Happy Saturday, everyone. It’s game review time! I know it’s been a while since the last review, but today’s game pulled me in so much that I was taking my sweet time, finding every side option and hidden path. The game in question? Tomb Raider, the reboot, full of ship wrecks, cultists, compound bow sniping, and… tombs, of course.
The newest edition of the series is basically a “starting over” for Laura Croft. In this version, you start off watching her research ship break up in a storm just off a mysterious island. There are some awesome cinematics, you’re knocked unconscious, and then you awaken on the shore, where you take control. From here, your only “mission” is finding your team, and hauling ass off the island. Unfortunately, some crazy cultists and a possible elemental goddess have other ideas. The story is all about Laura surviving this crazy island, rescuing her friends, and sticking it to the bad guy(s). Since the game is still within its first year, I won’t go too deep into spoilers and whatnot, but I will say that it’s not a straightforward story. Elements of fantasy and myths swoop in, shaking things up and ensuring this isn’t just another “3rd person adventure” title.
What I can go in depth on is the game play. The best way to describe it if Call of Duty got drunk and went home with Assassin’s Creed, and then nine months later, Tomb Raider was born. It features the run, gun, and awesome action sequences of CoD, as well as the sneaking, climbing, rappelling, and stealth stabbing from AC. Of course, it adds its own flair with its salvage game play. Basically, you start off by tying a knife to a stick, and finding an old bow and some random arrows lying around. Those are your weapons, use them well. Just kidding. Through salvaging, you can loot chests and boxes and crates all over the place, earning salvage points that allow you to upgrade your weapons. That stick/knife axe? Upgrade it into a stronger stick/knife axe. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually find new weapons – shotguns, combat rifles, grenade launcher – but I found myself always going back to the trusty bow. You can upgrade it to shoot fiery arrows, tear through multiple baddies, and even shoot a rope, allowing you to rope-slide your way across huge, open expanses.
Now, I’m definitely not doing this gameplay element justice, as there are multiple upgrades for multiple weapons. And, you can loot parts and pieces of weapons to turn them into bigger and better versions. Basically, you start with just about nothing, and end as a walking armory. Which is awesome.
Another cool bit of gameplay is, well, the gameplay itself. There are cut scenes and cinematics here and there, but most of the time, the gameplay will shift into a cinematic of sorts without leaving the game itself. In other words, if you jump from a ledge onto a pole or crumbling bridge or just about anything else where you might fall to your death, the game will shift into “action/observer” mode, prompting you to hit a quick-response button in order to maintain your grip. You can’t do anything else, like move or shoot, as you focus in on this one harrowing moment, where you’re literally hanging on for dear life. I loved these moments. It was like controlling an action flick, influencing the good parts just enough to keep the main character alive.
Now, you’ll still control 85% of the action, which includes gunning your way through groups of fairly bright AI, scaling mountains, and of course raiding tombs, so don’t think this is a point and click game. Oh no, it’s face paced and full of moments that’ll make you hold your breath, especially if game time slows down. You’ll find yourself saying “nooooo” all slow motion like. It’s ok, don’t be ashamed. Oh, one more nice gameplay aspect – your enemies are vulnerable at different locations on their bodies. Shoot them in the head, they’ll die. Shoot them in the legs, and they’ll stumble and be all incapacitated like. Get close enough to melee with them, and you’ll be able to dodge around before finishing with a rock-climber’s axe to the side of their head (which is done in one of those aforementioned moments of “observation”). There’s so many layers, and you’ll just need to play it to experience it all.
Now, with all this awesome gameplay, does it have the looks to back it up. Oh yeah. It’s super pretty. Sunlight, particles, water droplets on the camera, blood, scars, clothes falling apart. It’s all there. The physics are spot on as well. Shoot a dude in the face with a shotgun, he’ll fly back a bit (not halfway across the map). I didn’t find a single aspect of this game’s graphics that I didn’t like. There was no clipping, so jagged edges, no weird face glitches. Scenery looked life-like, and the characters were captured perfectly. Even fingers moved independently, not that whole hand lobster claw thing that a lot of games give their characters. I don’t have much to say about it, other than it looks brilliant. Just take a look.
Working hand in hand with the visuals is the sound. And it’s just as good. The sound effects match the gameplay perfectly. Zip line down a rope, and you’ll hear the screeching hum of your axe handle over the rope. Walk through a cave and listen for the distant drops of water. Just like the graphics, I didn’t find one negative sound, song, scream, voice, gunshot, or otherworldly growl. Combined with the looks, you’ll be pulled into the very heart and soul of the game, unable to claw your way out. Which is good, since that’s pretty much what the game is about.
As an added awesome bonus cherry, this game rocks some pretty nice replay value. As you’re playing, you’ll come across campsites where you can upgrade your gear and your stats and whatnot. These sites also act as way points, allowing you to travel back to earlier stages in the game and explore even more. There are secret areas, tombs, hidden treasures, and challenges all over the place, and fast travelling back and forth between the campsites ensures that you’ll be able to find everything packed into this game. There’s also a multiplayer option, which has a few different modes of shooting your friends in the face. The guns and equipment you unlock and upgrade during the single player story carry over to the multiplayer, extending the gameplay out even farther. Which is pretty awesome. You won’t find any Call of Duty style involvement here (the multiplayer matches are just eight players), but multiple game modes and maps will keep things fresh. However, it’s not all happy times here. Eventually, you’ll find every hidden treasure, and burn every flag and whatnot. And, you’ll probably never be able to find anyone using the multiplayer feature (it’s a single player game, the multiplayer is just a bonus). But, it’s a minor set back, one that can easily be looked over.
If there’s one thing I’d like a potential player of this game to take away from this review, it’s this: this game is as close to a complete package of perfection as anything else that’s out there. Superb graphics and sound, gripping story, compelling and slick gameplay, and even worthwhile replayability power collide and produce this gem of a game. I found myself involved with the story, hanging on every word and action, and then charging forth to shoot a dude in face because he looked at me funny. Any fan of the action/adventure and shooter genres will love Tomb Raider, as well as anyone who loves deep involvement and humanization of the characters you’re playing. The only negative I could find about the game was the lack of long term replayability, but even that isn’t really a negative. The worst aspects of this game were that it ended, and now I have to wait to play the upcoming sequel. So please, treat yourself, and immerse yourself into the awesomeness that is Tomb Raider. You’ll quickly see why it earns a stellar A.
Overall: 9.8/10 A
There were so many aspects of this game that can be paired with a beer. The excitement, the surprises, the run n’ gunning. Or, perhaps I could pair it with Laura herself. She starts out as a scared young woman, fighting for her life, and ends the game as one of the most bad ass characters out there. At one point, she even screams “You’d better run, you bastards!” So, why don’t I pair a beer that includes all of that. Ok, no beer can really portray “getting shot in the head with an arrow”, unless it’s agonizingly horrible. Instead, my beer choice combines big, dark flavors with sweet freshness to create a one of a kind beer. It’s Southern Tier’s Warlock, an Imperial Stout filled to the brim with sweet and spicy pumpkin pie flavor. This creates a heavy, mouth clinging feel of an imperial stout, with that awesomely seasonal pumpkin pie flavor. It will take some time to drink, which is perfect because the game will steal hours upon hours of your life.
This beer also does a great job showing dual sides. Imperial stouts are typically big, bold, full of life and flavor, and crazy powerful. This beer is all that, with sweet kick of pumpkin and spices. On the other hand, Laura begins as a sweet archeologist, believing only in what Science can show her. By the end of the game, she’ll have racked up a body count large enough to make Kratos applaud, while changing into a bold, powerful character. It’s good stuff. So, give the beer a try while you can. It’s seasonal, so I suggest running to the store right now. Tell them I sent you (they’ll probably just look at you funny).