Video Game Review: ‘Tomb Raider’

 

When developer Crystal Dynamics revealed at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo that they were rebooting the beloved “Tomb Raider” franchise, the question on everyone’s mind was, “can they do the series justice?”

Commentary by Staff Writer Jake Magee

Even if you don’t play video games, you probably recognize the name Lara Croft, the protagonist of the popular series released in 1996, as she’s become a sex symbol featured not only in games but also in movies and popular culture.

The series lost steam when players became more interested in Croft’s ridiculous proportions and sex appeal than the actual game play. That’s when developer Crystal Dynamics stepped in with plans to restart the series to give Croft a fresh, new beginning.

For anyone that doubted the developer’s ability to accomplish this, rest easy; Crystal Dynamics has paid proper homage to our heroine and has given new and old fans alike the best “Tomb Raider” game ever.

For those not familiar, the “Tomb Raider” games have traditionally featured attractive explorer Croft fighting animals and creatures and scavenging ruins in quests to extract valuable artifacts.

In the reboot, the premise remains the same, but the story is much more personal. Croft is a young archeologist looking to make her mark on the world by searching for the remains of an ancient tribe in an area known as the Dragon’s Triangle when her ship is destroyed and she washes up on shore.

From there, you follow Lara in her quest to escape the mystic island with her friends, battling crazy cult members, fighting wild animals and evading the dangers of various ruins along the way.

What the game succeeds in is absolutely perfect pacing. I never experienced a dull moment playing this game. One minute you’ll be peacefully scavenging an abandoned village for supplies and scrap only to be jumping across a crumbling bridge the next.

The exciting set piece moments are expertly spaced to keep you excited and entertained without being overdone. The consistent cliffhangers of Croft’s adventure demand your attention, making it hard to find an appropriate place to save and quit.

I often found myself putting the controller down to take a break only to pick it up again 20 minutes later, enticed by the prospect of what could happen next.

The combat and controls also are fun and responsive. Deaths never felt cheap; when Croft died, it was my fault for missing a jump or not taking cover while being shot at.

As great as this game is in its presentation and storytelling, it excels in its game play as well, which is essential for any action title.

Croft’s story as a character and her journey from frightened girl to hardened heroine, particularly, stood out to me. Never before have I felt so emotionally attached to a character in a game.

As I guided Croft through her adventure, I felt like I was protecting her rather than playing as her, and I felt a pang of guilt every time she perished.

The developers made her death animations particularly gruesome and jarring to deter players from being careless. After seeing innocent Croft getting impaled by a spear or pierced through the neck by an arrow, you’re likely to not make the same mistake twice.

All in all, “Tomb Raider” is a satisfying and necessary reboot to a cherished franchise that respects the game play and protagonist instead of turning them into excuses to present eye candy to gamers.

Lara Croft has always been a beloved female hero in the video game world, but now that love is based on more than her appearance. “Tomb Raider” is a fast, fun, and, at times, disturbingly realistic and gruesome title that no fan of action games should pass up.

5 out of 5 stars