Tomb Raider - Review
This isn’t the Lara Croft you know. Yet.
8 / 10
The ship Endurance, en route to the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, is caught in a blistering storm, leading the ship and its crew to wreck upon a mysterious and isolated island. Cue soon-to-be-hero Lara Croft, as she sets out on her first true adventure as the ‘Tomb Raider’ we all know.
Tomb Raider is essentially a reboot of the popular PlayStation series that began in 1996. The story features an unexperienced Lara Croft as she finds herself in one heck of a situation, forcing her to do remarkable things in order to survive. It’s quite different to see this new Lara Croft handle scenarios that would otherwise be a non-issue previously in the series, such as putting herself in dangerous situations and killing others in pursuit of surviving.
The story itself continually builds up Lara Croft’s character in a very relatable way. She acts like we would all act in such a dangerous position. She’s scared and lonely, and it’s her courage that eventually leads her through these difficult situations, forcing her to become a survivalist, regardless of her desire to be one.
The other characters in the game don’t seem to have such a polished characterisation as Lara, and their personalities feel clichéd, often falling flat. However, what makes the story thrive is its emphasis on the mysterious island setting, including its history, and the strong personality of the main character.
Sometimes in games, we see a stark difference between the core story of a game, and the added extra elements such as side quests and in-depth exploration. At times, games find it difficult to combine the two into a cohesive unit, yet Tomb Raider nails this combination perfectly, allowing the story to progress at a fantastic pace, while also giving players the opportunity to explore at their own leisure.
With Tomb Raider, it’s hard not to feel like this is exactly where the series should head. It's a relief to see one of gamings most recognisable females back in action, in an adventure that just feels right. Don't be surprised if this isn't the last we've seen of this new and very likeable Lara Croft.
8.5 / 10
Tomb Raider explores the traditional conventions of story-driven adventure games, and takes inspiration mainly from the series itself. During your first couple of hours with the game, there is a more prominent focus on the development of the story, and Lara Croft herself, and it’s not until after these initial moments that the game truly opens up.
Tomb Raider is almost perfect when it comes to pacing, and this goes for both the story and the gameplay. Specifically though, the balance between combat and exploration is spot-on, allowing you to take in your surroundings, while still feeling the need to push on.
Combat comes and goes relatively quickly in Tomb Raider, but each encounter does well at feeling fresh. At times, you'll find yourself exploring the fully realised island for a good while, without even noticing that you haven't engaged in combat recently. However, the game is still certainly action-packed, including some fantastic mid-game moments and action sequences that will surely keep you on the edge of your chair. This perfect combination alone is what makes the game one of the best definitions of an adventure/exploration game, and one that keeps you ultimately hooked throughout.
There's a plethora of things to collect, open, find, destroy, ignite and more and what makes it even better is the fact that at any given point in the story, you can use ‘Base Camps’ to fast travel between all the locations you've previously visited, regardless of where you are in the story. As you learn new moves or find new ways of passing obstacles, you'll find yourself travelling back to explore new areas, and collect items that were previously impossible to pocket.
8.5 / 10
Tomb Raider’s overall visual appeal is just as striking as its immersive story and enjoyable gameplay. However, it’s the little attention to detail that makes the games presentation something worth noting. As Lara runs past a burning fire or a small flame, she’ll put her hands up in the direction of it as to guard her face from the escalated heat. As you cross a log or bridge near a waterfall, you’ll see your shadow reflecting off it in such a natural way. When you are completely covered in blood or dirt, and you dive into the water or run through the rain, a large portion of the muck will wash right off. These tiny, but important aspects make the experience that much better and goes to show how the overall look of a game adds so much to the general experience of it.
The presentation of each character in the game is generally done well and Lara Crofts character is definitely and understandably done the best, while some of the other characters feel lacking in that department. Overall though, the voice acting is done quite well and each character certainly feels like they are part of the story in a generally compelling way. There are some notably weird voice acting sections in the game however, with most of it coming from the narrated diary excerpts. It often feels like the actor is trying to deliver an accent that they simply can’t do. It doesn’t hinder the game itself in anyway, but it is noticeably awkward to hear.
8.5 / 10
Much like previous Tomb Raider titles, the background music is capable of amplifying the mysterious undertones of the overall narrative. It’s not just the music itself though, it’s also the fact that the music knows just when to amp up, and just when to go completely silent. It’s almost self-aware, knowing just the right moment to take a step back and let you take in your surroundings.
The whole environment and atmosphere of Tomb Raider comes to life thanks to the almost perfect sound effects and musical cues. Whether it be a drip in a cave, heavy thunderstorm or crackling of a camp fire, what makes the game truly feel alive is this important emphasis on each subtle sound.
Tomb Raider is a downright triumphant return of one of gamings most beloved female leads. You'll be left wanting more, waiting until Lara is back yet again to do what she does best.
- A brilliant reboot that makes the series feel fresh again.
- Wonderfully realised location and great attention to detail.
- Surprisingly fun gunplay.
- Supporting cast is a tad bland.
- Lara Croft’s story related injuries heal unbelievably quick.
- Narrated diary excerpts just sound strange.
Overall - 8.5 / 10
The overall score is not necessarily an average
Tomb Raider was released for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on March 5 in Australia.
Written by Michael Villalon for ‘The VG Island’.