*NOTE* This review is over the single player portion of the game only. The multiplayer was so dead by the time I played it (even on PS4) that I wasn’t able to give an accurate review of it other than that it should have just been a single player game.
I don’t think there is a more famous video game heroine than Lara Croft. Since 1996 she has been the famous, busty, dual pistol wielding archeologist known for her skimpy clothes as much as her acrobatic moves. However, a fundamental shift has taken over in the perception of female heroines. That is a discussion for another day, but it is necessary to mention because it directly correlates with the concept of this new Tomb Raider release. The goal of Crystal Dynamics was a complete revamp on the Tomb Raider series, with a realistic, vulnerable and very green Lara Croft. She is still the beautiful, tough and gritty heroine, she just doesn’t know it yet. And that’s what Tomb Raider is all about. This is the coming of age tale of Lara, who is still living in her father’s shadow, and because of her age, is still viewed as a child despite her maturity level. Lara spends a lot of the game learning things the hard way and it’s portrayed beautifully.
The Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider was developed specifically for next gen consoles, and you can tell the difference. Comparing screenshots between the two versions you can see more textures and more detail. I still don’t like the way hair looks as individual strands in environmental backgrounds, but that’s a minor detail. The view distances are amazing, and the distance details are meticulous. The building and tomb details are well done and realistic. If I want to show someone how good graphics can be on next gen, I am going to show them Tomb Raider.
I have to give major respect to Camilla Luddington who voice Lara Croft. She sounds so young and naïve and so very distinctly Lara. The other voice actors did a good job as well, but there performances weren’t important enough and didn’t stand out enough to really be noticeable. The environmental sounds were good, and the sounds made by the enemy AI were distinctive enough for good flow of the gameplay most of the time. The background music was well done and did a good job of inspiring the proper emotions at the right times. However, it was nothing that stood out as great.
The gameplay for Tomb Raider seems to be a mixture of action adventure, stealth, and third person shooter. And it actually blends these concepts very well. The stealth components are noticeable in the silent weapons, especially the bow, and in Lara’s crouching ability. The third person shooter aspects are well done, with fairly smart AI that use a combination of tactics to flank, flush Lara out of cover and use accurate fire on her. The soft-target cover system works very seamlessly with the combat gameplay. The action adventure components of exploration, artifact/collection gathering, puzzles/tombs, make up the most of the gameplay. The movement is well done and feels natural. It can be taken advantage of at times, such as jumping off a cliff and landing on a rope line 5 feet off the ground, but it is pretty minimal. The exploration is somewhat limited. It isn’t true open world, but rather open zone exploration. You can go pretty much anywhere within these specific zones as long as you can figure out how to get there. It isn’t bad, but I would’ve rather had the entire island accessible and explorable. The artifact and collection activities are an obvious time-sink, but they are interesting and challenging enough to make you want to collect them all. The way the documents tie in with the storyline was also really well done and I made a point to find all the documents I could in particular. The puzzles and tombs are decent, but nothing spectacular. The survival instincts pretty much give away every puzzle and even if you don’t use them, the puzzles usually involve some big item in the build/tomb and you just have to figure out how it is relevant. It took me some time to complete them, but I didn’t feel like that were immensely difficult. I imagine the development team met their goal on the difficulty of the puzzles of being fairly challenging but not so challenging that players would walk away from the game because of it.
The only thing I wish the game had, and it is just a personal preference, is a mini map. I got annoyed with having to constantly go out of the game in order to consult the map on collection and challenge locations.
I was very entertained by this game. The storyline is engaging, the Lara character is extremely well done and the other characters in the story are easy to relate to/hate. You have some prototypical character archetypes, but that is to be expected as they help move the plot forward. The history and myth surrounding the story is well done and fun to follow and it does a nice job of blending Eastern and Western cultures and preferences. The storyline of Lara’s growth as a woman is well done and ties in very well with the island’s overarching storyline. The story shines best when Lara is faced with tough decisions. Hardship, sacrifice, and seeing other’s hurt for her safety are all things she has to deal with. She has to overcome fear, pain, and severe blood loss to succeed. She also has to discover a certain emotional detachment when she first learns to take another life. All these things make the story become real and allow the player to understand how Lara Croft went from this naïve but brilliant girl into the Tomb Raider we all know her as.
I would like to also say that the way they introduced Lara using twin pistols in the storyline was extremely well done and felt very significant, especially in the way the second pistol is obtained, how the original owner of the pistol is, and what they dual wielding is immediately used for. Since is it such a trademark of Lara Croft, it had to be done just right, and Crystal Dynamics succeeded in achieving that moment in this story.
The challenges and collections are a great time sink that add to the history of the island and its storyline. However, some of them are tedious and downright boring. Specifically, the challenges are unessential to everyone except trophy/achievement hunters (so of course I did them.) But they really don’t provide anything except an experience bonus. Personally, I wish the challenges were viewable through survival instincts, which would make them a lot quicker to obtain, but I really enjoyed the artifact and document content.
I finished this game in about 35 hours, completionist style. I wish it was longer, and had more content, but it was enough to make me satisfied. The multiplayer is worthless in this game from my perspective, I wasn’t able to even find a match. Because of this, the storyline is pretty much one and done (like most action adventure games) and the multiplayer has little or nothing to offer so I’d give this game a replay value of Low. I might come back to this game in a year or so, or maybe before the next title comes out, but probably not anytime soon.
9.2 out of 10
(all images were taken from publically accessible image galleries.)