Crystal Dynamics

Published on March 12th, 2013 | by Brad Soo, Reporter

Tomb Raider (2013) Review

From Left to Right: The 2013 Lara Croft as compared to 2006. Both developed by Crystal Dynamics.

From left to right: The 2013 depiction of Lara Croft as compared to 2006. Both attributed games were developed by Crystal Dynamics.

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Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Release date: March 5, 2013
Price: $59.99
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It has been two decades since Tomb Raider first made an appearance. And, after dozens of games, the franchise has aged fairly well. It has, however, shown signs of wear, and this year, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have brought something new to the table – a much-needed reboot to the series that many gamers of today have grown up alongside.

Besides being under the same Tomb Raider umbrella and focused on a female explorer heading on adventure-filled expeditions, this year’s game breaks away from past titles and hits the “hard reset” button with characters, setting and graphics. The timeline is brand new, with a reintroduction to a young Lara Croft. She is still in college, and heading out on her first ever expedition to find the mythical land of Yamatai, which is believed to exist off of the Japanese coast.

No time is wasted as the game starts out with the Endeavor ship caught in the midst of a huge thunderstorm at sea, tumbling at the mercy of the waves before getting shipwrecked on an island. Lara is separated from her crewmates, including her budding filmmaker friend, who is abruptly captured by unknown residents of the island before she escapes.

Tomb Raider slowly introduces players to gameplay mechanics, such as: Quick-time events (QTE), by mashing the action button at the right time to do things like take down a rabid wolf, base camps and scavenging for ‘Scavenge’ points. Scavenge points are used in adding features to your weapons: the bow, pistol, shotgun and rifle. Each of them can be upgraded into tiers (while retaining features) through the acquisition of upgrade parts found throughout the game.

Base camps serve several purposes. They exist as primary checkpoints to show you’re on the right track, for accessing Lara’s skills and converting Scavenge points into upgrades. Some camps also allow for quick traveling to another camp, saving you time if were to go back to explore and collect all the artifacts. There is an experience point system in the game, but it was never clearly cut how far along you were till you earned another skill point.

base camp

The plot of Tomb Raider is dark; at first focusing on the hostile threat the weird cult-like occupants of the island posed. Later, the challenge transitions to concentrating on Lara’s rescue of her kidnapped friend, and despair when she realizes the mysterious force that prevents people from leaving the island may be all too real.

The game was faced with a challenge of moving the player along with a compelling plot while trying to reintroduce Lara’s background from scratch, but Tomb Raider does a great job with both character and plot development. The story reboot seamlessly blends reasoning for each objective and Lara’s personality is slowly formed as you move from one location to the next.

Plenty of expression is shown and heard as the game progresses forward. Lara is frequently split up from her group but that doesn’t get in the way. She still gets updates via the communication radio she carries. As expected, audio plays a role in emphasizing the emotion and intensity of scenes in Tomb Raider. There’s a particular scene I felt was very well played out. During the event, Croft portrays her despair as she hears her friend Sam getting dragged away. This is done in the confines of the radio waves, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Voice acting and music were both top-notch, with the changes of background music that varied throughout each scene providing subtle cues of danger or suspense while never giving away upcoming surprises.

If you’ve played other third-person action games, you should have no problem jumping right in and getting used to the controls. Movement was very fluid, while jump actions and wall scaling offered no issues at all. I wasn’t a fan of the lack of sprinting though, as it would have been nice to be able to run through the windy cave paths and wide-open spaces in the abandoned towns. But ultimately, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

The game gives you a choice between going out guns blazing or moving stealthily through missions without alerting enemies. I liked this versatility of how you go about the game as mentioned. The music changes accordingly if you were to stay low profile as opposed to tackling situations head-on.

Guns and its blazing. Weird.

Guns and its blazing. Weird.

The graphics are the game’s hidden gem. Usually you’d expect the Crysis and Battlefield franchises to be insanely intense and filled with detailed environments. But what a surprise that Tomb Raider delivers graphics that are up there with titles known for their pixel fortitude.

On the PC version of the game, a new TressFX rendering option makes Lara’s hair more realistic, processing individual strands rather than a fixed ponytail like in other games. The foliage-filled environment of Yamatai Island are gorgeous, and the game lets you appreciate the scenery by steering you to a different place each time. Rarely are you ever in the same place twice, and even then you don’t actually linger around as much as you just pass through the town on the way to another part of the island.

Tessellation
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The experience Crystal Dynamics crafted in this iteration is primarily geared towards towards its single-player campaign. Even with the storyline wrapped up and completing 67 percent of findings/upgrades, I already had 12 hours racked up. This could brings total gameplay up approximately 20 hours if you were to complete explorations and in-game tasks.

In contrast to story mode, the multiplayer of Tomb Raider was nothing to boast about. I did not find the 4-vs-4 multiplayer to be remarkable, especially compared to the fun factor of simply exploring and completing single player. The three modes, including capturing radio towers, gathering medical supplies or just killing the other team in general, are played in familiar environments to those found in singleplayer. Completing these objectives and winning awards you with levels and upgrades. The entertainment value is rather low as compared to first-person shooter titles with the same features that provide a more fluent experience.

Final Truth:

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the series that hits many nails squarely on their heads. The game combines great gameplay with a compelling storyline and great-looking graphics. There was never a moment I wanted to stop playing the single-player campaign until I finished it, and it was pleasant that the plot spanned more than a dozen hours of gameplay.

While the game excels at its story, the multiplayer mode was bland by comparison. There were also a few control quirks and vague indicator of experience points, but otherwise Tomb Raider is a game worth your time.

[xrr label=”Rating: 9/10″ rating=9/10]

+ Great plot and long campaign
+ Scenic environment and plenty of locations to explore
+ Immersive visuals and audio
– Multiplayer is lacking
– No running, just quick walking

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