Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tomb Raider Review

Remember the old Tomb Raider back in the 90s? Pixelated boobs, long braided hair swishing as our angular-featured heroine ran around caves shooting at wolves with her dual pistols? That was my first and last experience with Lara Croft though she's had numerous games and a couple of movies made since then. So it's quite a shock to the system years later to go from that experience on my old Pentium 2 to this latest Tomb Raider game on the Playstation 3. Tomb Raider has become one hell of a sophisticated gaming experience since then and a far better game than I'd expected!

Tomb Raider is a prequel to the first game and we are introduced to a young Lara on her first expedition, part of a larger group of archaeologists, whose ship is caught in a sudden and violent storm and runs aground onto a mysterious island. Separated from the group and injured, Lara must use her wits to gain new skills in foraging, weapons usage, and combat to survive, gather as many of the surviving crew as possible, and get off the island alive.

First off, and maybe best of all, the graphics in this game - my god, what a beautiful looking game this is! I'm not just talking about Lara herself, though she is that and her boobs have become less cartoonishly massive - it's no coincidence her chest is covered with her hand on the cover of the game, the developers want you to know the focus has shifted. But the environments are so well modelled from the shipwreck on the beach, to the spooky forests, to the snow-flecked mountainous temples, the developers have really put the effort into making this a visually stunning game. Each environment looks different with varying levels of light so the shipwreck beach during the day is absolutely gorgeous, a vista you wish you could step into even momentarily, while at dusk or night it becomes forbidding as the swinging lanterns creaking in the wind become foreboding and shadowy figures come out of the darkness to attack you. The camera angles accentuate the landscapes too. Generally its placed just behind and above Lara but switches when she is climbing to give you amazing perspectives on the scenery as well as hints as to where to go - brilliant. I could spend the entire review talking about the environments but I won't - suffice it to say they are incredible.

Gameplay-wise, this is a really fun game. Lara learns new abilities as she goes, like rock climbing and fashioning tools out of salvage, and as her experience levels go up she gains further abilities in combat, survival, etc. The weapons are quite limited as the developers obviously wanted a degree of realism even though really most of the game is a total fantasy. Your arsenal includes a pick axe, bow and arrows, pistol (singular), machine gun , and shotgun. Initially these weapons are quite poor to use but the more salvage you collect means you can upgrade the weapons to become more efficient, even adapting them to become more deadly. Lara's arrows go from ordinary to flame to grenade, she can get a silencer for the pistol, and even turn her machine gun into a RPG! The bow and arrows though - Lara's dual pistols do make an appearance towards the end but you'll want to use the bow and arrows the most. It's too much fun using them to shoot guys in the head with!

There are lots of tombs to raid, all of which become progressively more complicated, though none are impenetrable to understand and if you're really stuck, there are lots of helpful videos on Youtube. The game itself is actually quite easy. It's clear the developers want you to experience the game in full, whether or not you're a hardcore gamer or not, rather than keep you stuck in a single place for too long. If you play a lot of third person shooters, you won't find Tomb Raider a challenge, even on the hardest setting, but the game itself is so compelling with its constantly changing range of environments and setups that its really addictive and keeps you playing for longer as a result.

I had an absolute blast playing this and was amazed that this was the same franchise. Gorgeous graphics, great gameplay, a compelling story with great cinematics and voice acting, Tomb Raider ticks all the boxes in what I look for in good games. I finished the game at 76% completion and am now going back over the areas in the island to pick up the extras and gain all the upgrades, and it's still great fun. An excellent action adventure game, I highly recommend it. Square Enix have rejuvenated Tomb Raider and made the best game in the series as well as one of the best games of the year.

Tomb Raider

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