One of gaming’s most iconic heroes makes their return in a big way.
A SURVIVOR IS REBORN
Crystal Dynamic’s 2013 Tomb Raider reboot was one of my favorite games of the year. Just a few years later, playing a next-gen version of the game proved to be even more satisfying. When I originally played the game through on my Xbox 360, I never thought that this was a game that was lacking in any manor regarding its visual prowess. Releasing a game towards the end of a generation generally means the graphics will be top notch, but Tomb Raider takes it a step further and is one of the best looking games ever.
The Definitive Edition makes things even prettier.
A SIGHT TO SEE
TR: DE is simply put, breathtaking. From it’s sunny landscapes to its detailed environments, the game will likely hold up visually for many years to come. You know those launch games that look purely fantastic when a new console comes out? Then years later, we think to ourselves “we thought that looked great?!” I can assure you, this isn’t the case here.
The fictional island of Yamatai is one I want to revisit over and over. There aren’t many games I feel warrant the time and focus to play through multiple times – this is one of the few. Shipwrecked off of the coast of Yamatai, which is a fictional, lost island in the Dragon’s Triangle near Japan, Lara Croft & her team of archaeologists, techies, and adventure seekers look to find a lost kingdom. Her ship, the Endurance, is destroyed beyond repair, and the group is trapped on the island. The next 8-10 hours take you through mystery and intrigue as Lara tries to uncover the secrets of the island, as well as the mystical powers that are housed there.
This is very much an origin story, with callbacks to Lara’s father, and a passing of the buck so-to-say from some of her mentors. This is her first big adventure.
Yamatai is spectacular, featuring all kinds of weather from rain storms, to snow storms, to picture-worth sunsets. The water, whether its a small waterfall or the surrounding ocean, is realistic and rivals that of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The sights and sounds, mixed with the accurately-timed vibration of your control, helped to make the island feel alive, as if you were really there.
This is the best looking Lara Croft we have seen in gaming, providing a perfect mix of brains, brawn, and beauty. There’s nothing over-sexualized or inappropriate here, which has been a criticism of Lara in the past. Camilla Luddington provides the voice and motion capture of Lara, performing admirably and creating a Lara that is likable, gorgeous, and real.
As stated, this is an origins story. Lara is completely fresh to this kind of exposure. We witness her first kill, along with many traumatic injuries and sights that she won’t ever forget. What’s great about this story is Crystal Dynamic’s development of Lara Croft’s foundation. It genuinely feels like we are going to be able to build off of everything she witnessed on Yamatai. If there’s one complaint to be had, it’s that there’s one progression of Lara’s evolution that felt rushed. Lara has an incredibly difficult time killing her first enemy early in the game, something I assume would be absolutely and positively brutal for any human to experience. After that kill and a minor emotional sequence, Lara has no problem doing so again – and again and again and again. Honestly, I’m not sure what else could have been done to avoid this, but that still doesn’t make it feel right.
TOMB RAIDING OFF THE CHARTS
The game’s pacing is superb. If you stick to the main linear story, you can finish in the neighborhood of 7-8 hours. I generally did this on one playthrough and ended up finishing 61% of the overall game.
What can you do in side missions, you might ask? Well, raid tombs, of course! The emphasis on puzzles in this game is not what you might think of as a traditional TR player over the years, but the ones that are there are intelligently crafted, with a low barrier to entry but a moderate entry to master in some cases.
The checklist for 100% completions includes discovering locations on the map, finding GPS caches that showcase the goodies to be had on a map, upgrading skills and weapons, and more. Finding journals and artifacts helps tell the story of the supporting characters and their (sometimes sinister) motives, along with the history and chaotic journey that Yamatai has taken over the decades and centuries. It’s generally interesting to read and discover, giving a sense of achievement and reward. I might argue that the treasures and artifacts found in Tomb Raider are more interesting than say, the ones found in the Uncharted series. So it isn’t unthinkable to achieve 100% in this game, something some games make out to be much too daunting of a task. I don’t want to just scratch the surface, I want to completely dive in.
Lets go back to the elephant in the room for a moment – the Uncharted comparisons. The original Tomb Raider series over the past decade and a half inspired the Uncharted series and in turn, it appears Uncharted inspired our contemporary Tomb Raider games. No one should be butthurt over this – when competition can challenge developers to take their own games to new heights, we all win. Tomb Raider is the “Definitive” experience on Xbox when it comes to action/adventure gaming, and absolutely more than gives Uncharted a run for its throne atop the Playstation throne. The action and major set pieces in TR: DE are exciting, intense, and sometimes horrifying.
LEVEL UP, LARA
TR: DE provides an extensive, yet simplistic, linear, yet choice-driven upgrade system that more games should adopt. At major checkpoints, Lara is able to sit around a campfire. At this point, she reads off a new page of her journal while you choose to upgrade her skills, abilities, or weapons. It’s hard to believe at the beginning of the game (and for a good portion of gameplay), you only have a bow & arrow at your disposal. As time goes on, you acquire typical weapons like a handgun, a shotgun, and rifle. Each weapon (including the bow) are up-gradable. From more ammo, to incendiary bullets, to a rope that aids your bow, the upgrades are noticeable and force you to want to strive for them. I felt all powerful by the endgame and because I upgraded appropriately, had a less difficult time dealing with the game’s bigger enemies and final boss.
Lara can be upgraded too, including abilities that aid during combat and looting. Certain effects allow to grab more ammo when looting enemies, while some help with dodging enemy attacks. These upgrades overall provide a good range of diverse options, while not overloading the gamer at the same time. Sometimes less is more.
In terms of gunplay, I would argue the overall balance controls slightly better than Uncharted. It’s not the tightest but as I leveled up and simply put more hours into the game, I became accustomed to the style of the shootouts. My natural instinct during early firefights would be to shuffle and move, like a cover-based shooter. Instead, patience was key. I found myself with steady shooting hand as time went on.
In a broad sense, TR takes some of the best aspects of the Batman Arkham games, the Assassin’s Creed games, and the Uncharted games and rolls them into one.
Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider is a game that shouldn’t be missed, regardless of the type of gamer you are. From the exciting action sequences to the stunning visuals, this is a game that will be remembered as one of Xbox One & PS4’s finest.
+ Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft – this is the best persona and the best looking, most authentic Lara to date.
+ Graphic fidelity is unparalleled by 99% of games – this is the best of the best when it comes to visual prowess.
+ Action sequences and giant set pieces are thrilling.
+ Pacing of story and side quests.
– Average supporting cast contributes nothing memorable. Weak villain as well.
– Unnecessary multiplayer mode.
Josiah LeRoy is a huge fan of the new Tomb Raider series and cannot wait for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End this week! Join him on Xbox Live & PS Network via JosiahIsLegend.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition ranked on our Top 25 Playstation 4 Games of All Time. Check it out.
Tomb Raider was reviewed on an Xbox One. It is also available for PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, & PC.
All photos used were taken from screenshots from our playthrough.
What is a hindsight review? It’s an article in which a Geekiverse writer reviews a game that they have never played before and is outside its launch window. It offers a fresh perspective and shows which games in your backlog are worth playing through.
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