Tomb Raider Review: A Reboot Better Than The Original?

The Gist

If you played Crystal Dynamics’ excellent 2010 twin-stick shooter, Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light, you were probably among the throngs of gamers delighted to hear that the developer would be at the helm for Lara Croft’s reboot. Oh sure, GoL wasn’t as grand as many of today’s action-adventure shoot-’em-ups, but it was endlessly entertaining, full of mind-blowing puzzles and downright clever at times. These same elements have made their way into the newly released Tomb Raider, and if Crystal Dynamics has proved one thing, it’s that the first lady of gaming (sorry, Princess Toadstool… you just get kidnapped too damn much) still has a trick or two up her sleeve.

Tomb Raider (2013)

We join a young Lara Croft (and we’re talkin’ way before the other games in the timeline) as she and a team of doctors, researchers and various others are hot on the trail of a mythological Japanese queen who may have just had dominion over the elements. For thousands of years, scientists have attempted to find the tiny island Queen Himiko called home, but a misunderstanding handily cracked by our here Ms. Croft leads the team to the Dragon’s Triangle. It is worth noting that an NPC mentions the area is way worse than the Bermuda Triangle, but as history generally amps up these types of people, they go anyway. Big mistake. Stranded on the island, Lara and her band of homies must fight to survive against its mysterious inhabitants. Will these people ever make it home? Who knows? Who knows?

The Good

Do you like Naughty Dog’s incredible Uncharted series? Of course you do… everyone does. Lucky for you, Crystal Dynamics also enjoys this series. A lot. So much so that anyone familiar with the exploits of Nathan Drake will automatically be awesome at Tomb Raider. And whereas emulation isn’t usually as good or as interesting as the results of inspiration, this game manages to fit the mold while adding a heavy dose of its own panache. You’ll run, climb, jump, and gun just like you always have as Drake, but here we are given a much more harrowing story of survival and the evolution of one woman who, despite falling off of things more often than anyone since Chris Pine in that Star Trek reboot, becomes the iconic hero we’ve all felt weirdly amorous about for ages.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Everything in this game is downright beautiful, from the facial animation and staggeringly huge environments to the lighting and water effects. Jungles and forests are complex locations with tons of verticality and secret collectibles hidden around every corner. It’s almost hard to believe this is the same development team from GoL, but these guys have really upped their game as it were.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Lara is as beautiful and kick-ass as ever, but she is now relatable and her new and improved (read, down to earth) personality is far more accessible than the wise-cracking Lara who’s been murdering wolves since before she sashayed onto consoles. We grow with her from her first harrowing moments on the island and as she faces horror after horror, forcing her to become the strong and skillful woman we know she’ll grow to be.

Tomb Raider (2013)

With a subtle nod to their previous game, Crystal Dynamics has created hidden, puzzle-based tombs throughout each area. These puzzles range from head-scratcher to straight-up brain buster, but are a blast to find and even more fun to solve. Solving these areas will provide you with extra salvage with which you can upgrade and mod Lara’s ever-growing arsenal of killer weaponry. That is, you may start out with an unreliable SMG, but through collecting salvage and completing challenges, you’ll soon be wielding a savage assault rifle complete with grenade launcher. No weapon is quite as exciting and versatile as the bow. This primitive weapon allows for such exciting abilities as taking out enemies like a stealth champ to creating ziplines for different means of traversal. It’s especially badass that we can unlock even more upgrades and perks at later stages in the game (mark my words, you’re gonna love the fire arrows).

You’ll be hard-pressed to think of a game with more jaw-dropping set pieces than Tomb Raider. This is where Naughty Dog’s influence shows the most. Even Nathan Drake would probably have to give our girl a hearty, “Damn, girl!” when she is faced with escaping a fire-ravaged palace or must parachute through a dense forest or is forced to take some medical steps in what is one of the most difficult moments to watch in gaming history.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Story-wise, Tomb Raider makes the previous events of the timeline seem kind of boring. This is a complex tale that reveals bits and pieces of information with such spot-on pacing that it’s incredibly hard to put down. You’ll always want to discover what’s behind the next door or why Mathias does what he does to the point where you will just about laugh with glee at the big reveal. Don’t worry; we’re not about spoilers in this review… but for real, it’s awesome.

Continue reading the Tomb Raider review after the jump…

Tomb Raider (2013)
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Published by:
Square Enix
Developed by:
Crystal Dynamics
Year Released:
5 March 2013
Also Available On:
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Action Role-Playing
Official URL:
Tomb Raider
Pages: 1 2

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