Sometimes going back to your origins is the only way to move forward.
So recently I had been pondering over the purchase of the Xbox 360 version of Tomb Raider, but have been denied the privilege by college work , Persona 4 Golden and my income. (Mainly persona 4 golden!) After a period of thinking I decided to rent the game on my next free day. So come Thursday I hurried over to Blockbuster (luckily one is still open near me) to collect my long awaited bounty. So was it worth the wait…?
If you want my quick answer then it is a yes, but this depends on certain circumstances. The game starts with you playing as Lara Croft, a young academic on a journey to start work on an archaeological dig when suddenly the ship crashes and you are shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Yamatai. A long forgotten island filled to the brim with suspense and intrigue, as if that wasn’t bad enough, you are soon captured by a mysterious tribe of cultists who tie you up and hang you from the ceiling. To escape the hands of your captors and survive the wilderness Lara must learn to utilize all the available tools at her disposal from the element of fire to the bow and arrow, the gun, the pick axe and the climbing axe.
The first and foremost thing to mention about the game is that it is a very entertaining endeavour. It is similar to other Tomb Raider games in that respect and that as a game it is hard to characterize. Most games have elements of a few different game genres and Tomb Raider has almost everything in it like it has platforming in it, shooting, adventure, puzzle solving and takes an almost traditional role playing game trait e.g. the ability to level up (this one is more like a combination of Resident vil 4 in the way you can upgrade your equipment and Borderlands in the respect that you can gain experience points by shooting enemies). In my opinion this new Tomb Raider improves on its predecessors in this (and every) way because even though the earlier games had all these things in them, the latest installation combines them all so seamlessly that you can transition from one to the other and hardly even realize it! In fact I would go as far to say that this game has accomplished the ultimate and has achieved the perfect marriage of every game style!
Graphically the game looks outstanding. We all know the rule that if the Xbox 360 has to perform an update to run the game then you know that the graphics are going to be outstanding and Tomb Raider is no exception to that rule! The visuals of the game are gorgeous, alive and vibrant and suck you into the game instantly; in fact if I had to give the game a score on graphics alone it would be an easy 10! If you want a game that really maximize the graphics potential of your console then look no further because you have the perfect candidate in Tomb Raider.
Another pro for the game is its storyline; the storyline of the game is as vivid and colourful as it is engaging. The game plays out like a live action movie very similar to games like Yakuza or Shenmue this combined with the excellent visuals make you not want to skip the cut-scenes giving the game as well as Lara greater depth. This gives you a stronger bond with Lara as a character and helps you connect to the desperateness of her situation all the more making you feel like your right there! After playing this game I almost guarantee you will never see Lara Croft or Tomb Raider in the same light! There are some key moments in which you see Lara lose her innocence (wow that sounds dirty), but what I am saying is that you can see the change in her, especially after the first kill. But this also raises a problem I've had with the storyline. She becomes more badass as you progress through the game and she starts murdering everyone and everything she sees in front of her and this, for my opinion, kinda ruined all of that "change" I was talking about. The action escalates very quickly and I wish that it didn't, not so fast however.
How does it expand on its predecessors? If you have played Lara’s recent outings you may have felt a tinge of disappointment when you realized that the games never stood up to Lara Croft's original outing on the PS1 (excluding Tomb Raider Anniversary on the pc). Well that has all changed and now a better question to ask is how does it not improve on the other outings in the series? Well, everything from the graphics to the gameplay has improved immensely and in every conceivable way! Things not mentioned prior to this paragraph like the camera angles, the sound quality and the environment are multiple times better than the originals and the more recent releases, now as opposed to being a compelling argument to the question have video games really improved?; it is a testament to the evolution of video games! And therefore that is a pro too. P.s can you imagine what impact a game of this caliber would have done to people back in 1996! Another new feature we see for the first time in the Tomb Raider universe is the multiplayer. It appears that now every game must have an online mode even if that doesn't make any sense or feel that it's not part of the universe (yes I am talking about Batman Arkham Origins, GOWA etc). That is why I have mixed thoughts about Tomb Raider mutliplayer. Let's say it's fun for a while to play, but this will not make you keep coming back. It feels very underdeveloped and very tacked on. But in the other hand, it didn't really mess up the campaign, meaning that two devs worked separately on single and multiplayer, so the singleplayer wasn't really affected.
Also I have mixed thoughts about the lasting appeal. The game is frustratingly short lived, the singleplayer took me only 10 hours to beat and I was watching the cut scenes. There's a replay value here, as there are some collectibles and side missions to do, but they don't increase much the replay value.
Even though the game provides all manner of game genres (excluding racing) it still might not do enough to make any of the individual aspects of the game stand out to other games in the market today e.g. the shooting is not very good and the platforming is not very sharp. Also seeing as platforming is my favorite genre of games and Tomb Raider games are known for fantastic platforming sequences, I would have liked to see slightly more of it here but this is really a minor grumble. Another "bad" thing for the game is its difficulty level although it on its hardest mode it will probably challenge your gaming abilities it does not offer an extremely large difficulty setting for those who want to take the game to its ultimate conclusion and truly experience a survival game.
Bottom Line: All in all, Tomb Raider is an excellent game that has enough to keep you genuinely occupied for hours with one of the best story lines. Character development is really well done, you really connect with Lara and feel her pain, emotions, thoughts. The VO helps a lot here too, it's done perfectly. This is coupled with outstanding graphics and perfect camera angles, although it sells itself short of true video gaming greatness by being not very long in duration and by offering limited difficulty settings and a tacked on multiplayer option. But still this is the greatest Tomb Raider game in the series. And I cannot wait to see the announced sequel on the next-gen. Greatness Awaits!
Tomb Raider was reviewed on an Xbox 360 using a rented copy of the game. Tomb Raider is now available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360