Tomb Raider – Xbox 360
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Crystal Dynamix / Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
Genre: Action / Adventure
Nerd Rating: 8 out 10
I was never a big fan of the Tomb Raider series. It’s not that I thought that they were bad games, nor was the impact that they had on gaming culture as a whole lost on me. This after all was a huge series that spawned two movies, and also helped Angelina Jolie become a mainstream star. No, I wasn’t a fan of them because of the damn control scheme.
The series made it’s debut in 1996. These were the years where 3D gaming engines were in their infancy and analogue controllers were the selling point of the Nintendo 64, with the rest of the industry still using the d pad’s to try and navigate 3d space. The result was that attempting to move Laura around her environment was more akin to moving a tank and less like guiding a graceful, nimble explorer.
The series itself peaked with the 1998 release of Tomb Raider 3. After that, the series went into a decline, and what was once a power house franchise faded into irrelevance. There was an attempt during the PS2 years at a revival, but by then Tomb Raider had been eclipsed and the series remained dormant….until now..
Thankfully the 2013 reboot suffer from none of the growing pains of the original incarnations, and acts as a triumphant reintroduction to the iconic heroine of gaming.
The game opens with Laura having to escape a sinking ship. After a thrilling escape, she manages to make it to an island, where she is promptly knocked unconscious and taken prisoner by one of the islands inhabitants. When she awakes, she finds herself tied up in a – wait for it- tomb!
She manages to make it out of this predicament with her life, and meets up with other members of her shipwrecked crew. From there Laura sets out on a journey of survival. Survival from the harsh elements and also from the cult like island occupiers who seem to have a blood lust for her and anyone else that makes it to their cursed shores.
The game excels at creating tension through the excellent set pieces and through the superb voice acting by Camilla Lubbington. Since this is an origin story, we are introduced to a Laura Croft who is not the seasoned super hero of the original series. Laura is just like anyone else thrust into a dangerous situation; uneasy, and at times terrified. Lubbington did a great job of conveying these emotions, and I mention it because it provided an emotional connection to the character that compels you to keep playing through the story.
The game provides a fantastic mixture of platforming, combat, quick time events, and and exploration. Although they don’t let you stray off the main path too much, eschewing exploration for well paced action set pieces. The bit of freedom is allowed through the discovery of hidden tombs throughout the island. Solving these tombs will give Laura experience points, however I didn’t feel that they served much of a purpose besides offering a little extra playing time.
Throughout Laura’s journey she will discover a number of weapons and tools, collect experience points which can be used to upgrade her skills, find various artifacts, and collect salvage, which acts as a currency of sorts and can be used to purchase upgrades for your weapons.
Combat is standard third person shooter fare, however there was something extra satisfying about scoring that coveted head shot.. Maybe it was the XP bonus for each successful kill, or perhaps it was that connection that I as a player had with Laura. Whatever it was it sure felt good every time I took someone out. The combat does allow for some stealth kills, and later on some melee attacks.. But mostly you’re going to be popping people off with one of the guns or a well placed arrow shot.
Platforming was excellent as well, with some very well thought out environments. It was never at a Mario level of platforming, but it didn’t need to be. The puzzles themselves were a bit lacking. You won’t find a lot in the way of head scratching material here, which is mostly to keep the action moving along. Tapping LB allows Laura to use “survival instinct” mode, which offers clues on the objective and what can be useful in the area. Anyone who has played the recent Batman games will draw the comparison between it’s detective mode and survival instinct, with the distinction being that survival instinct will last until Laura moves.
Graphically the game is stunning. Sometimes it felt as if you could actually feel the dampness of the caves, or smell the rot wafting off of rotting corpses. Eidos pushed the Xbox to it’s limit and it’s a little mind blowing to know that they are squeezing visuals this good out of a system released 8 years ago.
There is just not a lot to dislike about this game. I’d like to see future installments offer a bit more freedom for exploration and a bit more incentive for finding those hidden tombs. However, none of that detracted from an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Tomb Raider is an absolutely fantastic reboot! It serves as a wonderful reintroduction to one of the most iconic and marketable game characters ever. Moreover the game has made me a fan of the series. Something that none of the previous incarnations could not do.
I can’t wait for the next one!
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Submitted by The Watchman
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