Tomb Raider and its lead protagonist Lara Croft need no introductions but my writeup would be incomplete without it. I have long, but not lost, memories of playing Tomb Raider from my childhood days. It was awesome, I was just introduced to 3D games and Tomb Raider was a pleasant gaming experience that’ll forever be cherished. Had been long obsessed with the pony-tailed, comparatively large…ahem…bosomed vixen, I mean who wasn’t! I reveled inTR 1, 2 and 3 and yes I even enjoyed The Last Revelation and Chronicles, I’d rather not mention about what followed. Then again if I don’t mention it I would be left with a unsaid point. So here goes: Angel Of Darkness, the worst of all! AOD continued where The Last Revelation & Chronicles left off and was brought out on consoles, eventhough it boasted of superior graphics it was sheer disgrace to the franchise. Crystal Dynamics did reboot the franchise with the excellent Legends then again it was left spiraling downwards losing quality, throughout its recent iterations. Anniversary did nothing much to add the revamped engine. Underworld was more akin to Legends but did justice to the title. Then there was this arcadish Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light as well.
Enter 2013’s TR, you are greeted to an archeologist by name Lara Croft aboard the ship Endurance with her crew off to an island for the discovery of her lifetime. Little did she know she’d get shipwrecked and stranded, helpless and separated from her crew. This is indeed a new beginning for Lara Croft. Forget what you’d known about her, you are introduced to a truly vulnerable Lara. With an enormous amount of polygons invested in a beautifully modeled Lara Croft who trembles at the horrors she’s got to face on the island. The initial sequences adds to the realism as well as tells you she’s not gonna pick up a gun for a long long time. But during the course of her adventure in the island you could see her go from innocent to the gun touting Tomb Raider we’ve all known. From hapless survivor to vicious hunter armed to the teeth with rifles, shotguns etc; its all evident by the end of the game.
Voice-overed near perfectly by the beautiful Camilla Luddington, her painful gasps couldn’t make me stop thinking of her from Californication.
You are given the paradisaical island to explore. It seemed living and breathing for Lara to thrive in. Calling it simply Gorgeous would be a severe injustice. Lara without the essential gear can’t roam anywhere she wants though when she gets hold of those gears it becomes a very enjoyable experience to explore the island and to collect relics and documents scattered around. From claustrophobic caves to open beaches, its all at your disposal. Astounding particle effects and realistic fire were amazing to gape at.
The plot ploughs Lara forward armed initially with a bow and arrow through different parts of the island. Splendid set pieces and QTE are evenly distributed through the campaign but it never hampers with your experience. Once you get the essential gear you can choose to stray away from the campaign in search of hidden tombs and collectibles. Tomb Raider is all about exploration and adventure and Crystal Dynamics gives you just that. Call it an obsession but I have clocked in around 14 hours in the campaign and I am still going back in search of collectibles and for the sheer view and vistas of the island. The fluid gameplay is what motivates the exploration. With plenty of smooth animations, orchestrating Lara’s movements felt natural. The last time I’d felt so was with the Assassin’s Creed trilogy.
Jason Graves’ score was amazing! He really pumped out a spectacular score, with such a strong musical thrust that it can be felt in your chest. Taking the intensity of the game and the multiple layers of the story and incorporating to equally as powerful music. Tomb Raider has gotten itself a new theme too and variations of the same were laid out perfectly throughout the game. Note: If you haven’t seen ‘Final Hours of Tomb Raider’ vidoc hosted by Zachary Levi its high time you do.
As for the cons: Lara was given plenty of personality but the same couldn’t be said about her crew who felt like the one dimensional stereotypes. The plot which started off realistic inclined dangerously close to fantasy and the supernatural. It was a good one nonetheless. For sheer shock value Crystal Dynamics opted for copious amounts of gore which I felt was unnecessary. Hell I reckon it had more gore than Dead Space 3. There was this particular scene which was reminiscent to Neil Marshall’s The Descent. TR does come with multiplayer which, for lack of words is, just lackluster and is better forgotten. Cutscenes are abundant in this game and most of em are patiently watchable but when you are pushed into QTE and if you fail, you need to watch these cutscenes over and again…it gets annoying after a while. Failing to press the right buttons or shoot through obstacles results in a cheap death sequence with either Lara getting impaled, hit on the head or yes IMPALED again! Yes its visually gruesome but really uncalled for. I pre-ordered the game and obviously I was very excited only to play though I had to install it via Steam and there was this stupid update which downloaded more than 2 gigs of data. I understand the reasons for a patch but a DayOne patch of 2gigs? Seriously?
In a way its got a lot in common with Far Cry 3. Jason Brody and Lara Croft were both initially innocent, stranded in an island, with hostile factions running amok add to that similarities with the supernatural elements, bow and arrow, relic hunting and last but not the least, the way both the protagonists progress through the campaign to be hardened beings. Maybe I am fond of both the games that I am desperately finding likeness between the two but you have to admit these are indeed genuine similarities.
Crystal Dynamics has done a wonderful revamp for the Tomb Radier franchise giving it a never before seen life. Be it the cinematic campaign or the brilliant personality Lara’s adorned this Tomb Raider is a befitting reboot well worthy of praise. A well polished game is easy to come by though it seems Crystal Dynamics have put their hearts into their own baby and it shows. Despite its easily ignorable shortcomings, I loved it immensely.