Tomb Raider review – Crafty Croft 
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Garth Holden
March 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

I dread the word reboot. To me, reboot has become a swearword used to make more money by telling the exact same story again, but with new shiny bits and explosions. Then you get those shining examples, things I like to refer to as a ‘reimagining’ rather than a reboot. A recent example that springs to mind is DmC, where Ninja Theory gave a new story and new purpose to a franchise. Tomb Raider is one such reimagining.

A new Lara Croft

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Lara has tossed out the shorts and the acrobatics in favour of a personality and emotion. The hardened killer of the past is gone, replaced with a naive young archaeologist. She feels pain, fear and guilt. The game plays out an emotional journey, showing Lara’s first ever kill and how she grows through the hardships she faces. This level of emotion is brought out by Camilla Luddington, who not only voices Lara, but also did the motion capture for the game. Her performance is genuine and Camilla gives Lara a less haughty clipped accent, again adding to the believability of Lara and her plight. Nearly drowning, almost set on fire and impaled, narrowly escaping death several times… This is just in first few minutes. This new vulnerable Lara gets dirty (no), bruised, battered and grimy. Her journey is spellbinding and takes you with her into the pit of despair, a feat I think that composer Jason Graves plays no small part in. You feel for her, absorbed in the grisly, dark direction that the franchise has taken. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Lara is going to be herculean.

Tools of the trade and survival

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Alone, tired, sore, cold and hungry, Lara comes across a bow and hunts a deer for some much-needed food. The animals of the island are skittish, so Lara has to use stealth, height and patience to be successful. Cut off from her friends and her mentor, she breaks down into soliloquy, allowing us to see into her troubled mind, a mind wracked with pain. She is unable to comprehend the madness gripping this island, nor can she explain the seemingly supernatural storm that marooned her here. The only thing keeping her going is the voice on the other side of her two-way radio. Sadly for her, things are going to get a lot worse and she is going to need every advantage she can scrounge and salvage on the island. While in camp, Lara can modify her weapons and gear using the bits and bobs she collects from chests, enemies and uh, animals. While most modifications to the firearms really push the system to becoming ridiculous, there is something rewarding about being able to upgrade your favourite gun after exploring an area completely. When I first saw Lara with a bow, I was worried that other weapons in the game would be pointless. While the bow is really powerful and is a great tool for a stealthy approach, you aren’t always offered the luxury of pretending to be Sam Fisher. Sometimes you land in the thick of it and there are too many enemies to take on with your bow. Every weapon fulfils a need in Lara’s arsenal, allowing you to adapt to the challenges on the battlefield.

And there are many battlefields. Fans may be perturbed by the sheer number of enemies that Lara has to mow down to continue. Thankfully, the gunplay is so well done and fluid that I never noticed. Rather, I pushed myself to excel, netting extra XP off headshots and finishers. Lara has tossed the health packs away, as has every other game that makes use of a cover system. Lara can scramble for cover, dodging enemy fire and melee attacks. Later on, Lara learns how to counterattack after a dodge, and how to use her climbing pick as a pretty mean weapon.

Less locations but so much more exploration

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Exploration has always been a core feature of Tomb Raider, and Crystal Dynamics don’t disappoint with level design. Things go wrong in Tomb Raider. Often. Handholds disintegrate, rotting scaffolding gives under Lara’s feet and she ends up far off the beaten track. It is up to you to use your wits, your tools and reflexes to traverse the amazing island that lies at your feet. I wish this game had a timer for those moments when I stopped moving to just enjoy the scenery. Craggy mountainsides slope into forested valleys. The beach is littered with shipwrecks and detritus, the sun reflects off the ocean, which seems to stretch off forever. An old WWII bunker looms on top of a cliff, the main cannon rusted and shattered. Then you start to notice that there are platforms, rough rock faces and zip lines connecting from the beach all the way up to the bunker. The island invites exploration and pretty much everything you can see can be reached, once you have the right gear.

If you are battling to explore, Lara can use her instincts to point out most points of interest in her environs, similar to Assassin Creed’s eagle vision, important objects glow gold and enemies glow red, with colour draining from everything else. From objects that can be burnt to climbable objects, this improved sight can help you to find that elusive enemy or that hidden collectable. Besides collecting salvage, most collectables offer up a small amount of XP, with a substantial bonus once a set or area has been completed. Lara can then go back to a campsite and unlock skills as a survivor, a hunter or a brawler, allowing you a modicum of customisation, based on your preference and play style.

Challenge yourself, but don’t get puzzled

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Some camps allow you to fast travel to other parts of the island if you want to take a break from the story and do a bit of exploring. If you want an XP boost or a few extra weapon parts, the game is littered with challenges. From hunting a certain number of X animal to lighting every shrine’s fire, these add something extra for those wanting an edge in combat or for those OCD individuals that want to do absolutely everything in the game. Mixed in with this are a few optional tombs for Lara to raid. However, these tombs are not labyrinthine sprawls, most of them are merely a room or two in size. The most disappointing fact is that the puzzles are insultingly simple. The kids of today, sigh…

Killing with friends

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Over in multiplayer land, the game has four modes, most of which involve pitting survivors versus Solarii in round based modes. Multiplayer has added two new actions, a powerful charge attack and the ability to sprint for a short period of time.

Rescue has the survivors trying to collect large medikits and transport them back to a safe zone to score points. The Solarii score points for melee kills of the survivors. To aid this, survivors drop into a downed state if shot to death, making it easier to get in close and destroy them. In the next round survivors become Solarii and vice versa. First to win two rounds wins.

Team Deathmatch is pretty self explanatory, as is Free for All.

The final mode, Cry for Help, has survivors activating radio beacons, while the Solarii attempt to steal the batteries of the survivors.

All of these modes can be played in ranked or casual mode and show a lot more depth than I was expecting. Multiplayer characters can also loot salvage crates and can modify their weapons, pick two skills and get better weapons or a play as a cooler character. Add to this myriad challenges for extra XP and a few buffs which improve accuracy for a while, or make you take less explosive damage make for some pretty unpredictable fun.

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Many years ago, I remember Uncharted being called a Male Tomb raider. Borrowing from each other, both franchises have evolved, learning from the mistakes of both. Tomb Raider has lots of shooting and action and escaping burning, falling and crumbling environments, almost like a Female Uncharted. Not that this is a bad thing at all. A more… human Lara has breathed more life into this game than any other change could possibly achieve. This shows how much both games have evolved and changed. Personally, as long as this continues to make the games better, I couldn’t care less about who did it first or does it better, because the games are still distinct enough to keep everyone happy. Ms Croft has come a long way, and her story was, to put it lightly, muddled. This clear break into a smaller bra and a proper origin story is exactly what Tomb Raider needed to move forward.


  • ALKi1234

    Uncharted 3 has ruined 3rd person games for me…..nothing out there really comes close to that experience,maybe last of us….i hope.

    • Valshen

      This is up there with it, I promise. The emotional investment, wow.

      • Sir Captain Rincethis

        Did you manage to finish it, or is this based on the first 37 minutes? Just asking as some ‘journalists’ seem to think that is okay :)

        • Jonah Cash

          I remember having taken part in that conversation…. Will come back after I played and rant a lot to see if 8.6 becomes 7.2 with no reason attached…. Hahahahaha

          • Sir Captain Rincethis

            Hahah!

        • Valshen

          Oh Rincethis, you horrible troll.

          • Sir Captain Rincethis

            Have to check these days (and I note no answer) hehehe

          • TriangularRoom

            Lol do I need to vouch for the many hours @Valshen spent playing this to finish it in time? ;)

          • Sir Captain Rincethis

            Nah, there was enough passion and angst in his review to indicate he may have finished it. And I as he gets more down votes than a voting White House intern, I trust him.

    • TriangularRoom

      This new Tomb Raider does a pretty good job. It reminded me a lot of Uncharted.

  • TriangularRoom

    Fantastic game, fantastic review! I look forward to more in this new franchise :)

    • loftie

      Yip looks good, smells like far cry 3 with a lara instead of a jason. lol :P

  • Admiral Chief Erwin

    Epic review my friend!

  • Milni06

    Wow, really awesome review. Great work. Can’t wait to play this and that is a first for me and a Tomb Raider game.

  • Sir Captain Rincethis

    Awesome review. Always enjoy yours, will be buying this end of month!

  • DaxterZA

    Ive played the game for about an hour on Xbox, must say its really amazing so far! And to my surprise, the game looks great on console!

  • Wtf101

    Daft question: Why do you score it 7.5 on value, when it took you 12 hours to get to 79% completion? 12 Hours is not all that shabby considering the average length of single player campaigns these days?

    • Valshen

      Other games with similar lengths also have re-playability through extra modes and unlocked difficulties etc. If you only play singleplayer, one weekend of gaming isn’t exactly high value for your $$$.

      • OVG

        Thats a tough one. I dont think replay value should be part of the score the same way some site called XBOX AP is always at the lowest score on metacritic because they rate games for their AP design.

        Replay value is anything to anyone. Me? I delete my save file and start over. Some others do speed runs or just do the story to increase the pacing. If we want to include game Value then I think 7hours for a $60 game is better than average.

        MG Rising is the same length as Gears 1 but it has the same production value and polish of a 20hour game.

        Its a tough one, but I think an overall score should be made, then a detailed breakdown of all the other elements of the games parts in detail but should not contribute to the overall %… I you know what I mean?

        But 8.6 is still bloody good. I AM SOOOOO CHUFFED that the devs are listening to the fanboys for once. :)

  • Tarisma

    OMG farcry and uncharted had a baby!

    • http://twitter.com/DanielKeevy Daniel Keevy

      And they bred out the silly hairstyles! Yay!

    • ALKi1234

      All i’m sayng,when i saw the video review it looked like a uncharted wanabe but it isin’t uncharted.nothing comes close.and if anybody out there can’t agree then you have not played UC3……period!I don’t care who you are,whether you got a ps3 and a xbox360……so don’t even come with that crap.

  • OVG

    I would HATE to imagine how good this game would have been if it was first party with the same production values as Uncharted.

    GREAT GREAT JOB Crystal Dynamics :)

    • http://twitter.com/mathuthe Mathias

      To me it was more entertaining than U3, so…

  • OVG

    I cant believe people still flamebait for hits. WTF? some fcuk faces have giving this game a 6/10 (5/10 for Aliens on the same site). If you say its their opinion and they are entitled to it then I fart in your general direction. FULL RETARD.

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/tomb-raider/critic-reviews

    • Sir Captain Rincethis

      Agreed. There are pricks out there who think that because there is a platform, a VIRTUAL ONE, we care what they say. Best to ignore these fucking tools, you know, the ones who downvote and are too cowedly to actually man up and say what it is they disagree with. I would LOVE to meet these pricks on a dark and misty night, in the time of the series Ripper Street. I’d have ‘fun’ with them for sure.

  • xxCoreGamerxx

    I’m the last person to comment on the writing of others but this review is very poorly written. The multiplayer section was thrown in at the last minute, with a lot of pointless rambling in the middle.

    • Sir Captain Rincethis

      I don’t think it is poorly written at all. And I AM a person to comment. I would assume the MP section was thrown in at the end, as that is more than likely when he played it. It’s called deadlines, and meeting them. Not sure what you mean by rambling in the middle…

    • TriangularRoom

      Would you prefer he just wrote ‘good game, here are the scores’? What you call ‘rambling’, I would call ‘description of the reviewer’s experience of the game’.

  • Willem Swanepoel

    tomb raider was never the game for me and it does not really look that exciting to spend money on it. bah, going to spend money on SC2 Hots ;) sorry Lara

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  • http://twitter.com/mathuthe Mathias

    Well, I found it more enjoyable than Uncharted 3, gameplay-wise, to be honest. And was more comfortable with the bow than in Far Cry 3 and Crysis 3 together.

    Damn cultists always have some funny lines. And their AI is not bad. On hard they are constantly harrassing you, and that’s always good because you must stay on the move or you’re dead.

    The puzzles are not hard, and are TOTALLY optional :) Which is always nice. The plataforming is top notch, Lara moves fluidly through the settings, and the island looks beautiful.

    The Uncharted-esque moments are not too frequent, and even if they don’t reach the heights of that series, it’s ok, because they don’t actually seem to want to emulate it.

    You kids should have some respect, Uncharted wasn’t even a concept years after Lara was “born”. And this game DOESN’T feel like Uncharted. Play it or shut the fuck up, fanboy scum.

    And the story not only isn’t that short, it DOESN’T feel short at all. The pacing is decent, and you can always have time for the ocassional tomb raiding.

  • Banana Jim

    I haven’t gotten the game yet, but I was watching one of my mates play it today, and I’m not really sure what to think. I don’t like the fact that puzzles are now an afterthought, whereas gunplay has certainly taken front seat. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the focus on pew pew in the Uncharted games, but I’m not sure Lara should have tried to emulate them. Also, all the quick time events… my god… :o

    Now, I’ll reiterate, I haven’t really played this game, so this is merely first impressions (and maybe the game changes it’s focus later on), but I have to admit, I’m kind of disappointed. :/

    • http://twitter.com/mathuthe Mathias

      There aren’t as many QTE as you seem to imply. Really. The ONE button you have to press comes after you perfectly evade an enemy attack, so you can stun/kill that enemy. And there still is platforming and some puzzles in order to progress, but they don’t throw you a 30 minutes puzzle like in, say, Uncharted 2′s final hours, or that annoying God of War constant, unavoidable puzzle moments.

      Tombs are pretty well designed, and there’s Survival instinct to everyone dumb or lazy enough not to be able to figure them out. You can’t turn it off, but you can avoid pressing the button, and I really recommend doing so.

      I really think you should play the game. It feels right. And the real pew-pew moments are not many. I recall 3 major firefights, and they’re actually pretty tough if you stay in one place and shoot. And this game rewards stealth, as well.

      But, hey, people will always think of this as an Uncharted clone. So fuck everyone’s opinions.

      Whenever you have the chance, play it. Besides, why pewpewing when you have a bow and arrow? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002090658545 Eduan Naude

    So far the best single player experience EVER – I was playing Crysis3 at the same time but TombRaider kept me spellbound – magnificent , extraordinary !
    Unrelated question : has anyone yet managed to download and play the new StarWars Old Republic MMO?

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  • Circuitflow

    I played the game, got a 100% with no real effort. Overall Story is very good and sucks u in, however there is no real challenge.. Enjoyable but EASY!

  • Purple_Dragon

    I’ve been playing this game over the last week and hell what a good game. I’ll tell you what I’m liking most is that I find I’m invested in the character and the story. I just find myself shouting at the screen doing a set piece, like “go go!”.

    I’m also enjoying being able to explore and the optional tombs are a bit of fun. I’m certainly enjoying this a lot more than I did U3. Something wasn’t quite right about U3.

    I just hope we see more of this Tomb Raider, hopefully it won’t go on the skids because their marketing gurus fucked up predicting sales. It’s a big worry if this game wasn’t seen as having done well.

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