Latest "Tomb Raider" installment outshines predecessors in graphics, storyline
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 02:03
Lara Croft is back and better than ever in Crystal Dynamic’s newest addition to the Tomb Raider franchise. Released on March 5, “Tomb Raider” is one of the best games in the series through its addition of gorgeous graphics, satisfying combat and its storytelling, specifically how an innocent college graduate transforms into the dual wielding tomb raider we all know and love.
The story begins with Croft fresh out of college and setting off on her first big adventure aboard the ship the Endurance. Her expedition is on the hunt for an ancient civilization called Yamatai whose shaman queen, Himiko, is the ancestor to Lara’s friend and expedition cameraperson, Sam Nishimura. However, what begins as an exciting start to Lara’s new life quickly turns into a fight for survival as the crew is shipwrecked on a strange island inhabited by a crazed cult that burns women at the stake and kill any who do not follow their way of life.
At the start of the game, the player takes control of Croft in one of the worst predicaments possible, bound and hanging upside down above a rather dizzying drop. Realizing her only chance in escape lies with a nearby torch, Lara prepares for the inevitable pain as the fire eats through her binds only to be impaled by a stake through her side upon slamming into the ground.
In the first five minutes, the player witnesses the vulnerability of this heroine. Throughout the entire adventure, Lara will get shot, bruised, burned and covered in muck, all of which become visible on her body as the game progresses.
Unlike other games where such injuries or blood splatter eventually disappears, Lara will bandage wounds, wrap burned skin in order to alleviate the pain, and even self-cauterize in order to ensure she keeps moving towards her objectives.
This was a brilliant tactic used by Crystal Dynamics as it really proves their point that Croft is just another human being like the rest of us, one that can perform acrobatic stunts and hit any target no matter the distance. However, she is more realistic and in no way invincible like her old installments made her out to be.
In addition to the physical trauma, the player also gets to experience Croft’s transformation from an innocent college graduate who has never taken a life before, to a self-confident, determined fighter.
The player can see the emotional wreck she becomes when killing her first man. She had no choice as it was either that or die, yet she has no time to grieve as her life is constantly being placed within harm’s way and the only way to survive is to fight her way out.
As far as the gameplay, this game has mastered its Tomb Raider roots with a perfect balance of gunplay, platforming and puzzles. There is never any collision between two, or even three, of these mechanics that forces the player to feel overwhelmed. The game spaces out the three nicely that gives each mechanic its due time within the campaign that allows the player to get the richest experience possible.
Graphically, this game is beautiful. The natural surroundings are pleasing to the eye and the random weather changes set the mood for any situation that the player may experience. They range from a more calm and sunny atmosphere to barely being able to see too far in front of you due to the dark, claustrophobic forest shrouded by heavy downpour.
That being said, Crystal Dynamics really focused on putting the most detail in Croft. Not only do clothes get ripped from gunfire and sliding into cover, or dirt and blood splotches spread across her body depending on her actions, but there are also facial expressions that show even in the middle of combat. Lara will massage sore muscles, check on bandaged wounds, and even move back stray strands of hair that have fallen into her face.
It’s these tiny details that really separate average games from great games and “Tomb Raider” is a great game. Players that only wish to speed through the main story will still have an impressive 12-15 hour campaign, and that does not include the various hidden tombs, side quests, and scavenging for salvage to better upgrade your weapons.
Throughout the game, players will earn skill points to spend on new abilities such as impressive dodge and kill maneuvers, larger carrying capacities for ammo, and insane finishing moves. None of the skills are really necessary in order to complete the main storyline so players are not required to ever grind for experience points in order to reach a new level of the story; however the skills do add to the overall experience and offer new, fun ways to take out your enemies.
Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the tomb raiding legend is their best work in the series since taking on the “Tomb Raider” franchise in 2003. With their formula perfected to properly bring back Lara Croft, I look forward to what part of the world Croft plans to take players next.