Xbox 360/PS3 Review: Tomb Raider

Can Lara be the Queen of Reboots?

I’ve had somewhat of a mixed relationship with the Tomb Raider games of old, I enjoyed them but felt they didn’t quite meet their full potential. I liked when Crystal Dynamics took the reins of the series with Tomb Raider Legend, which is still a great game. The next two would focus on a remake of the original and a sequel to Legend, both of which were good but left questions where the team would take Lara next. A reboot is the answer, but is it the solution?
To go back to the drawing board on a series as large as Tomb Raider takes some considerable guts, it could go horribly wrong or it could be just what the franchise needed. Luckily, in this case…it’s the latter. Lara’s first journey sets out with a crew who get shipwrecked in the Dragon’s Triangle whilst searching for a fabled island called Yamatai, near Japan. The story is greatly written thanks to Rhianna Pratchett and shows the more vulnerable side of Lara who’s fresh out of university; you follow her struggle for survival and feel her pain when she has to kill a deer for food, or an enemy to live.

The gameplay of Tomb Raider has changed quite a bit from the old days; Lara gets only a few weapons including a bow, rifle, pistol and shotgun. The game does feel like a blend of different games including Uncharted and Resident Evil 4 to name a few. Gone are the duel-wielding pistols of the original Lara, but hopefully they will return in future games if Crystal Dynamics decide to stick with the retelling of Lara’s adventures. There are plenty of collectables and challenges to find, as well as the blatant Tombs to raid, although they aren’t nearly as challenging as one would hope. Lara can use Survival Instant (LB/L1) which turns the screen grey, but highlights specific objects in gold to assist her.
You can upgrade your weapons with salvage and attachments you find through the game, you can attach rope arrows to foes and pull them off ledges or attach a grenade launcher to your rifle and give them hell. Some collectables can’t be obtained until you have a certain item, like a shotgun to blast through a chunk of wood with barbed wire and so on, so you’ll have to backtrack…luckily there is a fast travel option between the camps.

The campaign should take between 15-20 hours to complete, but more so if you miss specific achievements/trophies. There is a big emphasis on multiplayer, which has the typical perks/levelling system that you would expect now. It’s a nice addition but it doesn’t exactly add anything new and I would have been happy without it. Visually, Tomb Raider is a triumph to watch. Lara looks amazing and is more than her clichéd short-shorts and square boobs look of the past. The locations are stunning and the effects are a joy to look at. There is the odd drop in framerate, but nothing too bad. Voice-acting is truly brilliant and the music matches the atmosphere almost perfectly.

The Verdict

I was worried when I heard they would reboot Tomb Raider, but I had faith in Crystal Dynamics and thanks to them and the writing of Rhianna Pratchett, the reboot is a complete success. It may not re-invent the wheel in terms of gameplay and multiplayer seems unnecessary, but it’s a brave and truly enjoyable game from start to finish.