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7/18/2013

REVIEW: Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)


Tomb Raider is one of the most famous and iconic game franchises of all time. Over the years, the developers have amazed us with the adventures and stories of Lara Croft, the first female gaming character that gained fame and the hearts of gamers worldwide. In her games, Lara visits old ruins, dig-sites and heavily guarded facilities in search of treasures and answers to some of the biggest enigmas of humanity and always won. After all this years of amazing games and adventures, developer Crystal Dynamic and publisher Square-Enix have decided to completely restart the franchise, telling the story of Lara Croft from the beginning in a very different way.

In all her previous titles, Lara Croft was a little bit too pretentious; always sure of herself and no matter what, nothing seemed to scare her. This was something that players found very similar in Nathan Drake, the protagonist in Uncharted when the franchise debuted back in 2008. This time though, we see a completely different Lara, she seems younger, inexperienced and bad things actually happen to her a lot in her adventure. I personally embraced this change and found it extremely positive for the game.


The story revolves around this new Lara Croft on a ship called the Endurance with a crew full of scientific members of many kinds who are looking for an ancient Japanese civilization called the Yamatai. Lara convinces the group to take the ship to a part of the eastern Japanese sea called the Dragon Triangle where a storm hits them and the ship wrecks ending up in the entire crew trying to survive on an island full of ruthless mercenaries who worship a powerful Japanese queen called Himiko who seems to have control over the storms all around this mysterious island.

You will take control of Lara during the entire story and visit countless of incredibly beautiful locations fulfilling objectives like trying to find lost crew members, save people, escape from dangerous areas and look for help and ways to leave the island alive. All with a fantastic and very cinematic pace that doesn’t get in the way of gameplay in any way where you’ll explore areas, look for hidden items, shoot a lot of enemies, watch cinematics and solve puzzles.

I truly loved the graphics and visual presentation. The environments are gorgeous and worth looking at. Every single place Lara visits on the island is completely full of details that will surely make you want to be there in real life. The island is located in eastern Japan so you’ll see a lot of ruins from old towns with traditional buildings, temples, monasteries and many other things. I’m personally a fan of all things Japanese so this part of the level design was outstanding for me. The beaches are full of planes and shipwrecks from World War II era, modern day and even centuries before like 1600s. You’ll see abandoned bunkers, research facilities, snowy mountains, old caves, forests, shanty towns and of course, tombs to raid like the name of the franchise implies.


The character models are also fantastic and have excellent animations that go together with the game’s excellent frame-rate, lightning and textures. Everything looks and feels very real in the context; I truly think Crystal Dynamics made a very good job with the graphical power of the game but my favorite thing was definitely the island itself. It’s quite possibly one of the most beautiful and scary places I’ve ever visited in a video game before.

In the sound department, Tomb Raider is a very strong game too; with a great soundtrack that feels taken out from the best action movies. The songs are amazing and fit perfectly in every single moment of the game. I’d even recommend getting your hands on it in any way. The entire game is voiced perfectly with characters that sound real and manage to make us think they’re actual people during the entire time. Lara still has her iconic British accent and it still fits her perfectly.

This takes me to the drastic change in the protagonist herself. As I mentioned, the previous games showed us a mature Lara Croft that felt like nothing scared her; she was always stronger than anything put before her and no matter what, she always won. This time, Lara feels inexperienced in combat and survival skills. When the ship wrecks, she barely escapes with her life from a collapsing cave. She’ll get hit and injured a LOT during the story and you’ll almost feel her pain.


In this game, Lara is always scared, worried and while she’s very brave, it’s easy to notice a huge difference between this Lara and her old self. Another thing I loved from her this time is that she evolves and adapts quickly. In the first few firefights with the mercenaries, she’ll be genuinely scared but as the game advanced, she’s angrier to the point where she seems sure she can take them on and will even trash talk the evil guys. This is real character development and it’s amazing.

I feel like I have to say that the game is similar to Uncharted in gameplay, but there’s really nothing wrong with that. Tomb Raider is a third-person action game that focuses on exploration and shooter-based combat. Lara uses a bow, pistol, machine gun and shotgun to take down enemies. The transitions between exploring an area, solving a puzzle, climbing and firefights are smooth and have a great pace. Lara will take out hordes of enemies at the same time and it’s even possible to engage them in different ways. A lot of the fights allow you to be sneaky and take, say, three enemies out silently instead of shooting one only for the other two to call reinforcements. The shooting mechanics are very comfortable and easy to get into, adding automatic cover and change of shoulder view, which is great.

Besides the shooting, Lara will make insane climbs and jumps just like Nathan Drake in his games. These are amazing and take place in some of the most important parts of the story. Exploration is also done in a very cool way where Lara can find dozens of hidden items like diaries to learn more about characters and the story, GPS parts to have a better map to find secret tombs or salvage and experience points to upgrade her own abilities and the weapons.


Upgrading her weapons allow for them to have better performance like rate of fire or faster reloading times and can also give them completely new functions like a 3-round burst mode for the pistol or a grenade launcher to attach to the machine gun. Exploration is extremely important so you can find salvage and upgrade Lara and her weapons as best as you can before the story ends.

Along the fantastic story, Tomb Raider adds a multiplayer mode for the first time in the franchise (as far as I remember). While it’s definitely not bad, I feel like the competitive mode is a bit generic and out-of-place. This game didn’t need multiplayer, but it’s there for you to enjoy if you want. There are several different maps to play on and character models to use like Lara and the Endurance crew and the mercenaries (called the Solarii). Multiplayer offers ranked and casual matches in different styles like a traditional Team Deathmatch or other game types that will make you search for radio parts and medical supplies while the other team tries to stop yours.

After having played the game completely, I have to say I’m completely pleased with the final result. Tomb Raider is a fantastic game and definitely one of the best of 2013. The reboot was something the franchise really needed (even though I liked Underworld a lot) and it was done excellently. I loved the new Lara and I hope the potential sequels will be as good as this. The campaign is fantastic and takes place in one of the most beautiful gaming worlds ever, with excellent graphics, gameplay, sound and replayability and the multiplayer is… OKish. Still, this is a game everyone needs to play. A must-have.

Pros:

-          Excellent graphics and sound.
-          The new Lara Croft is a fantastic character.
-          Gameplay is varied, fluid and very fun.
-          BEAUTIFUL environments.
-          Lots of collectibles add replay value.
-          Great storyline.

Cons:

-          Campaign is a little bit too easy.
-          Multiplayer mode feels a bit generic and out of place.


Graphics and Visuals…….…10
Music and Sound Effects..…..9
Gameplay……………….…..9
Replay Value……………….10


Overall Score……………….9.5/10

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