Lara Croft is back, in this reboot of the original series. Crystal Dynamics have done a great job to reinvent the character and the Tomb Raider franchise.
The game begins with Miss Croft setting out on her first expedition onboard the ship Endurance. The goal; to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai. The ship enters into a violent storm, and with the ferocious waves crashing down onto the deck; the ship is split in two. The survivors find themselves washed up, stranded and alone on an isolated island.
Lara is separated from the group and it is up to her to find her friends and colleagues. This is where we’re introduced to the new Lara, a young archaeology graduate with no experience in survival. The first hour of gameplay is all about her development, searching for food sources and building fires.
The island was once an ancient kingdom and this is shown with the numerous shrines and statues that feature all over the landscape, Oh and don’t forget the large underground tombs. In more recent history the island became littered with many artifacts from WWII including concrete bunkers, aircraft wreckages and lots of disused machinery interspersed among the ancient ruins.
It soon becomes clear that the island isn’t a safe place to be after getting attacked by some wolves. Lara quickly gains a bow to defend herself with; she quickly becomes familiar with her first weapon and improves her skills by hunting local wildlife. Subsequently it long after that she turns these newly acquired skills to fend off human opposition.
Initially we see a more sensitive side to Lara not previously explored as she grapples with the need to kill people, but this is overcome when she is put into a life or death situation. Strangely this sensitive side disappears quickly because from this moment, she has no qualms to gunning down anyone that stands in the way of her safety. When you get further into the game it is quite surprising just how many enemies there are on one island.
In the adventure there are four weapons at Lara’s disposal; a pistol, a shotgun, an assault rifle and of course the bow. All weapons can be upgraded with salvage, which you can collect all over the island. These purchasable upgrades give you more damage, less recoil, better sound suppression and more. Which encourages you to open every box and search every crevice for the extra salvage.
As well as upgrading with salvage there are weapon parts to be found, when you find all the parts you unlock a new weapon model. I found this an enjoyable addition to the game as you and your weapons are constantly evolving. Oh and the more upgraded your weapon becomes the easier it is to destroy the hordes of enemies in your way.
The story is quite linear at times with only one path to go to get between objectives. But after you have completed the main storyline you can go back to the island in a full free roam to allow you collect all the hidden artifacts, books and valuables that you missed on your first play through.
Despite being linear at times the way you traverse these routes remains challenging and enjoyable. Numerous obstacles litter your path requiring you to use the tools at your disposal to overcome them including traversing cliff faces with your trusty axe or using your grenade launcher or shotgun to clear obstacles out of your path.
The numerous base camps Lara stumbles across throughout the game act as hub locations allowing Lara to upgrade her weapons with recently found salvage or spend XP on new abilities for her character. For example making unfound collectables glow so you can find them more easily or increasing your stealth abilities.
When you die, you die spectacularly. The levels of gore are unprecedented. Due to the numerous obstacles you need to dodge, including a prominent fast flowing river sequence, you will eventually die in rather spectacular ways. One time I managed to skewer Lara on a large pole in the manner resembling a human kebab. I have to admit that sometimes I would let Lara die on purpose just to see the stupendous way it would occur.
In addition to the main story there are tombs for you to explore hidden across the island. Unlocking these requires solving and environment based puzzle for which you are rewarded XP and relics. These tombs while interesting provide scope for Crystal Dynamics to expand and integrate into the story to improve their implementation.
There is a multiplayer mode on this game, which is becoming the fashion with all games nowadays. I have to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Plain and simple it just isn’t fun. The combat that worked well in the single player, does not translate well and many of the games you play seem to too bias to one team. I would have preferred the time and money that was invested into the multiplayer aspect of the game to have been spent on making the single player campaign even longer.
You can draw many comparisons between this new Lara and Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, but unlike Uncharted this game gives you a life or death aspect making you fight for the characters survival and escape from the island.
Overall Tomb Raider is a great reinvention on a classic series, which sets us up for more games. And with a new movie in the pipeline it looks as if the whole series is in for a boost. The reason to get this game is the single player story, if you were thinking of playing the multiplayer; don’t bother, save your time for something more enjoyable.