Dev: Crystal Dynamics (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Tomb Raider: Legend, Anniversary, Underworld, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light)
Pub: Square Enix (acquired Eidos, responsible for Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex, Thief, Legacy of Kain)
Writer: Rhianna Pratchett (Mirror’s Edge, Overlord, Viking: Battle for Asgard, Heavenly Sword)
Platform: PC, PS3, 360
Rating: M 17+
If you’ve never played Tomb Raider, like me, then I’d describe it as Zelda meets Assassin’s Creed in gameplay, and Uncharted/Indiana Jones in plot.
I really wanted to finish this game up before we unplug everything. So… where to start? The intro, probably. I don’t know if it was intentional, or if I really got a specifically glitchy game, but if yours looks like a skipping VCR when you start the single-player campaign, it’s intentional.
A lot has been made of this being a reboot, and bring Lara to reality rather than the apparent fantasy she lived in. She starts out as a fresh-from-university, green archaeologist, just trying to get her crew to take a chance with her. By the end, she’s wounded, scarred, dirty, and missing a few chunks of her clothes. Honestly, once I started realizing that her clothes were showing serious wear and tear, I thought her pant legs would just fall off, bringing us full circle to the iconic booty shorts. Rather than the belly shirt and Daisy Dukes, she wears two camisole-style tank tops and a pair of sturdy looking pants- tight, but not unrealistic. She’s thin and toned, what you would probably expect from someone who spends a lot of time in yoga or on an elliptical, though I wouldn’t wager ANY human could do all she does in a single day in this game, regardless of size, musculature, or strength. When she slides down hills, she gets dirty. When she bathes in a river of blood, she gets bloody. When she falls into the water, it comes off… at least if it triggers a cutscene. I didn’t notice if it happens while you’re just running around.
The progression of gameplay is well paced. There are new abilities being introduced at a regular interval. Graphics and sound are good, though whenever the wind blew hard and someone tried to talk, it sounded like turning your stereo too high for its own good… that may have been the quality of my speakers, though. It was only noticeable twice in the game.
Speaking of Uncharted and Indy, just once I’d like for these “I’m a scientist, there’s a rational explanation, holy crap! That’s a zombie/yeti/alien/supernatural phenomenon! I don’t believe in that… yes I do!” to be something actually rational. Archaeology is a subset of Anthropology, which is the field I am going into. Of course my flavor of archaeology would involve more digging and less jumping from cliff to cliff, relying on my climbing axe, but I appreciate the way that Lara (and her supervising “expert”) show enthusiasm for learning, rather than just stealing treasure.
The puzzles aren’t overly difficult, and even when you can’t tell how A leads to Z, you can always see where A and B are. The “subtle” hints of where to go are always available, whether through the use of white (paint, bird droppings, etc.) for climbable ledges or the “Survival Instincts” button that makes everything interactable glow yellow. The game is still fun, even if the most difficult part is not getting shot or missing a prompt. There are a lot of prompts, though all the ones related to climbing are generally “X” and all the ones regarding fighting generally “Y”.
Overall, the single player is worth playing. I haven’t done anything with multiplayer, so I can’t speak for that. The story is interesting, and the gameplay and mechanics are fun. I also appreciate that while she freaks out in the beginning because she has to kill people, as I kill people too, it becomes more of a given. She regrets that so many have to die, but recognizes that it must be done to save her friend and stop the evil. There isn’t a huge chasm between cut-scene Lara and played Lara, which makes it easier to maintain the suspension of belief.