Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review A Great Game Day: Tomb Raider

So today is Review a Great Game Day, which I decided to take part in. You may remember I also participated in Review A Bad Game Day last year too.

Anyway, I'm actually rather pleased about this one. For the most part, I enjoy the games I end up playing. It's very rare that I come across a game that I have absolutely hated. 

My Review a Great Game Day entry is about (not a surprise to those of you who follow me on Twitter...), Tomb Raider. The reboot was a pleasant surprise for many, and I have absolutely loved playing it. So, presenting...

Tomb Raider (2013)

Lara Croft has been dominating our screens ever since the original game was released back in 1996. Ever since then, Lara has become something of a gaming icon, spawning not only a successful game series, but two films (starring Angelina Jolie as Lara), advertising deals (who can forget those Lucosade adverts?), merchandise, comics and more.

As much as I love the Tomb Raider games, there was no denying that the series was close to becoming a little tired. Thankfully, the news of a reboot came along and fixed this.

Released in March 2013, Crystal Dynamic's Tomb Raider takes us back to the beginning, showing us how Lara becomes the archaeologist adventurer we know and love, whilst also changing her history that we have grown to learn from the previous games.

In Tomb Raider, we are introduced to a 21 year old Lara Croft, a University graduate who is on board a great ship called Endurance, for an archaeological expedition led by Captain Conrad Roth. When a sudden storm destroys the research vessel, a young and inexperienced Lara finds herself stranded on a mysterious and remote island hidden off the shores of Japan.

On first glance the island appears to be deserted, but soon enough Lara not only comes up against dangerous animals, but human enemies too. Shipwrecked, stranded and alone, Lara begins to re-discover her fellow crew mates, but the only way off of this island is by resolving the secrets within alone. Tomb Raider sees Lara not only battle the elements, animals and enemies, but uncover secret tombs, whilst all the while fighting to look for a way off of the island and back to safety.
Many people have compared the gameplay of Tomb Raider with the Uncharted series, which is a fair point-it does indeed have a lot in common in relation to the action sequences at least. However, do not let this put you off. This origin story is great blend of exploration and high-octane action, enough to keep you playing until the end. Both forms of gameplay-the exploration and action sequences, are definitely fun to play, especially when using Lara's bow and arrow. As you level up, all the weapons you have collected can be improved to create brand new attacks-the napalm arrows are by far one of the most enjoyable. 

How you play the game is entirely up to you. If you enjoy stealth play, there's plenty of opportunities for this.I never was a fan of stealth gameplay before Tomb Raider, but I ended up adopting it at every opportunity. The fact is, it really works in this game, particularly if you can pick off enemies at a great distance with the bow and arrow-it's rather satisfying. The other way of playing this is to make your presence known to the enemies whenever possible. This often warrants a much larger fight, with enemies throwing molitovs, and closing in on you to create a more personal, tougher fight. 
Through the course of the game, we see Lara turn from a scared, inexperienced but intelligent history buff into a much stronger, agile and battle-worn woman. This transition is an interesting one to experience. You will find yourself wincing every time Lara is beaten, attacked, sent hurtling down large cliffs,slamming into structures, to cheering as she learns the motions of becoming a full blown survivor. 

Emerging as a strong, confident, agile survivor, it has been a real pleasure getting to know this new Lara, and you will be yearning to see what lies in store in the future for her.

Also worth mentioning is how fitting the soundtrack is-a blend of feudal Japanese style tracks, with a jungle flourish. Lara's new theme is constantly referred back to in most of the tracks, creating a true heroic score. Whilst the gameplay is satisfying, the game also boasts impressive visuals, which you can see via the textures on the scenery, and on Lara's increasingly battle-worn body and clothing. 
Whilst this is supposed to be a great game review, not every game is perfect. Tomb Raider unfortunately suffers from some slight repetitive moments of gameplay (still rather enjoyable though), but the biggest disappointment is the multiplayer mode. Really, the multiplayer feels rather unnecessary  as this game has a strong enough single player mode on it's own. The multiplayer modes are in fact a little forgettable, offering us game types we have seen time and time again, such as a variant on Capture the Flag. Whilst this may be enjoyable for plenty, I personally just got a little bored of it, turning my attentions to Lara's main story instead. Another slightly disappointing aspect is that it feels like the game bows out lightly. I was expecting a full-on boss battle, but it never fully comes. 

Still, despite those criticisms, Tomb Raider is a brilliant game. Crystal Dynamics have successfully rebooted the series with an enthralling origin story that firmly places Lara back in the limelight after what feels like forever. Bring on the sequel.

In closing, take a look at this comparison screenshot of the old and new Lara to see how much she has evolved. No more pointy boobs for one!

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