Tomb Raider 2013 is an Origin Story for Lara Croft and a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. This is a reboot done right and it streaks ahead of any of the previous games in the series. It keeps Lara’s character concept and the 3D platformer gameplay but everything else is reinvented for the new generation. It is a much grittier, adult game. I can only describe it as epic.
Lara Croft is the first major strong female protagonist in video games, but there was always the issue of her being overly-sexualized and objectified. In Tomb Raider 2013 her character design is much more realistic and we see a lot of her personality. She is human and vulnerable but full of bravery and strength. She starts out with great instincts and skill, but lacks confidence; being shipwrecked on an island in a dangerous survival situation forces her to realise what she is capable of and believe in herself. She has to be all she can be because being anything less means death for herself and her friends.
I don’t usually like playing in third person, especially in shooters where the camera follows behind, but in this case it was a pleasure. Tomb Raider is a very cinematic game and the third person perspective adds to that experience; it is done so well the camera is always positioned in the best possible way.
Lara’s animation, her movements and body language are, for the majority of the time, like watching a real person. She breaths, looks at her surroundings, rubs sore muscles when left idle and will automates ‘common sense’ actions like lighting a torch in dark areas. The graphics are quite exceptional with fantastic detail. Lara is covered in dirt and grime and also gains some scars as the game progresses. Lara’s hair physics are gorgeous, the only thing lacking is that it never gets wet.
The environments are fantastic and there are a few challenges you can do searching the environment for relics and GPS caches, etc. There’s no real reward for doing so but it’s fun to treasure hunt across the environments; I completed them all. The 3D platforming works very smoothly and it’s rare to find such an interactive environment in a game. In the open-world sections you can use your tools in any number of ways to reach your objective.
At least 50%, if not more, of Tomb Raider is a 3rd person shooter. Tomb Raiding is actually a secondary activity. The tombs themselves are usually neat little physics puzzles – great, but more of them please. The FPS element makes for exciting gameplay but is slightly at odds with Lara’s character arch, as one minute she is lamenting her first kill and the next a hardened killer racking up a gigantic body count. Likewise injuries are a big thing in the ‘gritty and realistic’ cut scenes but not so much in gameplay. Lets say there is some dissonance between the two. Lara ‘walks off’ injuries that should have her incapacitated. However I do recognise the necessity of ‘fudging’ the realism in order to make an entertaining game, which they succeed in doing.
Some of the cut scenes go on a bit so quicktime events are used to break them up, sometimes very well, but mostly very badly. So you get cut scenes interrupted by “Quick! – Press this button not to die!” Fail that? I bet you want to watch that cut scene again! It’s rather irritating. Furthermore some of the boss fights end up being quicktime events rather than the usual in-game combat. Personally I felt slightly cheated because I didn’t get to use the mad combat skillz I’d been levelling up all game to kick the bosses ass!
Tomb Raider is not perfect but the good far, far outweighs the bad. It’s the magic combo: spectacular graphics, good story, great gameplay. It is obvious the development team put their heart and soul into this game. It’s worth every minute and I am hoping for a sequel that builds on the success of the first, but with less quicktime events and more tombs! ‘K thanks!