Iíll admit I was never a big fan of the original Tomb Raider. I enjoyed it when I was younger, but as the years progressed I realized how wonky the controls are and how truly bad the camera is. But one aspect of the game has withstood the test of time: the persona of Lara Croft. I never viewed Lara as a sex symbol. Iíve always thought of her as a cool lady who kicks a lot of ass (she is). She has always been, in my mind, one of gamingís best protagonists.
Thatís why, when I first saw the new Lara in the January 2011 issue of Game Informer, I was concerned. That isnít Lara Croft, I thought to myself. I had no qualms about the new Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry (because, letís face it, the old Dante is nothing special), but rewinding gamingís leading lady and transforming her into a scared young woman seemed like a strange decision. I was, however, excited for the gameplay changes Crystal Dynamics promised.
My excitement has been proved well-founded. Ms. Croft controls better than she ever has. I played through Tomb Raider: Legend as I was working on this review. I missed several ledges in that game while jumping with Lara, and most of the time it wasnít because of any fault of mine. The controls, while much improved over the older games, were still a little touchy. I hardly missed any jumps in the reboot, and the ones I did miss were wholly my fault.
Some may say the revamped controls are stolen from the Prince of Persia or Uncharted games. Their argument is probably a very valid one, but I love the change. These are the controls the Tomb Raider games have needed since their inception. Donít be afraid to take a leap of faith; Lara can handle it this time. The tools Lara acquires as the game progresses, such as a pickaxe, make navigating the various environments all the more easy and fun.
Speaking of the environments, they are beautiful and a blast to explore. The game is kind of linear, yet kind of open world. It is what you make it. If you wish to explore, youíll find a lot of ground to cover. If you simply want to complete the game, the game wonít prevent you from doing so. Thatís the beauty of whatís available here.
Should you explore, youíll find a plethora of collectibles to hunt down, challenges (which are really more collectibles) to complete and, oh yes, tombs to raid. Itís worth seeking out these things thanks to the deep upgrade system. The more XP Lara gains the deadlier she and her weapons become. Itís similar to what Far Cry 3 offers, and itís just as awesome in Tomb Raider as it was in that game. I became obsessed with hunting down everything.
Then thereís the story. Itís exciting and interesting, and it made me realize I was wrong about the new Lara. She starts out as a girl who seems to be incapable of defending herself and quickly becomes a killing machine. It all happens quickly, but it serves the story. I havenít played many games in which the gameplay effortlessly serves the narrative. Tomb Raider handles it with aplomb.
And donít worry about rape scenes; none exist in the game. I donít like spoiling story elements, but itís impossible to spoil what isnít there. What is there is far better than any scenes of sexual assault could ever be. The only thing I didnít care for is the ending, which is really random and crazy. Then again, this is Tomb Raider weíre talking about here.
Tomb Raider doesnít rest on its laurels. It takes the series in a bold new direction. The sloppy controls and poor camera that plagued the former games are gone. The old Lara Croft is gone, replaced by a human being with emotions and the like. Iím a fan of some of the other games, but I never considered any of them must-plays. I absolutely think Crystal Dynamicís new vision is worth checking out. Itís my favorite Tomb Raider yet.
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The major misstep in Tomb Raider comes from its multiplayer offering. Itís annoying and boring. If the tagline for the campaign is ďA survivor is bornĒ, the tagline for the multiplayer should be ďLeave no survivorsĒ. Prepare to die a lot, and when that happens, prepare to stare at a lengthy respawn timer. The weapons feel bland and the environments are soulless. It is the very definition of ďtacked onĒ. Stick to the campaign.