I was never a hardcore tomb raider fan.

i had played the first 2 games occasionally, but at the time, they were not at all my cup of tea; most of the games that only kept my attention at the time were more of the plethora of hardcore first-person shooter games genre that exploded in the gaming industry at the turn of the last decade,  this being call of duty (when the franchise was actually relevant) and battlefield:bad company

The wildly successful Uncharted franchise was enough to re-introduce me to the 3rd-person adventure/puzzle genre. the first game was great for what it was at the time, but it's the 2nd and latest 3rd installment to the franchise that really got me hooked. Uncharted 2 "Among Thieves", i can confidently say, is one of my most favorite games on the PS3 console. though i have completed it several times ever since i first played it, it is one of the maybe 6 or 7 select games that i always will intend to keep for as long as my busy lifestyle will allow when i fall on my gaming hobby.

when i first heard that where was going to be a new Tomb Raider game, i was highly skeptical. i had so many questions and challenged the need of a game, supporting the mantle that the Uncharted franchise clearly owned. i wasnt sure if this was going to be a revamp of the already existing franchise, or if this was going to be an entirely new vision of Lara altogether. eventually, as i thought about it more, i concluded that it couldnt possibly shake the overwhelming success of the Uncharted franchise, and i thought it was easy to shake it off as being a failure; a clone, riding on the coat tails of nathan drake and the success Naughty Dog has had with the Uncharted franchise.

as i read initial reviews of critical acclaim from sites such as Metacritic, i knew that this initial judgement could not be any more further from the truth. after reading over dozens of reviews of the course of one afternoon, i knew that this Tomb Raider game had to atl east be given a fair shot. i was really in need of a new and fresh game in which to absorb my attention. the only games i was playing in recent months was Battlefield 2 online and going back to my 3rd play through of Max Payne 3, and though at the time i was on the fence of ordering either Dishonored or Resident Evil 6 for months, i bit the bullet  right then and ordered the game from Amazon.

i was surprised that the Amazon Exclusive was selling at the price that it was (about $29 cdn) while brick and mortar retail outlets were selling the game for $49. this was no-brainer decision for me. not sure if they still offer this exclusive deal but if they do, jump at the chance to order it! i ordered the game on a friday afternoon, and i recieved it the following tuesday. Amazon's expedient process of delivery has always shined in my eyes and it continues to stand out as being the ideal place for all of my bluray and ps3 game orders.

over the course of roughly 2 weeks since i first recieved the game, i beat the game in about 3 or 4 days, with a final completion score of 82%. i would play the game for a couple of hours at a time, and always looked forward to coming back to it and picking up where i left off. the game is in fact an origin story. that is, provides an interesting idea of how lara croft became the strong survivalist character we identify with her as a being a gaming pop culture icon we know of her today. The game is developed by Crystal Dynamics. to my knowledge, they havent done anything previously that has really stood out in the gaming industry (though if anyone wishes to suggest a game of theirs i should check out, please do). they have done a truly great job with the game. the overall visual design of the game is absolutely beautiful and the play mechanics of controlling Lara are smooth, clean and precise.. the sound design captures the immersive environment incredibly well varying from a thick jungle to a sprawling mountain town with accompanying various changes of realistic weather as you progress through the game. the combat, which drives about 75% of the gameplay, borrows subtle incredients from the recent Resident Evil games we've seen in recent years ( 5 and 6, respectfully) and is fluid, engaging, and thanks to the rich various different environments, i never found dull.

if you appreciate the more technical aspects of current gen games, the game has a lot of great visual effects that add to the overall experience which one would really appreciate, not to also mention things like realistic destructible cover during the intense shoot out scenes and its environments, ragdoll physics mechanics with the bodies of enemies as they hurl through the air during explosions and the like. overall, these elements done so amazingly well help to drive a fun game play experience.

the game has a compelling storyline with a few subtle plot twists, and it is easy to identify with lara as a protagonist. this game is rated 'M' for mature and for good reason. Lara gets bloodied, beaten up and has the odds against her in an extreme capacity that would make even the most hardened gamer or even horror movie fan of gore cringe occasionally. the overall visual aesthetic of her journey through the game is gritty yet beautiful all at the same time.

the game is of course an adventure/shooter game with lots of shoot-out set pieces. it offers lots of use of weapons for lara to find and learn to use - anything from a pick axe,a pistol, machine guns and even (my favourite) the awesome bow and arrow. this game offers a warm welcome to such a primitive weapon. it's fun to use and being able to pull off headshots is just incredibly satisfying. all of these weapons can be upgraded and refined over time, which constantly brings a new experience to fighting lara's nearly unlimited amount of opposition she faces.

one of the great things about the game is that offers tons of replayability. through the offering of 'campsites', the game allows you to return to previous places you couldnt originally access uppon your first place through, thanks to new gear you find and upgrade later in the game. by allowing lara to use newly collected climbing gear to access these new areas in the various environments, offers new treasures to be found, which subsequently rewards lara with xp and other goodies. extending on this, is the upgrade and experience system which is fantastic, and offers even more replay value. lara is able to upgrade her weapons as well as her skills (survivor/brawler/explorer), and by doing so, lara is rewarded a boost of XP (experience points) during fights, and through other various interactive activities as she progresses through the game.

one thing i of course must mention is the puzzle solving aspect to the game. the puzzles arent as heavily placed in prior games. in fact, they are entirely optional to pursue. you can get by without engaging in any of them - which are found in tombs placed all throughout the game, but ignoring them completely even on a second playthrough would be questioned.  the result of taking the time to solve these puzzles, as tedious as i found them to be, rewards Lara very generously with treasure and bonus XP - and that is always a great thing! on a personal note though, i felt that they often slowed down the pace of the game and as i came across these tombs, i really debated with myself if i really wanted to do any of them at all.

as said earlier, the story line is engaging and rarely has a dull moment. the action never lets up but gives a nice break at the right times that offers a nice balance of cutscenes to develop the story, or a chance for lara to freely look around the environment and discover places at her own leasure. and again it is a great game that offers the player tons of replay value to return back to previous locales to look for any outstanding areas she couldnt get to previously - with this concept offered, it can sometimes seem like a refreshing way to go through the game a second time.

i cant see this as game that too many people will be returning, trading or selling in the long term. i recommend this to anyone who likes the puzzle/adventure games but also enjoys the intense action of 3rd person shooter. This Tomb Raider game has in some ways set the bar for future games of its kind to model after.

i would happily rate this as one of the top 10 games for 2013. don't miss out on it !