Straight out of Christopher Nolanís Batman Begins playbook, the latest iteration of Tomb Raider comes off gritty and far more believable. Most importantly it works as a game, no longer just puzzle after puzzle; it spends time making game play fun and rewarding. Its feels kind of like Lara Croft is raiding tombs for the first timeÖ.again. From the ashes of the failed franchise, a polished phoenix has risen. While unoriginal, Tomb Raider combines many of the best elements from triple A titles like, Assassinís Creed, Uncharted and Far Cry 3.
It boasts a wonderfully open world to explore with plenty of reasons to do so. Collectibles breed achievements in most games and the same applies for Tomb Raider as well; however itís more worth your while to earn achievements and collect loot at the same time. Found a relic? How about 500 experience points? Sounds great, friend. The system for discovering said collectibles is incredibly convenient, whenever you enter a new area, you tap left bumper, it scans and detects nearby loot. Sometimes these rewards are protected by a barrier that requires a game mechanic you havenít acquired yet. If thatís the case, the icon for the document or GPS cache youíre looking for has a lock symbol over it, informing you not to stress when you are unable to obtain it.
Not only do you find yourself earning XP, you also discover salvage, which serves as an in-game currency that can be used to upgrade and modify all of your weapons, all the usual suspects are present, explosive arrows, sights and silencers. These are pretty stereotypical, nevertheless extremely effective. At one point some thugs were using a friend for ransom, I was forced to drop my weapons. When the kidnapper insisted I kick them off the edge, I was actually fearful I might lose my upgrades. Luckily, my friend freed himself and dispatched them on his own.
Itís surprising the relationship that is forged with Lara as a character; sheís attractive yet never objectified by it. Always capable, never the sex icon she was in the previous series. Learning how to survive she endures a lot and it shows. Starting cleanly clothed with her hair in the right place, we watch as her outfit is soaked in sweat, nearly torn apart and her hair a hot mess. There are some brutally dark moments, waking up upside down in a creepy cultís hidden cave or later when Lara is swimming through a river of blood are among them. Slowly but surely, Ms. Croft forms a callous in the place where her sensitivity for violence once was.
The game often gives Lara the opportunity to sneak through, murdering unsuspecting foes with her trusty climbing axe while silently discarding those who stand just out of her reach with quick arrows. Itís simple yet satisfying and handled with a joy fueled ease. As for when enemies are aware of your presence, the game can be as inventive as you like. The encounters are brimming with variety; it felt like I was putting on a show. In one of my favorite encounters, I bowed two unsuspecting island thugs, ran in, and impaled one with my axe. Quickly two more of them shouted obscenities whilst barreling towards me with their crude machetes. In a moment of sheer panic, I scrambled, and with my hand on the ground I threw some dirt into the firstís face. With him temporarily inactive, I pulled out my shotgun and blasted the second. Still stunned from the blindness dirt in your face causes, I slammed a rock against the firstís head. Room cleared, I reloaded and combed their pockets for loot.
The story of tomb Raider is not important, the character is. It serves as a vehicle to fall in love with Lara Croft again, even if there was never anything more than sexy figure and a pair of desert eagles to begin with. You could be underwhelmed with the narrative and while you arenít wrong, youíre slightly missing the point, that point being, Lara Croft is back.
The game is unoriginal, but god dammit is it fun. With the series reinvigorated from spirited changes to game play, Iím happy to say, Iím looking forward to Lara Croftís next adventure. Maybe next time sheíll bother to bring a coat.
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