One of the most classic series from the early days of the Playstation has been reborn: “Tomb Raider,” for the first time, delivers an origin story for iconic character Lara Croft.
When the original “Tomb Raider” came out in 1996, it was little more then a run and gun action game staring a busty girl who liked to jump around and kill dinosaurs. Over the years, Lara has grown up and changed appearance many times. The original games where fun, but after a while, jumping around exploring tombs became a bit stale; there have been several attempts at reviving the series, with limited results.
The new “Tomb Raider” is a big deal because it is a fresh start, a new look, a new story, and a new Lara. When this game was first shown at E3, it looked incredible, and one of the reasons is the new Lara – she looks more like a believable person and not just an overt sex symbol. She has dimensions that could actually exist, and the world looks real and inviting.
The new “Tomb Raider” is not a retelling of the story of the first game – it's a gritty new tale of Lara growing from a scared young girl to the savvy, battle-hardened woman we have known up until now. Lara is fresh out of collage and off on her first adventure with a film crew shooting a documentary; there is a storm, and Lara and her friends get shipwrecked and stranded on an island. With limited resources and instinct, Lara must learn how to survive on her own and rescue her friends.
The beginning of the game is very scripted with action sequences, quick time events, and cutscenes, but after about an hour, the game opens up and becomes more like an open world survival action game with some light RPG elements mixed in.
Character development is probably the way the game shines most. It does an incredible job of showing Lara turn into the women she is in the other games. The gameplay is spot on, the shooting mechanics work well, the movement has lost its blockiness from previous entries, and the graphics are downright breathtaking. At pretty much every set piece, you want to stop and take in the view.
Hunting, scavenging, solving puzzles, and fighting will increase Lara's XP, which will allow you to increase her skills and upgrade equipment, making her more proficient at combat and giving her an amazing arsenal of weapons. To increase your abilities, you have to hunt animals; however, Lara doesn't have a hunger meter, which is a bit disappointing. Hunting only gives you XP, so it feels a bit shallow. Combat is pretty satisfying and varied – you can have a firefight, sneak up and perform stealth kills, or sneak by undetected; it's your choice.
The island is an amazing and dangerous environment, from wild animals, unpredictable weather, and even crazy cultists. There are many places to explore, including optional tombs you can explore, puzzles you can solve, and things you can climb. The climbing mechanics feel very natural and easy to use, and it can pretty exciting to make a jump to a far away ledge.
In addition to the excellent story mode, there's an unremarkable multiplayer component. There are four modes, all of which are pretty typical: deathmatch, free for all, and two modes in which teams score points by completing basic objectives. The multiplayer mode is OK, but it is pretty forgettable.
“Tomb Raider” is an excellent game, though, and is better then the old games in pretty much every way. It has amazing graphics, polished controls, and a fantastic story. It combines elements of “Uncharted,” “Far Cry,” and “Assassin's Creed” in good ways, while retaining the feel of “Tomb Raider.” I know it's early, but this could be a contender for game of the year.
-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at rvanderveken @timesleader.com.