My history with the series dates back to 1996 when the first game was released by Core Design for the Playstation, PC and Sega Saturn system. Tomb Raider was the first game I played that was completely 3D and it worked extremely well because I was hooked to the series my entire childhood. The atmosphere, music, various enemies all worked well together to make the perfect action/adventure game.
From 1996-2000 Core Design would go on to release 5 games in the main series, “Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III, The Last Revelation and Chronicles” for various platforms, it wasn’t until the third game when people felt the series was starting to get stale, by the time The Last Revelation was released Core were ready to take the series in a completely new direction.
Enter The Angel Of Darkness Era
The Angel Of Darkness, which many fans consider to be a reboot attempt of the series arrived after multiple delays in the Summer of 2003 to extemely poor reception. The game suffered from multiple bugs, control issues, Lara being extemely slow or not responding to player prompts at all. While I thought the story, music and graphics were beautiful I can now understand why Eidos decided it was time to pull the plug on Core Design designing Tomb Raider. It was obvious after playing through their last attempt that Core just weren’t prepared for next gen gaming, nor the future of the series.
Lara gets a new developer
It was decided eventually in 2005 that Crystal Dynamics would be the new publisher for the “Tomb Raider” series and once again the buzz about Lara returning was driving the fans into a frenzy.
In the Spring of 2006 Crystal Dynamics released the highly anticipated title “Tomb Raider Legend” for the Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube PC and eventually the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles in Next Gen make overs.
The main purpose of the title was to take Tomb Raider back to its roots and bring back the tombs and exploration, in a sense to get rid of the stain The Angel Of Darkness left on the series in 2003. Review wise Legend got critically acclaimed and reviewers felt Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job of bringing the series back to its roots and making it easier for Casual players.
I thought it was great to finally be exploring with Lara again but to me it just didn’t feel like a real Tomb Raider game. They got the exploration right, but they made it appeal to casual fans versus the classic fans..which in turn made the game extremely easy, short, had way too many Quick Time Events and of course the annoying arcade Motorbike sections. This game was a huge hit or miss with me, hardly replay it to be honest.
The long awaited continuation to Legend was released in November of 2008 to mixed reviews. Clearly at this point Crystal Dynamics were trying extremely hard to please the classic fans and bring them back to the series, in my opinion they listened to them a bit too much. After completing Underworld I remember thinking to myself, “Is that it, what else can the series do at this point”. Kept thinking to myself it was time that someone should just scrap the series and try to breathe new life into it by using new ideas, because it was extremely clear after finishing this game the classic style just does not work in todays games.
Most of the game was just empty corridors with little to nothing ever going on, or mindles shooting that took little to no skill at all. Not to mention the story in Underworld was probably the worst in the entire series..it made little to no sense and obviously the game was rushed because of the financial issues Eidos Interactive were in at the time, they couldn’t afford another delay. Everything about the game was just stale or dull, minus the environmental graphics which I thought were beautiful for 2008.
And so here we are now in 2013, the reboot of the franchise has been released after years of wating, does it live up to having the “TOMB RAIDER” name?
Lara Croft Reborn
In the reboot of the now Iconic series you take on the role of a very inexperienced Lara Croft just out of college on her first adventure. The game kicks off with a band after the Endurance gets caught in a storm while traveling in The Dragons Triangle, after being hit by a storm the boat splits in two and the entire crew is scattered throughout the Island, with Lara being captured.
Graphically, this is one of the most beautiful games I have played in my life. Right from the start it’s clear that Crystal Dynamics have stepped up their game and have an incredible experience waiting for us. The amount of polish that must have went into this game just shows how proud the devlopers were of this ambitous project, every inch of the Island and the tombs are extemely detailed. Seriously don’t know how many times I stopped what I was doing just to stare in awe at the environment.
If you’re playing on the PC you’re in for a special treat as they spent extra time on this version of the game just to make sure people get the best out of it. You get not only the option of HD textures and better environments but also realistic hair on Lara herself. AMD worked with Crystal Dynamics to make the most realistic hair ever seen in gaming. If you can run it prepare to be in awe of how beautiful the PC version is, it makes you feel like you have stepped into the future of gaming.
Storywise, you can expect a very gripping tale of how Lara grew into the badass we all know and love. There were a ton of moments where my jaw was literally on the floor, there is a ton of action scenes but also some very moving moments in the game where it slows down a bit which I really loved. They really show a whole new side to Lara and flesh her character out a lot more, this game make like her character a lot more than I did before.
There are some cliché moments in the game but what game out there doesn’t have them. The important thing is that the story is strong enough to keep you glued until you’re watching the ending, and even afterwards. Sadly I cannot say much more about the story since I don’t wanna spoil anything for anyone. If you love Action with a little drama and horror elements thrown in you’ll love the story the game offers.
Control wise I felt that they finally got it down perfectly on how to control Lara and the camera which always gave players trouble in the past. After making Lara jump she no longer automatically sticks to objects like a magnet, which means the tension in timing jumps is back and I couldn’t be happier. New to the series is the option to Dodge enemy attacks using the QTE buttons, Lara can now stab an enemy in the leg with an arrow or impale them in the head with an axe as finisher moves after dodging. The controls felt very polished and tight to me, the camer was also a lot better than in the past, didn’t have one issue with the camera or the controls.
Combat, every veteran and new comer to the series knows how combat always played out in the classics. Draw your guns and just shoot away until one of you drops, which was extremely boring. I’m glad to say Crystal Dynamics ditched the old combat TR used and has gone on to adapt the newer free aim style of gunplay that other third person games use, just with a bit more polish.
To take cover from enemies you no longer have to push a button to get in and out , instead all you do is walk up to a cover object and Lara will automatically do what she needs to do. This comes in handy a lot when multiple enemies decide they wanna get up close and personal while other enemies attack you from afar. Lara can easily slip in and out of cover and dodge enemies attacks with the dodge button which makes combat a blast.
During the game Lara will have access to 5 different weapon types, her trusty Bow. An axe that she can use up close and personal to smash in peoples brains. And of course the usual 3 guns, a Hangdun, Rifle and Shotgun all of which can be updated as you progress and gain XP.
Auto Aim has thankfully been done away with unless you’re playing on Easy which will give you aim assistance. I personally loved the fact we now had full control over the aiming in the game, auto aim in the classics always annoyed me because of how easy it was. Bottom line is TR has now stepped up its game and very polished combat that is not only unique in its own right at times, but very fun.
The soundtrack for the game was composed by Jason Graves, who in turn also composed the music for such games as Alpha Protocol and Dead Space 2. To me, the soundtrack is what can either make or break a game, and the soundtrack Jason composed turned out to be the best in the entire series to date, even topping the classics in the music department. The new theme has a few notes featured in it that long time fans will recognize from the Classic theme which I really appreciated hearing.
Whether it be one of the tense moments from the game, or a slower paced moment Jason truly outdid himself with the soundtrack for Tomb Raider. I think it even rivals the Soundtrack of “The Angel Of Darkness”. If you would like to get a physcial copy of the soundtrack please support Jason and buy it from www.tombraiderstore.com
Now we come to the most important part of any video game, the voice acting. Compared to the past games in the series, and other titles being released right now..TR truly shines in the voice acting department. Camilla Luddington takes over the voice of the new Lara and truly makes her character shine again, she has quickly become my all time favorite Lara actress who I hope returns down the line. There are parts in the game where you will be so drawn in by her performance you could swear you were literally right there on the island with Lara..it’s that realistic. Of course the other actors do a very good job of bringing the Endurance crew to life, if I had to pick my 3 favorites it would be Lara, Roth and Samantha.
Replayability, as of writing this review I have played over 30 hours of the single player mode alone. Crystal know the one thing Tomb Raider fans love to do is explore and find every little thing they can and the reboot is no exception. During your stay on the island you have the ability to collect GPS Caches, Relics and Treasure Maps. Outside of that you have the option of exploring optional tombs for more XP, they also through in some challenges for people to complete. So bottom line is if you want replayablity you get it in this game, I’m already on my second playthrough and I have a feeling I’ll be playing the game for months to come.
Crystal Dynamics have succeeded in not only making the most incredible action game I have ever played, but they have shown with this reboot that with enough work and dedication to a series it truly can be brought back to life. Lara Croft is no longer the joke she turned into after the last decade, she is no longer some sex object as Core loved to portray her in the early days. She now finally looks and reacts like a real person would, she actually has a real personality about her now and you grow to care about her as you keep playing the game, you feel what she does.
In all honesty I have nothing bad to say about the reboot, and that usually never happens with me because I am extremely picky when it comes to gaming. By the time I finished the game I just couldn’t stop smiling, the Lara I loved when I was a little kid was back and better than ever. Crystal Dynamics have restored my faith in the series and as far as I’m concerned they saved the series from becoming a huge joke or falling into obscurity.
The magics you felt when you played the classic games was somehow replicated in this game which I didn’t think was possible. It’s TOMB RAIDER, the game has just evolved like it should have years ago. I’m highly looking forward to exploring with Lara for years to come.
Before I end this review I just wanna take a moment out to personally thank the people behind this masterpiece, to everyone who put the hard work into the game.
Brian Horton, Meagan Marie, Karl Stewart, Jason Graves, Jay Walker, Rihanna Pratchett, Noah Hughes, Cory Barlog, Darrell Gallagher, Visual Works, Square Enix Europe and of course everyone else at Crystal Dynamics and the playtesters. The hard work you all put into this game really shines through and as a fan since the very beginning of the series I just wanna say thank you to each and every one of you for bringing my favorite series back to life.
AJ’s Tomb Raider Review by Allen Rich / Survivor Reborn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.