When the reboot of the much-loved Tomb Raider was announced, fans were divided in their opinion on whether it was necessary to redo the franchise or just continue with the current series. Developer Crystal Dynamics eventually opted to reboot British explorer Lara Croft – and they did a fantastic job in doing so.
What we like about it
In terms of gameplay, the grittiness and dark undertones are aspects that will keep gamers glued to their screens.
There is a constant feeling of anxiety as players make their way through the stages and areas, as the music and the visuals drive an urgency to complete whatever task is at hand. While not feeling rushed, gamers might feel the need to neglect collectables in favour of powering through the levels.
But gamers need to remember the trigger system where enemies will only spawn once a player proceeds beyond a certain point, or trigger. So there is really no need to complete the levels as quickly as possible and it will be worth their time to slow down and explore the areas.
One of the best things about the game is the stunning visuals. Developer Crystal Dynamics paid close attention to insert incredibly detailed fauna and flora, and Lara will ever-so-often gently brush a branch or a shrub aside as she walks past them. Lara’s clothes also change as the game progresses. Rolling around in dirt or jumping off cliffs will rip and dirty her top and upper body, but submerge it in water and the dirt will wash off.
The control scheme is also very easy to master and the basic buttons are explained at the beginning of the title, while new commands are demonstrated throughout the title as Croft acquires new weapons and actions.
Speaking of weapons, Lara makes use of four different kinds – pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and bow. Each one of these items can be upgraded by finding their individual parts in crates across the game, and skill can also be assigned to each weapon’s accompanying skill tree through gaming XP to level up.
What we do not like about it
While the weapon upgrade system allows players to acquire better weapons, it seems like Lara is a bit of a ‘McGuyver’ when it comes to piecing random parts together. No context is given when upgrading and it would have been better if Lara had to pick up the individual weapons from certain locations. It is also not terribly important for her to have all the upgraded weapons, as the standard ones do just fine.
In combat, Lara has the ability to take cover behind waist-high objects, but that is not always ideal. Sometimes an object will trigger a duck, but she will still be spotted by the enemy, rendering her incapable of delivering a stealthy blow.
While the controls are easy to understand, Lara will sometimes respond in an odd fashion, causing her to get stuck behind objects and leaving her vulnerable to attack. This becomes especially annoying when players are trying to figure out a puzzle and Lara takes a wrong turn - leaving her to tumble to her death.
And the puzzles are also a bit of a bugbear for some loyal fans of the franchise. Tomb Raider has a strong focus on the story and delivering an action-packed title, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, there is a very small amount of the traditional puzzle-solving element from the previous games.
There is also a multiplayer section, but it is forgettable because it includes modes that are traditionally found in action or shooter titles. The modes available are the usual Free for All, Team Deathmatch and the objective based modes.
Lara Croft in this updated version of Tomb Raider is seen as a bit more headstrong than previous titles. While she is only 21-years-old in the game, she has the ability to make tough decisions that drive the plot forward. But players will also see a small transformation in Lara, as she evolves through the game from a soft-natured person to one who would have no problems putting a bullet in an enemy’s head.
As mentioned, the graphics and the way in which the plot is delivered are two of the game’s major strong suits, as players will feel a sense of importance for uncovering and solving the many mysteries that the title holds, while feasting their eyes on incredibly detailed worlds.
This version of Tomb Raider is every inch a true Tomb Raider game, and while there is less raiding of actual tombs (instead of being compulsory, they are now optional) it squarely belongs in the franchise. It is a great reboot for fans of the previous games, and it is a stunning introduction for players who are not familiar with Lara Croft. It might also be one of the best games we have seen so far this year.
Our score: 8.5/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor