Tomb Raider Review

NOTE: Due to Gamotere's updated review policy scores are no longer being used. Scores for this review were removed 07/03/2015. 

The Look

Tomb Raider is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Even on my awful, rather old PC, Tomb Raider somehow manages to look brilliant. The game is set on the mysterious island of Yamatai, and is a place filled with natural and human dangers. In the early parts of the game wolves are often found attacking Lara Croft, whilst later on the threat comes from men who inhabit the island and worship the Sun Queen Himiko. The island has been expertly crafted and looks fabulous as does the detail that's gone into the man made structures; such as the villages where enemies are camping in wait for Lara.

Soruce: pcgamer.com - 4K Screenshot
Possibly some of the best detail has gone into the plethora of dead bodies that are dotted around the island. You see the grizzily details and almost how the died right in front of you. Speaking of death, Lara is sure to die at least once, and I found myself almost willing that to happen to see the amazing death scenes that Crystal Dynamics had created. My particular favourites are when Lara has to parachute down a fairly narrow gorge-like thing and there are two ways to die; be impaled on a tree branch through your stomach, or your throat. I urge you to try and see both, as they really are very well done.

Source: pcgamer.com - 4K Screenshot

I think what also really helps compliment the islands details, is the superb lighting effects, which are always on the go to highlight important detail and to provide creepy shadows when needed. Obviously this is a great looking game, but to look this good a game needs to have really been loved by the developers and the amount of care that needs to be put in is huge. It's very obvious that Crystal Dynamics had this love, and so gave this care to the game. It certainly paid of and what they've created is extraordinary.

The Gameplay

Ahh the combat in Tomb Raider. When you are first introduced to the island of Yamatai you have no weapons, and nothing to go kill stuff with. Soon you find a bow and some arrows (that are closely associated with the previous Tomb Raider games and films before this reboot). Gradually as you are dropped in more and more to the world, you find yourself new weapons. Whether it be a shotgun, a rifle, and pistol or an axe all are brilliant to play with, brilliant to have fun with and great to experiment with.

Source: pcgamer.com

Despite the wide choice of weaponry available, the main focus seems to be with the bow, which receives the option to send out flaming arrows among other upgrades. Personally, this was my weapon of choice as the ammo seemed the most widely available throughout the levels, although you can easily fast travel back via a campfire to a previous zone and pick up the re-spawned ammunition that is waiting for you there.

Getting around is simple in Tomb Raider. Either you walk, run or move from campfire to campfire via a fast travel system quite like that in Dark Souls. Although there is no direct need to go back anywhere, if you want to 100% the game (as I hope to eventually do) then it can be useful when looking for hidden tombs that may have escaped your notice.

While there aren't specific quests, there is a mission structure that I really like. In each "zone" of the semi-open-world you have checkpoints that you have to reach. Getting to each of these acts as the mission. Sometimes you will have to retrieve something, or explore somewhere or simply get from point A to point B without getting killed. It's a good system, but perhaps wouldn't work in any other game, not that this is a bad thing.

To help you know where to go, you can use Lara's "survival instincts" which light up objects you can use to help in your task or project a beam of light into a certain place, showing you your goal.

The Features

I would say that the music in Tomb Raider is good, but nothing to write home about. While it provides an interesting back-drop to the game and its characters, I wouldn't want to listen to it without the game in front of me, which is a big part of a soundtrack for me. That said, it is good and very well composed, but it needs the on-screen events to really make sense otherwise it really doesn't. However, it is really compromising to what's happening as you play, which is great and shows an amazing attention to detail.

The voice acting, however, is outstanding. Every actor really gets into their part, and makes their character a believable piece of the world we're traversing. With special mention to Camilla Luddington who plays Lara, and gets her completely. All the way through the game she makes you believe that the situation you're in is whatever it is, and although that sounds easy to do when it works, it really works: and you feel the emotions with the character.

I really don't like the UI in the game. The menus floating on the screen makes it feels like it was made for a controller (which I recommend you play this game with anyway, for the precision in shooting and the ease in which you can move around) but even when I do hook up my old Xbox 360 one, they are still a pain to navigate. But I do really like the weapons selection screen (you simply press up or down on the D-pad to switch weapons incredibly easily) and the cross-hair when you're about to shoot can be changed to either zoomed in or not, which can be very useful, although is perhaps not a massive thing in relation to the wider game.

The AI and NPC's are slightly different here from in other games I've reviewed, due to the fact this isn't a completely open world there aren't just NPC's walking around the villages, each one has been put there for a purpose which is, normally, to kill you; your job is to survive. However, massive attention to detail has obviosuly been put into each encounter with the enemy on the island as each wave comes just as Lara has learnt something new. It isn't simply "plop x number of baddies here, get the player to kill them".

I love the story in the game. It makes sense, it's engaging and it's also meaningful. As I mentioned before, you really get connected with all the characters and you want them to get off the island where they get shipwrecked, with as little damage as possible.

Was It Fun?

I love Tomb Raider. I love everything about it. I love the story, I love the characters, I love how the game feels to play and how combat works. In fact there isn't anything I hate at all. Sure, I'm not a huge fan of the UI in the game, but it isn't so bad that it really impacts on my overall experience.

Over the course of my time in the World, I've blown things up, blown people up, shot people with arrows, with pistols - you name it. There's such an extensive collection of weapons to choose from, that you can run into any situation with, that you can reply the entire game using a different weapon everytime and have a completely different experience.

Not only do I love the main story, but I also love the collectibles that you can either choose to ignore, or try and get them all. When you start, you want to carry on doing it, and finding out the story of how all these people got to the island - and why they're still here. Without giving too much away, the compelling story of the island is something I speculated on from the moment I started - I really wanted to know what was going to happen to me as Lara, but also to the people around me, and the others on the island.

Something to note for those wondering, you can only play as Lara in the game - there is no male character. Just as it should be really. As a guy who normally plays as a guy in games it made no difference to me, and I don't think there will ever be a guy character to play as, despite the reboot loosing the "Lara Croft" from the title. Obviously that has nothing to do with how fun it was, but I wanted to clarify.

As well as being able to find obscure stories on the island of Yamatai, you can also choose whether or not to go into optional tombs for extra loot. I recommend doing these, as they're really fun, and help get that 100%!



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