Crystal Dynamics

Noah Hughes

Out now to buy on PS3, PC and Xbox360

"A Survivor Is BornĒ

Lara Croft becomes stranded on a lost island of the cost of Japan. There she begins encounters lost relic, mysterious cults and danger around every corner. This reboot sets out to transform an ordinary girl into the Tomb Raider of old.

Crystal Dynamics brings us the long overdue reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Tomb Raider changes the formula of the original Playstation era games, focusing more on action than platforming and puzzles. Not to say they arenít included in the game. It has a much higher focus on story this time around, Lara has changed from a characterless badass who raided tombs. Now Lara has depth and feels like a fully fleshed out person. Lara has set out on her first expedition to find the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai home to the legendary sun queen Himiko.

Lara starts off far from the duel pistol wielding badass we have come to know and love. At the beginning of the game she has never killed even killed so much as an animal. This soon changes however as the harsh environment she finds herself pushes Lara to her limit and forces her to do things she didnít think she could do. This causes the biggest problem in the game, the first time Lara kills an animal for food she cries. The first time she takes a human life in self defence she breaks down. In fact every time Lara murders anybody in a cut scene (with the exception of the final boss) she feels emotionally drains by it. While this works within the context of the story and helps flesh Lara out as a person it does not work within the game. From the first kill the game encourages brutal tactics during combat to earn extra XP. This creates a serious disconnect between the player and Lara as her attitude towards killing people to defend herself changes on the fly.

A huge plus point of the game however is it visuals. The game looks beautiful, environments looks swapping, vast and picturesque but when you get up close they look dense and detailed. Textures are beautifully rendered giving the world a lived in feeling. The game is made up of environments built out of broken planes and ship wrecks and the art design reflects this perfectly. The downside to this is that most areas begin to blend into each other, with the exception of the occasional snowy mountain top you will be spending most of your time running through dense jungles and shantytowns.

The gameplay breaks down into combat and platforming. Platforming is tight and exciting with the player having great control over Lara movements. The only problem with the games platforming is that there is a heavy use on Quick-Time Events (QTE). Whenever Lara makes a jump to a ledge the player must press a button so she firmly has hold of the ledge. This is an unneeded and frustrating element of platforming, its intension is to add an element of tension to every jump making them all seem extremely dangerous but it just comes off as making the player feel like he messed that jump up.

Combat can be summarised as cover shooting. The problem with this is there is no cover system to speak of. Lara automatically crouches behind cover during a fire fight and when the player aims to stand up from behind. The problem with this is that the cover system feels lose, sometimes it works sometimes it doesnít. Fire fights you involves enemies taking shots at you, throwing dynamite and other enemies rushing your position with Machetes. With all this going on at the same time the game really needed a solid cover system and sadly it does not. Any physical encounter Lara has in the game is decided by a QTE. There nothing wrong with this except that you only ever have to press one button that never changes during any QTE throughout the entire game, the seems to remove the tension from the QTE as the player can simple just tap the button while paying little attention.

The game does have a great sense of progression as you play through the story. Lara unlock new equipment at certain points during the story this opens up the way she can navigate her environment allowing the player to return to old areas to discover treasure previously unattainable. Lara also gains XP for finding treasures in the world, dispatching enemies and hunting animals. These allow her to level up her skills, these range from been able to carry extra ammo to been able to been able to hold a shot with the bow and arrow longer. By the end of the game Lara does feel very different from how she started. The game also features hidden tombs, these act as stand-alone puzzles for the player to discover and complete leading to XP boosts.

The new Tomb Raider is made up of nothing but good ideas, sadly some of them do not surface quite as well as they could have. It seems to have been created from the same ingredients as Far Cry 3 with just a dash of uncharted, sadly it doesnít quite match up to either of the games. This new style of Tomb Raider is good but far from perfect.

Review by Jarrod Beauchamp & Ellis Atkinson

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