The team at Crystal Dynamics deserves a ton of credit for the work that they did in the Tomb Raider reboot that originated on last gen’s consoles in 2013. They turned a character in Lara Croft who was once a gimmick with impossible body dimensions that pleased the eyes of the young male gamer intended audience. That’s not me saying that those games were bad. But, come on, Lara Croft herself started off as a gimmick. What the team at CD did, however, was take the character and reimagine her as a true heroine. And, truth be told, an epic badass.
One thing that should be said right from the start is that the “Definitive Edition” on PS4 (and I assume also on Xbox One) is surprisingly a beautiful game. I didn’t play the game on last gen consoles, but I have looked at screen shots and you tube videos, and it is clear that the developers actually put in work to not just update the graphics a little bit and milk the cow some more. This was one of the first PS4 games that I had way back when I first go the new console and I’m surprised at how good it still looks after playing quite a few PS4 games over the past couple of years. (Just FYI, I got the game in 2014 at a time when I was still addicted to FIFA 14 so I never played it 🙂 ). Lara Croft herself as a grand improvement over the last gen edition. Especially her hair. On the Definitive Edition you can see individual strands of hair which was very impressive.
As far as gameplay goes, it is not perfect, but it still a fun game to play. Anybody who has played the Uncharted games will feel right at home here. This game feels very much like those games. Lara will make death defying jumps, have to solve environmental puzzles, and will have to fend off countless enemies with her bow, handgun, shotgun, assault rifle, or trusty pistol. The controls feel right, are responsive, and they never get in the way of what you’re trying to do like lesser titles.
Combat is pretty generic, pretty much in line with other 3rd person shooters. You take cover, use R2 to bring up your weapon, and L2 to fire. Again, this combat system is lifted straight from Uncharted so fans of that game will feel right at home when the shooting starts. One thing missing from combat is the inability to hang from a ledge or cliff and draw your weapon. In fact, I believe that Lara can’t blind fire from behind cover or run and gun. R2 always has to be pressed to fire. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure you can’t. This is a disappointing aspect of combat, but by no means is it a game breaker. When surrounded by enemies and trying to run to the next cover spot, it would have been helpful to be able to fire while running. As you progress through the game there are several over the top, cinematic style action set pieces which are a joy to watch and a blast to play through.
There are also several quick time events which I loathe. You’re falling down a water fall and have to watch the screen, the full screen, and wait for a button prompt which takes away from the moment. Or some guy is attacking you and you have to press the corresponding button prompt as it appears. I realize that these are done to make what were once non-interactive cutscenes interactive. But, I hate them. Luckily, they are spread out pretty good and there aren’t that many of them.
You can upgrade your weapons RPG style by collecting scrap and finding treasures and raiding the optional tombs. Lara can also learn new fighting skills and other helpful skills by gaining XP and using earned ability points at camp sites. This system, and the presentation of it, reminded me of the Batman Arkham games. Also, there are optional tombs to raid with each an elaborate, but easy to solve puzzle. The result is getting tons of extra scrap to upgrade your equipment.
The plot of the game is okay, but nothing special. Despite the game being story driven the story itself is pretty generic. This is an origin story, so the main point of the game’s plot is to show how Lara goes from a young and naïve traveler into the badass Tomb Raider we all know her as. The basic plot involves a ship wreck at the beginning with Lara and the crew of the Endurance trapped on a cursed island (ummm…Uncharted…). From there, Lara must dig deep within herself and she will find her courage and resiliency necessary to complete her adventure and get off the island with as many survivors from the ship wreck as possible. Along the way she will learn that a cult of believers worshipping the Sun Queen control the island and are determined to make sure no one leaves.
The only thing that really bothered me about the story was that the first time Lara kills someone, she cries and tells herself that she had to she just had to. You really can tell that this kill bothered her right down to her soul. By the end of the game, she is such a badass and as the player you merciless kill endless hordes of enemies, that it was just a little striking given this cut scene early on. I realize this is a video game, a 3rd person shooter at that, but I don’t know, it just stuck with me. I guess one could just argue that she’s doing what she must to survive. It is really not even a huge deal, but it is there, and worth pointing out.
Overall, I liked this game a great deal. I’m really pumped to go out and play Rise of the Tomb Raider now that it is finally on PS4. It is not the most original game. It feels like Uncharted: Lara Croft Edition at times. However, Uncharted owes a lot to the original games, so it is kind of a wash for me. CD have outdone themselves in creating a new version of Lara Croft that is a true badass heroine. By the end of the game, ripped tank and all, she feels like a female version of John McClane. And, that’s all right by me!
Tomb Raider gets a B. Not the most original game, limited options in combat, and those damned quick time events hurt the grade, but it is still an awesome game that every PS4 owner should play at least once.