Tomb Raider (Definitive Edition)
By Matt Ballyns
Rebooted and hotter than ever, Lara Croft is back. This game initially released back in March 2013 and then re-released in January 2014 as the Definitive Edition with all the DLC and extras plugged in. I never had the chance to play the regular edition but heard good things and with all the current talk with Xbox now trying to make Tomb Raiders anticipated sequel an exclusive I wanted to check this one out for myself. Tomb Raider is a well-known franchise that started in 1996 based around a women archaeologist named Lara Croft and has even had a few movies, one which starred Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, and is still the highest-grossing film adaptation of a video game ever released in the US. The character is known for her good looks and large breasts (hence Angelina Jolie filling in nicely) and dual wielding pistols. When these game first released in the ninety’s I had played them and they were never my favorite though what got me back into the Lara Croft games as of late was the 2010 Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light game which was not a typical Tomb Raider game as it was a cooperative platformer/puzzler which was not the standard 3rd person Tomb Raider game I was used to. This newer game has taken away all of her past story and started a-new as she is young and set out on her first adventure and what an adventure it is!
The story starts off with you as young Lara Croft on a ship with a crew as a prospecting archeologist under the wing of Doctor James Whitman. Whitman is a renowned archeologist who as of late has hit some hard times and is struggling to get back on track. You are in search for the lost city of Yamatai which you believe is on an Island off the coast of Japan. This island is said to be curse by a “Sun Queen” and the rest is shrouded with mystery. While on board the ship a storm arises and shipwrecks you and your crew and you all get separated. You immediately get captured by some crazed islanders and get strung up in tomb with a bunch of other dead bodies in a kind of dark satanic setting. From there all hell ensues.
This is a 3rd person shooter with some RPG elements. The controls are pretty tight and fluid. The only issue I had through the whole game was the jumping as it was a bit “floaty” but this was kind of a hard issue to have as you at times feel like you are superman as you can jump and leap from building to building and mountain to mountain. This game is very story driven and what a great story it is. This game constantly puts a smile on your face as so many times you will feel like there is no way out and then you make this awe-inspiring jump or grab the end of a cliff and just swing to safety. It sets up as a realistic game but once you first escape and gruesomely take a spike through the abdomen and have to traverse this island that has a “Sun Queen” you realize this is a Tomb Raider game. The initial setup of making it realistic really draws you into the story but I feel like with all the crazy things that ensue the game would be quite short but that is not the case at all. There are a few quick time events that if not performed correctly end in some gruesome deaths and I mean gruesome. They are almost laughable as you can take a branch through the throat to smash your head on a rock and drown, the animations Lara makes are painful to watch as she passes. The island is a pretty open world where you traverse from “camp” to “camp” where you can rest save your progress and upgrade your weapons and abilities. These RPG elements of the game are really cool and make you want to run around and really explore or shoot some animal life so you can unlock the ability to shoot arrows that explode! You don’t just unlock these new equipment you do need to collect money throughout the game but as you play you do gain experience which unlocks new abilities such as the ability to throw dirt in your enemy’s eyes or finishing moves with certain weapons etc. This really gets you absorbed in wanting to search all around and not miss anything as you can see what the next upgrade will be and how much you need to save up to get it.
When you start you are unarmed but as the story progresses you get an assortment of weapons: bow, pistol, machine gun, and shotgun. There are loot boxes all around the island that contain money, ammo, experience and backstory (all voiced which is a nice touch). While for me I preferred using the bow as it was stealthy but as the game progresses more and more enemies ensue which make it defiantly more productive to use the rest of your arsenal. With open world games that are not linear which this one is not there is always the problem with getting lost. Tomb Raider does have a map though by the click of a button it will highlight the direction you are to be headed or if you are stuck in a puzzle it will highlight objects you may need to take special note of. You can even upgrade this ability to see hidden objects or highlight pick-ups. This is a great feature though if you do upgrade it does at times seem a little cheap and it can make some of the puzzles a little too easy.
Tomb Raider games are known to have puzzles in them and this one does not disappoint. The puzzles are mostly for traversing the island as you have a climbing axe and your bow can be used to make rope lines in certain areas. While I mentioned the “help” button can sometimes be a bit too helpful later on the puzzles are very well laid out and smart. The enemies are varied as while they are mostly just crazed shipwrecked people like you wielding swords, guns, and dynamite later on they are samurai like wielding bows and swords.
Set pieces in this game whether it be you getting past a bridge full of enemy’s while your companion snipes them or fighting an over-sized Samurai and his men gets your heart rate pumping and the visuals of your surrounding really encapsulate you into the setting. You really have to hand it to the developers of this game as there are some very tense moments and though I typically am not a fan of quick time events when they are executed in this game they work very well.
This game is pretty, not the best looking game but some of the shots they get of the landscape are jaw dropping. While traversing the island the beauty of it all definitely helps emerge you into the game and the zip lining, parachuting, and wall climbing sections that really zoom out and show you the great vastness of the island really have a “WOW” factor. The character models for the main characters are really good but for the standard bad guys you can tell not as much time was put into them. Overall this game is a pleasure to look at and really helps capture you into the setting of the Yamatai Island.
Once the story is complete you can go back to the island and go look for tombs you may have not gone to or other collectables that you can see you don’t have on the map. There is a quick warp feature so you do not have to track all the way to other locations where you might have not collected everything as the map is pretty big. Once you completed the game you may have not upgraded your skills or weapons all the way though going back to pick up anything you may have not got yet seems kind of boring as there are no more bad guys as you killed everyone and getting that extra perk on your gun seems pointless as there is no one but a deer or rabbit to really use it on. Tomb Raider has a competitive multiplayer feature as well and it is a bit of a letdown. While it has some of the cool features the regular game has for traversing the maps and even setting traps it just feels very bland and unpolished. Somehow the visuals also seem not as crisp either and finding a game to get into is a problem which should tell you something as no one seems to be playing it. There are RPG elements in the multiplayer also to upgrade your weapons but since getting into a game is so hard that makes that grinding even more so grinding.
Tomb Raider the Definitive Edition is a re-boot that gets just about everything right. The solid gameplay and controls mixed with an engaging story, puzzles and RPG elements make this a great new entry into the franchise. While the attempt at adding in multiplayer to this game really did not help it as it was bland for those who do not purchase a million games a year it is a quick distraction after the game is over as going back and visiting tombs you did not go to the first time around is the only reason to go back to this game unless you want to re-do the whole experience (which is a definite option). This is the best action adventure game I have played in years and it is clear they are making a sequel which I cannot wait for.
Overall Score: 9.5