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Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider

PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Developer: Crystal Dynamics Official Site:
Publisher: Square Enix
Tomb Raider

Genre: Action
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Official Site:
Publisher: Square Enix
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Tomb Raider Review
Review By @ 01:10am 26/02/13
In 1998, my mother and I went to Cash Converters to look for PlayStation games my father might like for his birthday. She was ultimately convinced by a man with a disturbing glint in his eye that my Dad would appreciate the platformer stylings of the original Tomb Raider. “I’m obsessed with Lara Croft,” the man admitted. “I just think she’s the best”. The subtext here was more evident to me than it was to my mother: Lara had, with her enormous chest and pistol know-how, become a geeky sex symbol for the modern world, and the marketing around the series shifted to focus on her proportions above her actual tomb raiding abilities.

The following year, I’d read about a ‘nude, blonde Lara’ Gameshark code for Tomb Raider 3 (it was, in fact, mentioned on the cover of ‘Arcade’ magazine). More recently, a friend showed me a copy of Douglas Coupland’s ‘Lara’s Book: Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider Phenomenon’, an unusually creepy read about the popular game series. This reinforced for me the scope of the vicious cycle Lara Croft had become trapped in, the troubling ways in which she had been represented and received, and the difficulties faced by the team behind the then-upcoming new reboot. And don’t get me started on that film (I never saw the sequel, and apparently neither did anyone else).

New Lara is one of just several ways in which this Tomb Raider reboot succeeds, but of everything the game achieves her character will likely be what receives the most enduring praise over the course of the year. For the most part, Tomb Raider’s plot is pretty hokey, but as the central pivotal force driving everything, Lara is brilliant. She’s a rarity – a believably drawn character in a blockbuster game, one who always feels grounded and real despite being capable of impossible physical feats. The numerous ordeals she faces on Tomb Raider’s island galvanise her, change her (for both better and worse), and challenge her in ways that are genuinely compelling. She’s treated and written like a real person rather than an object, which is still far, far rarer than it should be. Camilla Luddington’s strong vocal performance caps off a character that has been handled with respect, admiration and realism. The other characters aren’t quite so interesting, but then they don’t need to be – this is Lara’s game.

Tomb Raider borrows very heavily from Uncharted, in much the same way Uncharted initially borrowed heavily from Tomb Raider’s basic premise and the various other games it inspired (not least of which being the previous Tomb Raider reboot, ‘Legends’). That is to say that a lot of things in Tomb Raider explode, collapse, crumble, and need to be climbed, usually in a spectacular fashion. At the beginning, it all feels a little simple – the initial ‘stranded on the island’ plot is brushed over a bit, and when Lara finds herself separated from the rest of the crew she was previously working with the game takes some time with a tutorial that makes the action feel a little on-rails. The initial combat encounters against wolves feel simplistic, as do the initial set-pieces and instructions (you’re taught how to hunt, for instance, but it’s made pretty clear early on that doing so isn’t actually important).

But the game opens up steadily, improving on a scene by scene, location by location basis, until eventually you sit back and realise that it has slowly transformed into something a bit special. Combat improves dramatically on what Uncharted offered up (especially after Uncharted 3’s dodgy aiming, horrible fisticuffs and constant grenade-spam); frequently providing stealthy options for those of us who like to play in the shadows. If Lara sneaks up on a group of enemies, it’s possible to take them all out with her bow and arrow without alerting anyone, which is extremely satisfying. Otherwise a few other weapons unlock and can be upgraded over the course of the game, and although there’s a cover system in place the game encourages you frequently to play boldly. Explosives can be hurled around, certain kinds of cover can be set on fire, enemies constantly manage to flush you out or flank you, and the shotgun is so satisfying and useful at close range that you’ll frequently want to run out into the open with it. It’s a refined, fun combat system, even if the game does occasionally fall back on hurling a huge group of enemies at you rather than finding new ways to mix things up a bit.

While there are fewer proper tombs to raid than the name may imply (there are optional tombs scattered around the island, but they each only include one fairly basic environmental puzzle to solve), this is still a game about exploration. Lara steadily grows into her role as an explorer, expanding her inventory with all kinds of awesome tools (her penchant for pulling things around with ropes is revisited extensively) and generally becoming more confident and assured as a character.

Her transformation is a lot of fun to take part in, even if there is an occasional disconnect between her abilities and your sense of what is actually humanly possible. Jumping and climbing play a huge part, and although the treks you have to make never quite match up the crazier moments from Uncharted 2, this is a game that fully understands the power of bombast. At times it gets a bit much – some of the best games have a tendency of resembling some of Hollywood’s worst films once things start exploding – but it’s also quite thrilling when you’re right in the thick of it, only very occasionally falling into the typical action-adventure trap of making it feel like the game is playing itself.

Exploring is an essential part of the Tomb Raider experience. Not only can several areas be tackled in multiple ways, but the game is absolutely crammed full of collectables. It also uses audio diaries to flesh out backstory more effectively than most games do, and the ‘scrap’ you can collect is important for upgrading your weapons. It has a bit of an N64-platformer-collect-a-million objects feel to it sometimes, but it’s worth noting that all the collectables are purely optional, and genuinely quite interesting.

Visually, Tomb Raider is stunning on 360, in a sort-of ‘holy hell how are they doing this on seven year old hardware’ way. It is, without question, one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the aging system, and a testament to just how much developers have been able to achieve with this console generation. The level design is just stunning, and it’s worth pausing frequently to take in the majesty of it all.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, I was unable to test multi properly prior to release. It looks fairly thin, with only a few playlists, but that’s probably a good thing for a game like this – these modes will stand a better chance of being populated. There’s no reason the mechanics wouldn’t translate well, so I’m inclined to be optimistic. But Tomb Raider has always been a single-player experience, and that’s what the vast majority of players will likely want out of it.

Tomb Raider reaffirms the importance and value of having strong, realistic female protagonists in games, while also successfully transposing much of what people loved about the original titles into an adventure that feels superbly modern. It’s a better Uncharted game than Uncharted 3 was, and goes a long way towards reminding us of the value of the Triple-A blockbuster in a market where smaller indie efforts have started to get so good that we need such reminders. This is an extremely impressive reboot, one that provides me with one of the most enjoyable and exciting adventures I’ve undertaken in quite some time.
What we liked
  • Lara is a great character
  • Pulling off a stealth operation
  • Fun exploration and combat
  • Ridiculously great graphics
  • The steady escalation of events and abilities is handled really well
What we didn't like
  • Gets off to a slow start
  • Occasionally perhaps a bit too silly
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 09:50am 26/2/13
Nice to see a review up a week prior to release for once like the good old days. Definatley getting this on PC and is one of my most anticipated titles of the year. God of War and Gears will just have to wait.
Posted 11:27am 26/2/13
i guess i'll be buying this game
Posted 03:45pm 26/2/13
Excellent review. Count me in for one PC version thanks.
Posted 01:01am 27/2/13
Clueless Gamer: Conan O'Brien Reviews "Tomb Raider"
Posted 01:34am 27/2/13
That clueless gamer is hilarious, can't believe I've not seen it before!
Posted 02:06am 27/2/13
Clueless Gamer: Conan O'Brien Reviews "Tomb Raider"

Ch-asm... WTF...
Posted 09:44am 27/2/13
Clueless Gamer: Conan O'Brien Reviews "Tomb Raider"

Haha these are excellent, love his Resident Evil one.

I think I'll be grabbing this of somewhere cheap, looks really nice especially on PC. Apparently AMD users get some new hair rendering system as well which is interesting.
Posted 10:08am 27/2/13
Apparently AMD users get some new hair rendering system as well which is interesting.

tressfx? i didn't know it was being used in tomb raider.
Posted 10:36am 27/2/13
I'm with Conan ... losing Lara (Lah-Rah) over and over again will be too painful, especially with the spike through the damn head. Who came up with that death scene?

Will not buy for awful deaths and reminding me of high school.
Posted 12:25pm 05/3/13
Regarding something said in the locked thread, is the FOV really bad? And can it be changed?

I played TR: Underworld the other day and the FOV was worse than I remembered!

After the epic fail that was Syndicate, I'm really not paying for a game that can't get the damn FOV right. Third or first person, it's a deal breaker. Get it right, game companies!
Posted 12:59pm 05/3/13
ive been buying games here

its going for 22 pounds which is pretty good price
Posted 01:07pm 05/3/13
Yeah just grabbed it from CJS as well, instant delivery too which was nice for once. I'm quite eager to try it out as from what I've seen it looks great.
Posted 02:19pm 05/3/13
looks like my graphics card does support that tressfx but it makes the game chug. turned it off and i have everything else set to ultra and it looks really nice.
Posted 03:30pm 05/3/13
Played for a small fraction of time during lunch, from what I have played though this game is definitely marketed wrong. All the trailers seemed to focus on the quicktime events and showing very little of anything else, but there are quite a few puzzles and surviving is quite big plus its also open world-ish which I didn't even know.

Definitely quite intense at some points and I've killed Lara a few times which are gruesome. Seems to be a fair few side stuff to collect as well like trophies and journals etc. Can see myself spending a fair bit of time on this title.
Posted 04:14pm 05/3/13
i've played for 2 hrs and i'm loving it so far.

also, i f*****g hate wolves now.
Posted 04:35pm 05/3/13
I am about three hours in (for a gumby gamer), which is a LONG time for me to game these days, and I'm very keen to get some more in.

It's "Uncharted done right"

There is nothing that is annoying me so far, plenty impressing me, and I'm very easily annoyed.

It's been a while since I've jumped about and sweated a scene in a game I'm usually just not that interested/involved, but there's been a couple of times that I've done that so far in TombRaider -> putting down the mote going PHEW!!

Unlike that Assassins Creed BS I didn't feel like I was skipping through crap waiting for things to start, I was involved in the game from the very beginning.

Really well done.
Posted 04:46pm 05/3/13
Won't someone PLEASE think of the FOV and the camera in general ... do we get too many up close shots where we can't see past the character?
Posted 07:14pm 05/3/13
There is nothing that is annoying me so far, plenty impressing me, and I'm very easily annoyed.
The only thing that has annoyed me so far was the "rape" scene where it is probably the first serious use of quick-time events. It pissed me off because I had no idea which keys to press, which until then every qt event told you which key to press and I died like 5 times just trying to work out which key they wanted me to press for which part.

I didn't work it out until later but apparently the symbols they replaced the keys with, "!" and the hand are meant to represent kick and grab or "F" and "E" but at the time I was just mashing s*** and dying and remembering how much I hate quick-time events.

I'm glad I struck it at that scene though since I had already seen it in videos when the media were overreacting to it. Now that I know what's going on hopefully future qt events wont completely ruin an otherwise intense moment in the game.
Posted 07:19pm 05/3/13
haha that was the same for me deadlyf. i eventually checked the key bindings to see what keys i needed to press.
Posted 11:08pm 05/3/13
I played this game all weekend on the PS3... This is such a fantastic game.. whilst it's easily comparable to the Uncharted series it is still very much a Tomb Raider game, it has sooo many great Tomb Raider elements, the only modern feature would be the quick time events, which are implemented perfectly.

Watching Lara Croft transform from a naive young girl to a strong woman with each brutal blow has been an amazing experience, The whole family is watching on rooting for her and falling in love with this mysterious island.

I can not praise this game enough.

If i had to fault it, it would be that some of the puzzles don't live up to the rage quitting puzzles of the original tomb raider games... at the same time, they are challenging enough to keep me doing them and they don't keep you bogged down from the story.
Posted 11:40pm 05/3/13
Won't someone PLEASE think of the FOV and the camera in general ... do we get too many up close shots where we can't see past the character?

My #1 hate about third person games. Still dont like it in FPS but at least its just the gun and HUD thats blocking the world. Also hate when the camera auto corrects itself if you dont move the mouse every second or so (dunno if this applies to lara but i remember it in just cause 2 and saints row 3 IIRC).

Good Game game lara double 10/10. I'll be interested in this if i can skip the cutscenes as it seemed story heavy in their review.
Posted 01:10am 06/3/13
Bought it this afternoon and played it for a couple of hours tonight and love it!!! Hated all the other Tomb Raiders but this one is good!
Posted 11:09pm 20/3/13
Hey guys i am new to the whole gaming community kinda thing but i really like that the developers made Lara's character feel vulnerable. I also like the stealth combat and the weapons upgrades were good as well the one thing i hated was dam wolves. i loved the story which really kept me engaged

i don't like scoring things but i felt this was solid game
Nerf Lord
Posted 01:34am 27/4/13
Just a heads up, this is ~$19.50AU from GMG this weekend. (50% off weekend deal, then use 20% off code GMG20-GGN5D-FC3NA )
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