Review: Tomb Raider

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Last night I completed Tomb Raider for a second time. There are very few games that I’ve given the time to play through twice. This should in itself tell you a lot about just how good it is.

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I’ve not played any of the earlier Tomb Raider games, just Crystal Dynamics 2013 take on the popular series. I had previously always taken a dislike to the game’s lead, Lara Croft, and the way she was portrayed in the media.

This game is a series reboot and everything is new and different, for the better.

Lara begins the game barely surviving as a ship she is on as part of an exhibition sinks violently into the ocean. She makes it ashore an unknown island and dazed and confused from the beach witnesses some of her friends who have also survived being approached by sinister figures. As she calls out to them she is struck on the back of head and passes out on the sand.

From then on you play as Lara trying to survive on the island,  find your friends and eventually get off the island. This proves to be anything but straightforward as evil forces are at work on the island, preventing anyone from leaving.

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The gameplay then sees you travelling around the island, trying to survive against the other trapped inhabitants and the island’s native beasts.

To do this you must solve a large variety of environmental puzzles and shoot a lot of people. The puzzles all feel natural and prove to be big a good level of difficulty, taking a little thought to solve but never feeling time wasting keeping you a way from the action.

The action is big, bold and beautiful. The enemies are a joy to battle against, they use a variety of weapons and make intelligent use of cover. Lara’s weapons feel fantastic in combat. The most notable weapon is her bow that is used throughout the game for more than just reading down foes. All the weapons can be upgraded throughout the game. The bow, for example, by the end of the game can shoot fire or exploding arrows and can fire a rope to create zip lines to distant points of interest.

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Lara herself is an outstanding character. She is young, naive and afraid at the start of the game but grows throughout her adventure. It is this character growth that is perhaps the game’s greatest strength.

The other star of the show is the island itself. Graphically it looks breathtaking, but the real genius of the island is the incredible level design that leads you around one huge yet ever changing location. Highlights include climbing to the top of a huge radio tower, exploring temple ruins, travelling down a gigantic mountain lift and battling through a second world war bunker. These different settings are all incredibly well detailed and the game leads you from one to the other naturally and at a great pace.

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The whole experience feels similar to the Uncharted series and Indiana Jones had been a big influence. This is of course a very good thing.

The game comes with a multiplayer mode that has a few good ideas but ultimately doesn’t measure up to the single player experience. Finding games on it isn’t easy as not many others seem keen to play.

The good
Lara’s development throughout the story
The island itself
The bow is one of the best feeling weapons ever
Puzzle solving

The bad
Weak multiplayer
Slightly dull end to the game

Overall
A fantastic example of an adventure game with a really strong lead character.
9/10

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