows Lara to unlock new skills and assists in crafting
her destiny. For example in Hunter Upgrades, Lara can upgrade her ammo
capacity or become a bow expert. Whereas in Survivor Upgrades, Lara has
the ability to increase her animal instinct or cartographer skills. This
mix and match formula does allow the player to start the game again and
try another path. Upgrading Lara's skills can only be done at a base
camp and the I must admit that the auto-save feature of the game is
With that said, the game at times is
reminiscent of Far Cry 3, however the gameplay is considerably different
and whereas the aforementioned game played out like a first person
shooter, Tomb Raider is strictly a third person experience with different controls,
challenges and puzzles to match. So why is Lara on this "uncharted"
island? Lara is joined by Dr. Whitman and team in order to find the
Japanese myth of Queen Himoko but fate has other ideas for our heroine
which creates a true interactive story. Apart from the main quest in
Tomb Raider, there are plenty of side quests and challenges to be
discovered along the way in this open-world game, not to mention relics
gameplay of Tomb Raider works surprisingly well on the PC, even though
at times it is a little too consoley. Given
the previous games in the series, Tomb Raider feels more Uncharted than
Tomb Raider which is great on so many levels. Whether your precariously
climbing up a cliff face, jumping from ledge to ledge or performing some
other dangerous platforming manoeuvre, it feels okay on the PC keyboard
but a PC controller is definitely the way to go. Crystal
Dynamics also ensure that you're not thrown into the deep end straight
away as the gamer can easily learn the controls without being inundated.
are three difficulty levels and the highest difficulty level is rather
challenging to say the least. Another interesting feature is the
"instinct" mode which basically highlights items, objects or directions
in the game which assist in pointing you in the right direction. This mode is
similar to the detective mode in Arkham City or Raiden's vision in
Gear Rising Revengeance. It is definitely a needed feature.
The life-like island of Tomb Raider that you explore is quite large and
if you explore every nook and cranny, you could easily complete this
game in around 15 - 18 hours. Of course, a Tomb Raider game would not be
a Tomb Raider game without the ancient temples and there are plenty of
places to explore as you encounter enemies, puzzles and deadly traps.
As you search for your companions on this dangerous island, Lara soon
discovers that this uninhabited island is actually the home to a group
of cutthroat mercenaries. This is where the combat kicks in. The first
taste of combat are with wolves which is a nod to the original game. Needless
to say, using the bow on these fast moving creatures is a little tricky.
However when you get the gun, things do start looking up for Lara. In relation to the mercenaries and the
controversy about a certain scene in the game, this is a true defining
moment of Lara's future and is a very emotional and powerful scene. Wow!
first weapon that Lara masters in the game is the bow which allows you to carefully
aim your arrows at both animals and humans. It was actually quite a
disturbing scene (another) when Lara first uses her bow on an animal as I missed
the head and got its body instead. From there it made this disturbing
grunting sound until I finally managed to kill it. Ouch! It's moments
like this in Tomb Raider that make this game more than just a game as
both the player and Lara must either condone or accept the decisions
they make. Without spoiling the story, Tomb Raider is easily the best
PC experience I've had in a long-time and if you're a fan of this
genre, I strongly suggest you check it out.
Supporting the single-player game is the multiplayer game and we will
flesh this out more once the game is officially released. Tomb Raider
actually features an a fun multiplayer mode that split gamers into
two teams, survivors and scavengers. These game modes include elements
such as Team Deathmatch and Survivor with around five maps that these matches can be played on. What
I loved about the multiplayer aspect of Tomb Raider was the ability to
set traps and then watching your foes set them off. There's some great
loadouts available and characters to unlock as an incentive to play. Using the bow in
multiplayer is another highlight but once again, you cannot beat the
shotgun for those close calls. Although not as
strong as the single-player mode, the multiplayer mode definitely adds
another fun element to the world of Tomb Raider.
Standard vs TressFX Graphics
Graphically, Tomb Raider is a visual treat on the PC with some
amazing graphics thanks to the TressFX hair effects which make Lara's
hair almost real. You need a decent graphics card to use this feature
however. Furthermore, developers Crystal Dynamics
have created this realistic island with some great attention to detail
from realistic foliage and lighting. The water and fire effects in Tomb
Raider are another highlight of the graphics but the star of course is
Lara Croft herself who looks quite uncanny and very life-like. She is
easily the most impressive video game character of 2013.
Standard vs TressFX Graphics
Camilla Luddington, below (True Blood, Californication) plays Lara Croft and
she really adds this innocence and emotion to her voice. Needless to
say, the voice acting of Tomb Raider is extremely professional and when
matched with the majestic soundtrack from composer Jason Graves plus the
background ambience, it creates this surreal experience on the
PC. The game also makes great use of the 5.1 surround sound and
when you first shoot your gun, it's almost like being in the same room.
Tomb Raider is a brilliant game on the PC and the developers
have successfully rebooted the franchise for the 21st century with
next-generation graphics and gameplay. Best of all, the developers pay
homage to the original game that started it all but flesh out the
character of Lara Croft to create this almost life-like person that
you can really relate to. I for one hope that Crystal Dynamics will
continue to build other Tomb Raider games with their new Crystal Engine
as this game was brilliantly good and extremely fun to play!