At the end of one of my many sessions playing Tomb Raider, I thought it would be rather witty of me to conjure up a tweet that read “That awkward moment when you realise you’ve explored more tombs in Uncharted than Tomb Raider”. To which I received a firm virtual tap on the shoulder (in the form of an IM nonetheless) that exploration of tombs are optional. Not like I was expecting it. After all, no one in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance actually says “revengeance” and there’s nothing final about Final Fantasy (especially when there are 14 entries and counting). So yes, despite not being mandatory, there is some action and truth to the game’s title. I was pleased and by “I” I mean the rampant OCD type of person who occupies the same body as I do. But I (the unkempt wannabe writer, not the stickler) digress.
This reboot of the classic franchise is a thing of beauty that comes with a few beasts. You have fantastic environments to explore, slick combat to take part in and of course, climb and jump your way across the entire island of Yamatai. All of it of course, thanks to the age of old premise of survival.; You see, this is not your father’s Lara Croft. Gone is the hyper-inflated chest and uber confidence. They’ve been replaced by someone a lot more real and relatable. Lara Croft is a bag of nerves as you start your journey and by the end of it almost Rambo. It’s similar to Far Cry 3’s tale of boy turns warrior save his friends, except with less island mysticism and more grit. And while it loses it’s way, what with a few cookie-cutter characters and somewhat poor dialogue that would have your face in your palms, there’s nothing drastically wrong in terms of plot. Rather, it works just fine.
We wish we could say the same about the pacing. As you venture deeper into the heart Yamatai you’ll find that elements such as hunting and puzzles take a backseat to grandoise set-pieces and booming explosions. It’s at these points in time when it feels it’s most derivative and almost Uncharted-like.As done to death as it might be, it still manages to entertain thanks to the intuitive combat system. It lets you latch on to cover automatically and a slew of sweet weapons, you’ll rarely find the combat to be anything but a pleasure. It’s smooth and well animated. Ditto with the melee. Indulging in fisticuffs is extremely satisfying. Right on par with the Arkham series. If this wasn’t enough, the platforming is great too. The controls are solid and identifying which landmasses to cling onto is a breeze without resorting to instinct mode (more on that in a bit) . Traversing across the island is a joy. So much so that it’s calmer moments almost make you wish they made it a pure platformer instead of this hybrid of gunfire and leaps.
Fluid combat aside, there’s a leveling up system that allows you to widen your skills . It feels quite superficial since you can get by just fine without bothering too much. Enemies drop vast amount of salvage which you can pick up. Doing so allows you to upgrade your weapons, then again, anything that’s critical to your survival is given to you anyway by the means of a cut-scene so you can get by just fine even if you ignore it. On the topic of ignoring, the game tacks on an instinct mode, similar to what we saw in last year’s stupendous Hitman: Absolution. It paints the world in monochrome and important items are highlighted. While tons of games make you dependent on such a feature such as the Batman games, you can get by just fine by looking away altogether. Reason being, due to the widened colour palette you can easily decipher what to do next without having to resort to instinct.
As mentioned earlier, tomb exploration is optional and there’s a distinct possibility that you might just miss them completely. This is because Tomb Raider takes great pleasure in holding your hand as it takes you from one firefight to the next. But if you’re able to break the blinkers the narrative puts on you, you’ll be richly rewarded with a slew of interesting puzzles to solve and bonus experience points to gain. It does a great job of showing off the game’s competent physics system.
Speaking of competence, the graphics are anything but. In fact they go above and beyond that. From the craggy hilltops to the sparkling water effects this is arguably the best looking game out there or at least, on par with Crysis 3. Play this on a PS3 or Xbox 360 and you’ll be amazed. Try it on a fully loaded gaming PC and you’ll be blown away. It does a fantastic job of squeezing every bit of power from seven year old devices and on machines that have more breathing space, it takes things to the maximum. The character models looks a lot better and so do the environments. Throw in TressFX, which is AMD tech that gives Lara’s hair a more realistic look (at a 10-15fps penalty of course, regardless of your card preference) and you have a spectacularly gorgeous game.
Levelling up and weapon upgrades feel tacked on
Gameplay Progression: 7/10
Unique Selling Proposition: 8/10
This game was reviewed on the PC platform.Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics