When Square Enix announced that they were going to reboot the Tomb Raider franchise lots of people were concerned, including me. While almost everyone could agree on the fact that franchise needed to go in a new direction, fans of the franchise were still concerned that it would somehow lose what made it special. The Lara Croft we find in this Tomb Raider is nothing like the heroine we’ve seen in games’ past that is strong, confident, and deadly while dual wielding pistols. Not to mention very buxom. Instead, the Lara Croft we get this time around is fragile, vulnerable, and weak, at least in the beginning. This epic return of Tomb Raider is what a franchise reboot should be, I haven’t seen one done this well since Warner Brothers rebooted the Batman franchise a few years ago.
From the moment the game begins, you know this will be a Tomb Raider experience like none you’ve ever seen before. The game does a great job of holding on to what made the original games so awesome while updating it to be relevant and compelling today. Tomb Raider finds Lara shipwrecked on an island. She’s alone, afraid, and fighting for her life. If the island itself doesn’t kill her, the raving lunatics that call it home just might. The great thing that Tomb Raider does is break Lara Croft down to her lowest point and then build her back up stronger than she’s ever been before. The best part of all of this? You not only get to watch it unfold, as this is a video game you actually get to be a part of it. Early on Lara is put into situations that cause her to have to adapt to survive, everything from learning to hunt to becoming quite the stealth ninja. As Lara gains new weapons and abilities, the game seamlessly integrates in new challenges to test your mettle at leveraging them.
From an overall gameplay perspective, I would say that Tomb Raider plays much more like Uncharted as oppose to any of the previous games. The game effortlessly allows you to go from some excellent platforming elements to the thick of combat. Speaking of combat, that’s another strong component for this game. One of the great things about this game is that Lara doesn’t have a ton of different types of weapons at her disposal, she has a bow, a handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle. She has a sort of axe too for climbing that doubles nicely as a weapon if your in a bind. The crazy part about that is that you don’t pick up the shotgun and rifle until later in the game and even after I got it, I still found myself preferring to use the bow of all things. After you’ve upgraded the bow a bit, not only is it deadly, its silent too. When you are on an island with crazed lunatics and semi-mythical creatures, sometimes stealth is a necessity. Using a combination of her bow and arrow and stealth take-downs, Lara can do some serious damage before her enemies ever even know she’s there.
At the beginning of the game, you are just trying to survive but as it progresses, the hunted becomes the hunter. What makes Tomb Raider even more bold and impressive is that even at the end of the game, Lara is by no means a finished product. She’s overcome some losses and pulled off a pretty epic feat, but honestly she’s still very green. That aspect is perhaps what has me most excited, the thought of what Lara’s next great adventure will look like as she continues on her journey to become the badass that we all know and love. That becomes even more awesome when you consider that it will be coming our way on the next generation of consoles. The game is top notch in almost every aspect, graphically its excellent, the soundtrack is dynamic and moving, and even the story has a depth that I didn’t expect at first.
As I sit here and try to think of something I didn’t like about the game I’m at a loss. I literally sat down and played the game straight through into the wee hours of the morning. I’ll admit that I didn’t spend a ton of time on the multiplayer but what I played seemed adequate. You’ll probably be able to tell by my comments that I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer in a game like this. I understand why they added it, it seems to be something you have to do these days to remain competitive. Honestly, I could care less about multiplayer in a game like this, to me the real meat is in the single player. The magic is getting lost in this world that the developers have created for you and not wanting to leave. Tomb Raider does that and does it extremely well.
Mark my words, Tomb Raider will be one of the best games you play this year. I know those are big words considering God Of War: Ascension drops next week and then the year will be filled with titles like The Last Of Us, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed IV, GTA V, Beyond, and much more. The biggest issue that Tomb Raider may have is the fact that it came out so early. As a community, we can be a little shortsighted sometimes and when a game as good as this comes out so early, by the end of the year we forget just how special the game was. I’m writing it here to remind myself, Tomb Raider was epic, it was well done on nearly every front and I can’t imagine how it won’t end up in the game of the year conversation when its all said and done. And while it might not win that award, if this was the NBA then it would definitely be the favorite for comeback player of the year. This is a franchise that many considered to be dated and due for a long sit on the shelf but instead Crystal Dynamics has turned some of their most core gameplay components on their heads, took a chance on completely re-imagining a beloved character and in doing so probably saved the franchise from irrelevance.
If you are a Tomb Raider fan, a fan of action adventure or just a fan of excellent games then you have no excuse for not picking this one up. Tomb Raider delivers much more than I expected and far above what I had hoped. To think that this was a franchise that had been relegated to a download only title just a few years ago is amazing. If Tomb Raider is any indication of what we have to look forward to from the franchise moving forward then Nathan Drake better watch out because our first favorite treasure hunter is back and looking for her spot. I wasn’t going to mention this, but it needs to be said, its nice to see a strong female lead in a video game because there aren’t many to start with and haven’t been a lot recently. I know that Lara Croft is already an iconic character but this Tomb Raider demonstrates the fact that with excellent gameplay, a great story and some creativity, a strong female lead can in fact carry a blockbuster title. Tomb Raider is everything you want from a reboot of this franchise, in fact its everything you want out of a great action adventure game these days period. Tons of props go out to Crystal Dynamics for not being afraid to take an established franchise like this and do what was necessary to bring it back to its former glory and shout out to Square Enix for having the balls to back them doing it. Square Enix has a scary judge of quality of potential lately.
In case you didn’t know, I play a lot of video games and sometimes they become a bit of chore to finish, but not this one. Tomb Raider pulled me in and compelled me to finish it and trust me when I say that is extremely rare these days. As I sit her thinking of things not to like about this game or reasons to give it less than a perfect score I can’t. So I won’t.