Tomb Raider has probably been one of the longest running game series to date. We’ve seen Lara tackle enormous obstacles and discover many ancient secrets. What little we do know of her beginnings have been through sordid tales from past installments that slowly introduced our heroine’s back story. Through out the series we learned that at an early age she would accompany her parents on archaeological digs and would soon become one of the most famous treasure hunters in the world. Across all the Tomb Raider games we have globe trotted to far reaches of uninhabitable areas to seeing Lara in stunning formal attire. Crystal Dynamics has taken Tomb Raider (2013) “back to the beginning” with much success.
I had the pre-order version of Tomb Raider, so with that came a hardbound comic book, albeit fairly poorly written in my opinion, but did give some more insight into who the crew of the Endurance is that this young Lara Croft was travelling with and their reasons behind traveling to the Dragon’s Triangle
After the opening sequence you find yourself stranded on a beach with the rest of your group just out of earshot. Over the course of the game you find yourself watching as Lara “comes into her own”. You start off without any weapons and must find and upgrade your weapons as you progress. There isn’t any “hand holding” either, you are not prompted when a quick time event happens, just a notification of a timed button press and this can be frustrating at times. The controls, to me, felt decidedly Tomb Raider-ish as I’ve played every game in this series, I felt comfortable with almost the same control layout as previous entries. For example, in one of the opening scenes Lara is hung upside down and the player is left with no direction of what to do, you are not prompted about how the control stick works, it felt almost natural for me to get out of the initial situation. I have to admit, some of the quick time sequences had me dying over and over again, until I got the correct path down proper.
New to this game is Lara‘s ability to use Instinct. Using this, as long as you aren’t moving, will turn the background into grayscale and if you have unlocked some special abilities you will see animals, ammo, ropes and Challenges and enemies highlighted in yellow. This can be very useful if you are hunting down some of the challenges as they can be hidden fairly well, requiring you to backtrack to find them. Each level has it’s own set of Relics/Documents/GPS Caches to find. Each level also has its own Challenges to find and complete as well, sometimes I had to backtrack to find everything, but it can be accomplished and they aren’t too over complicated, you just have to look hard and investigate just about every inch of the map to find them.
Also, there is a Treasure map located within these areas too, this will give you the ability to check your map for all the locations of the Relics, Documents, GPS Caches and Tombs. Pressing the Select button will bring up the map and show you your progress towards finding all the items. Although the Treasure Map is not needed in every level, you are tracked if you find it or not, but the same effect can be had by using Lara’s Instinct ability and when you scan an item you haven’t found the game will tell you that you have found an item and is available on your map. On your map you can set a destination of any item, whether it be Relic, Document, GPS Cache or a Tomb, you have either discovered through Instinct use or the Treasure Map. This can help find all the items for 100% completion on this part of the game.
Also new to this reboot is Lara‘s ability to “level up” through Base Camps. There are Base Camps in each area or level you are in. Base Camps give you the ability to back track to previous areas you’ve visited. Some areas have enemies re-spawn, this gives you the chance to meet your trophy kills for weapons, if you decide to do so. You earn experience points for hunting, killing enemies and completing challenges. This allows you to upgrade Lara‘s abilities from being able to see Game in Instinct mode to enemy take downs to making an enemy counters so you can disable an attacking enemy and kill them quickly with melee kills. You can also collect scrap to upgrade your current weapons, this is done by either hunting animals or finding scrap boxes laying around the map areas. Also hidden around are weapon upgrades that allow you to have more powerful weapons as you progress. There are also Day-Camps, these are almost the same as a Base Camp but you are not able to fast travel from Day Camp locations.
There are several “Tombs” to be found as well on most maps. Once you acquire the climbing gear you are able to start “Tomb Raiding”. This Tomb hunting felt more like Cave Searching as each Tomb has a puzzle required to complete and you then get your Relic or Treasure Map. But that is the extent of it, I think I was expecting more from each tomb as they weren’t very big and the puzzles seemed fairly simple to complete with mininmal effort. Playing past Tomb Raider games I think I was expecting more and harder puzzles with at least some type of animal encounters in each tomb, but this was sadly not present.
Crystal Dynamics also let the player have more control over how you approach each enemy encounter. You could either attack vigorously, meaning that once you start your attack they set off alarms that cause more enemies to attack. Or, you could sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and kill them by choking them with your bow. Some of these Stealth kills are far more satisfying than facing a lot of the enemies head on. A good way to avoid a lot of conflict if you have 2 enemies to face is to fire an arrow at a wall and distract them giving you time to take them out one by one.
When I fired up the game and saw the opening cinematic, I was truly impressed. It looked so real, and the amount of detail in everything from the way the metal studs on the ship to the way of Lara’s reactions as she is either tossed about or in several cut-scenes showing you footage from their journey to the Dragon’s Triangle. My only complaint is that this game is in 720p and when presented with footage from a camera they were using on-board the ship it shows as 1080i. I know, small complaint, but if you are trying to advertise the camera as 1080i, then I believe the whole thing should have been done at a 1080i resolution. I did notice some anti-aliasing but not enough to hamper the beautiful vistas that surround this island in the middle of nowhere. During rain sequences it was a nice distraction to see water hitting the “game camera” and slowly trickle down my TV screen. I did not experience any frame-rate issues nor did I get stuck on any of the environments. I poked around every available square inch of each map/level I was in, because I wanted to 100% this game, as I have done in all previous installments of the Tomb Raider Franchise. The HUD is minimal, keeping more focused on the action than on what is displayed of your resources on screen.
You can definitely know when something is coming. The music queues are consistent but these can be turned off in the menu. I chose to leave them on for the cinematic feel. The music was not overpowering or impeded with gameplay at all. I felt that it was the right choice for every situation and added some tension, hearing that eerie music slowly work its way up you knew that something was coming that you didn’t quite know. Also, on the other end of that, when it ended, you knew the firefight was over and you were free to explore the areas around you.
While I was expecting Mulitplayer to be more of the same single player experience, it is not what I walked into. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the rounds that I played, but the maps felt small and the gun sounds were just not what it should have been. You get to choose which side you are on, either Scavengers or Solarii – with the Scavengers Team being the “good guy” team. When using the rifle it sounded like I was shooting a popcorn gun at my enemies. There are a lot of areas to hide and traps to set to trap your enemies for kill scores. But in order to unlock everything you have to reach level 60 in multiplayer 3 times, this seems a little daunting. I personally, just could not find moving forward in this mode as I reach level 20 and felt like I was hoping for kills more than anything. There are a lot of weapon customization’s available and different load-out abilities to attach to your character, but this mode just feels like it was tacked on and adds nothing more than some mulitplayer relief with a Tomb Raider theme.
I LOVE this game. Well, everything except multiplayer, but that is me. If you enjoyed the Max Payne Mulitplayer then you might enjoy Tomb Raiders Multiplayer. My only problem I had was during a course of a level I died, I was at 70% complete with 100% of everything found previous, and upon going to restart from the last checkpoint, the game froze and I was unable to re-load my last save file causing me to have to re-start the game from the beginning once again. This was truly frustrating and from the research I’ve done, this is not an isolated incident. Hopefully there will be some sort of patch to save this from happening. I actually had to put the game down for some time before restarting. This will not negatively impact my score of this game, because I still enjoyed my time with Lara and felt quite refreshing to see her back on my screen again. If you’ve played all the Tomb Raider games in the past, then this is a MUST BUY game. If you’ve never played any of the previous titles, then you still need to play this game. One of the best reboot stories I’ve played in the last couple of years. I’m going to give this game a 9.5, partly because of the lack-luster mulitplayer mode and the almost impossible grind to unlock all the trophies/available mulitplayer characters.
What follows is the Day 1 Launch Trailer…
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics, Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 5, 2013 *US and EU
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows Digital: Yes
Price: $59.99/£39.99 Rating: ESRB: M PEGI: 18
Offline Players: 1
Online Players: 2-8 Competitive: Yes
Online Pass: No
The PS3 Pre-Order game is what was played for this review…