Tomb Raider Review (PS4) – SPOILER ALERT!

Platforms: PS4, PS3, Windows, Mac OS X, Xbox One, Xbox 360

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Publisher: Sqaure Enix

Warning: This review has some adult/upsetting themes in the Story section!

Also spoiler alert! You have been warned!

…One more chance! There are some spoilers lurking about!

I found it very, very tough to find even a small criticism for this game which is saying a lot. We welcome one of the most notable and greatest heroines in video games, this 2013 reboot in the Tomb Raider franchise is the first in its series since Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light back in 2010. Tomb Raider (2013) is certainly a breath of fresh air as we see Lara Croft in a different light, before she even became known as the “Tomb Raider”. Players must take Lara on an adventure unlike we have seen before (not to mention the PEGI 18 rating and being as badass as she has always been)!

Story

The story takes on a fresh tale where the young, ambitious Lara Croft sets out on her first expedition. Her goal is to prove that the lost kingdom of Yamatai is real by, yes finding it. Despite the potential dangers to the crew (Endurance ship) and herself, she goes against the advice of Whitman advice, they journey to the Dragon’s Triangle (often known the “Devil’s Sea” as it’s deemed to hold some paranormal activity) located east of Japan. Soon enough, the ship is caught in a fierce storm that pretty much damns the ship, not only crashing it, but splitting it in half. This is where Lara’s epic struggle begins and soon finds herself in contact with the dangerous inhabitants of the island.

You must scour the island using only raw instinct and extraordinary human ability to persevere and find other survivors, in doing so discovering the lost kingdom of Yamatai and its secrets i.e. sadistic rituals of execution and sacrifices that the cult performs, hence the plethora of blood and skeletons that you will see throughout the game.

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There was a “floating rumor” that was going around before the game had released and it was something to do with Lara being a victim of attempted rape while in captivity by the inhabitants of the island. In an interview with Kotaku, Ron Rosenberg (executive producer) said, “Lara Croft gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her and she’s literally turned into a cornered animal. And that’s a huge step in her evolution”. The “attempted rape” and themes like this (which isn’t really what we’re used to in a Tomb Raider game) is what caused a massive outrage among the fans.

Later, Darrell Gallagher (studio manager) denied the attempted rape scene and stated, “the character defining moments for Lara in the game… Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time”. This pretty much put the alleged attempted rape scene to rest and I think that the moment she has to kill a human being for the first time is a critical moment in the game.

Gameplay

There’s one thing I have to get off my chest before I delve into the combat and gameplay mechanics. It’s the manner in which Lara can die and oh..my..god are her deaths horrifying! The first time I failed a mission and died was when she was being washed through a rapid river and you have to avoid these obstacles. Well it turns out that if you don’t dodge a pole or wooden spike, that’s right, you WILL see Lara become impaled by the throat. It was at this moment that I WILL do my best to keep her alive! Of course during my time playing the game she still died a few more times, each as shocking as the last (there was a time where you see Lara get crushed by huge boulders in a tomb.

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If you’ve played Uncharted before, you’ll see that it plays quite similar. You are presented with varying levels of gameplay, from quick time events to stealth combat. Stealth combat was personally my favourite part of the game as I get to pick and snipe my targets (with a bow and arrows) or even evade them completely by causing distractions! I found myself spending a lot of time exploring and hunting animals to get used to the weapon and stealth mechanics and it was very exciting!

As Lara is smaller and weaker than other enemies and the fact that she becomes surrounded by a multitude of enemies, you do eventually have to rely on stealth and distraction at times (this is where using cover is extremely helpful). If you find yourself within an arms distance with a foe, you will have to try and get away by dodging or striking.

Of course you don’t HAVE to use stealth as there are…less discrete methods, such as blasting your way through enemies using a shotgun or maybe a grenade launcher if you so wished. You also have access to a melee weapon (a pry axe or climbing axe) which either serves as something to defend yourself with or to interact with the environment, but don’t expect to kill enemies in one hit unless you’re doing a stealth kill!

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Resting at a camp allows you to add modifications to your weapons and gear by spending Salvage Points that you gathered along the way. These modifications are quite essential when fighting tougher enemies so you should use them wisely! For example you add explosive arrows or a silencer to your handguns. Adding to the base camp, you can fast travel to other camp locations that you’ve discovered and you can change Lara’s outfit as well! Which is fun when you change her outfit to suit certain types of terrain (even though they don’t provide any advantages)!

One of the early missions is to hunt deer for food, after finding a bow with arrows. Once you perform a kill on a human or animal, you gain experience points which goes towards you’re level and each time you level up you gain a skill point. With skill points you can unlock new skills from three different classes (Survivor, Brawler and Hunter). As you unlock more skills, you gain access to the more advanced ones. For example the Animal Instincts skill in the Survivor class allows you to spot animals or food that are usually difficult to find. The only way to gain a new skill is to find a camp and rest there.

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Moving on from combat, there are optional and compulsory tombs that you have to go through. These tombs usually give a reward such as artifacts, salvage/food crates, equipment etc. So the optional challenge tombs can be very rewarding if you can figure out the puzzles!

Traversing around the island is a something Lara does all time and you have tools available to help you do this. A climbing axe will help Lara to get along certain walls and mountain sides, whereas a rope ascender serves as a makeshift winch or to move along zip lines. This can be very helpful when going through missions, aiding Lara with stealth or finding tombs.

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Of everything I experienced in this game, the gameplay is by far my favourite as I was faced with many challenges and obstacles that I had to find ways of getting past and doing so felt greatly rewarding.

One gripe I had about the gameplay is that we couldn’t use dual pistols which is very iconic in the Tomb Raider franchise. The only time we get to use dual pistols is in the very last moments in the last mission where she picks up another gun and goes crazy on the big baddie!

I also wish that there were more puzzles in the main story and not just mostly in the challenge tombs, like in the original games.

In my opinion I think there were too many enemies at times and maybe giving us less but tougher foes would feel more dangerous perhaps? But this is more of a personal thing really.

Graphics/environment

I’ve only really played this game on the PS4 so I can’t really compare the graphics to other systems myself but I can say that it is a big improvement over the PS3 version. Watching the opening sequence and playing through the first part of the game made me appreciate the level of detail that has been added to the Definitive Edition. As you play game you find that Lara’s appearance becomes gritty and she get’s blood on her face and clothing etc. This shows how much Lara is going through as she fights her way through the island. The textures are quite sharp and clear, especially when the cameras are focused on smaller details such as faces or things of importance.

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I personally absolutely LOVED the environment! The atmosphere and the brutal landscape made me feel that Lara is in a place where she must do anything to survive, and I mean anything (killing anything that gets in her way!). The forest sections of the island makes you feel like you need to keep an eye out for potential enemies, be it animal or human, keeping you on your toes at all times!

Looking at the shipwreck makes you feel and realize what the whole island is about and anything or anyone closing in on the island will end up there in some way or another.

The models are very smooth and nicely detailed and I personally had no issues with them. I felt that Lara was well designed and looked like she was in a place that she is unfamiliar with. At one point we see Lara shivering outside under a large rock hanging over her. This was one of my favourite parts of the game as we how vulnerable and lonely she is. Then we see her transformation into the badass that we all love and know as she fights what awaits her on the island.

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Audio

I was impressed by Lara’s voice (voiced by Camilla Luddington) and I thought she did a fantastic job capturing how inexperienced Lara is when she finds herself on the island. She sounds less confident in the start and more so towards the end after going through some intense fights and life threatening situations.

As I mentioned earlier, going through forests and different areas of the island felt very real and what helped was the atmospheric effects and sounds from sneaking through the grass, to sliding along a tight rope and hearing the howls of approaching wolves.

The soundtrack isn’t the one we’re usually accustomed to and I believe it was good for the game (being a reboot and all) and feels really epic and definitely captures how intense the game is, with the sharps sounds and eerie instruments playing. It makes you feel like you’re really there.

Conclusion

I wasn’t too sure about the game before its release but as soon as I first played it, I was truly impressed! From the exciting combat to the thrilling storyline and being able to play as the badass heroine, not once did I have any bad feelings against the game. I found it much too difficult finding any bad points except I’d maybe say when Lara is in melee range, it’s a bit stiff but I guess that might be because she doesn’t rely on her hand to hand combat, and I can easily get past that. But I really can’t identify any serious flaws in the Definitive Edition of the game and I say if you can’t see anything bad about something then focus on the positive! If you’re at the least a small fan of the Tomb Raider franchise, I 100% recommend it, even if you’ve never played a Tomb Raider game before I still suggest you play it!

Overall: 9.2/10

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to Tomb Raider (2013) and is being released on November 10th 2015 in the US and November 13th 2015 in Europe. Be sure to check it out!

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