Hard to believe it’s been 17 years but I played the original Tomb Raider back in the day and aside from being impressed with the fact that Lara has amazing back muscles to keep her from falling forward with that weight up front, I was relatively pleased with her first few outings. Then the franchise doldrums hit and hit hard. Single player rehashes are hard sells. Mutliplayer ones are simply exercises in peer pressure. When the 2nd Lara Croft film hit the cinema, you could see the bottom of the pit the franchise was in.
Fast forward to today and the reboot of the franchise is a welcome sight. This is one of those games where the Croft name is more important than Lara, as for all intents this could be Lara’s daughter running around instead of the original one. Gone are the linear tombs with massive puzzles and repeated deaths. Welcome are the relatively open zones with succinct puzzles whose solutions are within eyesight. I remember some of the nasty puzzles in the past that had you moving for what seemed like 5 minutes, into some sort of Rube-Goldberg machine and then die at the end from a missed jump. Today’s game has less instant death and more “think it out” and act. A bit like the Assassin’s Creed 2 tombs I guess, but smaller in size.
I play on the PC, which apparently at the lowest setting still gives better performance and art than any console. I can play moderately well at Ultra and it seems more like a movie than a game. The sound is amazing, I find myself shouting in surprise at events where guys jump out of nowhere and the scenery is simply the best of this generation. When you do play it, and you will, take the time to look around on the Radio Tower. Jeebus.
Everyone and their kid is talking about how the bow is awesome. I am here to tell you they are correct. Sure, you will use it to shoot people in the head but you can shoot them in the arm, the belly or the leg for various effects. You can shoot ropes to slide around. You can shoot walls to make distractions and shoot lamps to start fires. Shooting from a dark corner, sniping 2 or 3 enemies before they realize what’s going on is amazing. Shooting a flaming arrow into a gas pocket and knocking 6 of them down in a single attack, amazing. The bow is practically perfectly implemented.
While the story isn’t something amazing, the progress of Lara’s character is. Small and timid, injured without end, she continuously, if reluctantly, surmounts every challenge in her path. Often times I found myself at the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. I think the one facet that makes her relate-able to the masses is that anyone can see themselves in her shoes and acting in the same way. This isn’t some episode of Lost where you’re screaming at the TV “Don’t go in there stupid!”. Each and every action and reaction is similar if not identical to the one you’re having while playing. Quite an accomplishment.
Tomb Raider is a must buy.