The lights are on
Although I never got into it, Tomb Raider was one of Playstations best exclusives back in the day. I don't really remember much...other than being killed by a tiger due to awkward control schemes which ultimately turned me off. So I'm going to be honest, I'm not sure what makes this franchise great so I'm going into this without experiencing past games. But hey, what better time to do so when it's a reboot. You play as a stunningly beautiful young Lara Croft who is characterized later in the game as being a little wet behind the ears. The tomb raiding expeditionist has yet to become the woman that some of you may remember, but, all that will change when Lara and her team --who are trying to search for the lost civilization of Yamatai aboard the Endurance-- encounter a terrible storm leaving them shipwrecked on an island in the Dragon’s Triangle. The island is said to be cursed. All ships and air-crafts who venture too close will be swallowed up by an unnatural storm and met with a horrible death. The entire island is littered with debris that has been salvaged by other stranded humans who were fortunate (or unfortunate) to survive. The ones who dwell there have formed a sick cultic religion where they worship The Sun Queen (the one believed to be controlling the storms). The leader of this bands of misfits is Mathias, and he has captured Lara’s best friend Sam. It is believe by those that she holds the key to getting off the island and plans to hold a ritual for the Queen in hope of becoming free. From the very start, Lara is brutally beaten where you, as the gamer, begin to feel every bump, fall, scrape and unforgiving punches to the face. Her will is continuously being stripped and her spirit is constantly being broken...or at least it should be, but the girl keeps on getting up and keeps on fighting despite all the obstacles in her way. Tomb Raider might have its own story line but, the character development, Lara’s will to survive and save her friends is really where the true enjoyment begins and ends. The game does an excellent job depicting the growth of the female protagonist using verbal dialog explaining her training; how well she is able to adapt and overcome this harsh environment. You can see the wear and tear as her journey takes her deeper in to this relentless, cruel world. She becomes filthy and bloody; scars, cuts and other wounds start to appear gradually; bandages and wraps show the pain and suffering she has endured. I have never seen a character go through so much in a short amount of time. If she comes out if this without an STD or gangrene I'll be amazed! While trying to avoid panning the camera around to catch the lovely figure of Croft (you pervs!) you will have to do everything in your power to make sure your friends make it out alive. Lara becomes very resourceful herself; building weapons out of ropes and lighters. She is also able to customize her firearms when scavenging items during her travels. When you scavenge an item you earn points, and possible upgrades. You can use these points towards 5 of the main weapons you use to make them stronger and easier to handle. The gameplay itself is extremely fluid. The platforming is a bid arcadey but it eliminates the frustration when jumping from point A to point B. I have full control over my character when I’m in the air and I didn’t feel that suction effect found is other games. The gunplay feels perfect as well. I felt it took some skill to pull off precise headshots. If I had one bad thing to say about the combat, it would probably be the dodging mechanic. I felt it was a bit too loose making it hard to control. There was also a survivor horror feel to the game which I loved. I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to take a conservative approach in most instances. The plot gives birth to a beautifully sculpted and believable world from a wet and dreary forest; to mountainous terrain, to an old frail Japanese village. It was awesome to even see all the scrap metal from the abandoned ships and planes being salvaged to create a little shanty town. It makes you ponder how long these poor souls must have trapped there to build such towering structures. Every area is designed with extreme thought; it’s never too big and has you wanting explore every nook and cranny. It creates a nice pace for the gamer as I never felt rushed. I went on my pace and was able to be immersed in the world that has been given to me. There are also well designed rooms that require you to plan ahead and some thought provoking tombs. There is a multiplayer component that stacks you up against other players in your run of the mill game modes like TDM but during my brief time with it, it was laggy, buggy and some weapons are way over powered. It is completely passable so don't waste your time. Anyway, Tomb Raider is a fantastic blood pumping; nail biting, edge of your seat game. All of its interactive quick time events and set pieces keep you immersed even when you are just watching a cut scene, it’s over the top, nonstop action and explosions, the trials and tribulations of a young woman growing in front of your eyes make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's all surrounded by a captivating soundtrack, and fun fluid gameplay. At the end of the game the developers wrote " We worked our hardest to bring you the best game we could possible make". My response? You certainly did Crystal Dynamics.
So far, it is one of the best games of the year. Maybe the best if the year so far. Great review!