Developers: Crystal Dynamics (Single Player), Eidos Montreal (Multiplayer), Nixxes Software BV (Ps4 port), United Front Games (XbO port)
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Dates: March 5th, 2013 (Most versions), January 28th, 2014 (Next Gen)
Available on: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on the Playstation 4. There may be differences between versions.
Having been around since the original Tomb Raider launched in 1996, Lara Croft is often one of the most recognized characters in gaming. After having already been rebooted once this generation, we’re now at the second reboot of the Tomb Raider games. Thankfully this reboot is exactly what Tomb Raider needed: A very fun platformer/shooter hybrid that successfully turns Lara Croft into an interesting character.
It’s pretty clear that the new Tomb Raider has been taking notes from the Uncharted games, but luckily they also branch out some. During your time on the island of Yamatai you’ll be fighting off various enemies. Unlike some other shooters, Lara is not a tank that can take tons of bullets. If you’re caught out in the line of fire for even a few moments then you’re pretty much dead. What will pay off in this game is scrambling from cover to cover to take carefully aimed shots at enemies. If you want to out right avoid combat then there are times when stealth is an option. Early in the game it’s tough, but as you get upgrades later in you’ll be able to sneak around and quickly dispatch enemies with little effort. Each enemy you kill gets you an XP award that you can use to upgrade your abilities. It’s not just killing enemies though, you can also hunt animals or find fruits and berries for more XP.
Combat isn’t the only thing redone in Tomb Raider. Exploration plays a big role in the game. If you want to keep your weapons up to date you need salvage, and while you get some from killing enemies, you’ll get the majority of it from prying open crates. The crates aren’t always in obvious locations, sometimes requiring you to do some platforming or puzzle solving to get to them. Of course it’s not just salvage you’re looking for. You can find relics, documents, and GPS cashes that will all boost your XP for doing so. There’s also various challenges you can complete that require you to do things like destroy or collect hidden objects. Finally, and probably most importantly, there’s various hidden tombs around the islands. The tombs each only take about 15 – 20 minutes to explore depending on how fast you can solve the puzzles in them. They’re a fun distraction from the main game though, and help change the pace.
One thing the reboot does try to borrow from Uncharted and doesn’t quite get right is the story. Lara Croft is an interesting character and over the events of the game she grows in interesting ways. They did a really good job portraying her change from the naive sort of shut in Lara to the survivor doing horrible things out of necessity. It’s actually what makes the other characters stick out like a sore thumb. They only really seem to have one note personalities. You got the drunk Irish guy, the angry black woman, the spiritual Hawaiian guy, the nerd… They’re not nearly fleshed out as well as Lara, nor do they go through any kind of development. The overall plot isn’t exactly great either. It’s not bad, but it’s pretty predictable and also really likes to ape on the Uncharted formula. While Uncharted has a good cast of interesting supporting characters to go along with a great main character, the one-note supporting cast is really what drags this one down from reaching the great heights Uncharted got to.
Once your done with the single player, Tomb Raider has a surprisingly good multiplayer component to go along with it. The game supports up to 8 players and usually pits two different factions against each other that are trying to complete different objectives. Both factions play a little differently from each other. The survivors have a focus on close range weapons and mostly use sub-machine guns and shotguns, while the scavengers have the long ranged bows and assault rifles. The two main game modes are Rescue and Cry For Help, but for those not interested there’s both a team and regular deathmatch. Rescue has the survivors attempt to capture health packs while the scavengers have to execute them for points. In Cry For Help the survivors have to capture radio beacons while the scavengers kill them to take their batteries. Both modes are fun, though I did notice that Cry For Help was not very popular.
I did like how some of the single player elements carried over to multiplayer. You still need salvage to upgrade weapons and buy characters, so you’ll find yourself looting bodies and prying open boxes in the middle of matches for that salvage. Likewise, platforming is a pretty important part of the multiplayer and you’ll constantly be jumping, climbing, and using zip-lines around the map. Most interestingly is how some maps use environmental hazards and has special things players can activate. One map takes place in a sub base and after five minutes a secret door opens up. Head inside and you’ll find a button that activates a self destruct, shorting the game time to two minutes and causing the roof to collapse on players. Another map has a bell which, when rung, summons a sandstorm that drastically limits visibility. It’s neat to see these additions to the maps, and it helps make the multiplayer even more lively.
For those looking to pick up the definitive edition they should know that the changes in single player are almost entirely graphical. The only new additions to the single player is a single new 15 minute tomb near the beginning of the game, and the ability to give Lara one of 6 new outfits. Lara’s character model has been completely redone, and does look noticeably different from her old model. This version does come with all the multiplayer DLC though, including new maps and a few unique guns taken from Hitman: Absolution. Nothing major, and if you’ve played the game already then there’s not much worth revisiting with the definitive edition.
The reboot of Tomb Raider is probably one of the best reboots to happen in recent time. It successfully takes an old gameplay formula and updates it to work extremely well. At times it can feel like it’s trying a bit hard to be Uncharted, something that’s funny considering Uncharted used to try and be Tomb Raider, but really it’s mostly for the better. I highly recommend Tomb Raider.