Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tomb Raider

Gamespot Score: 8.5 (Great)

My Score: 8.8

(+)Pros: - Lengthy main adventure, - Great story that builds on Laura's character, - Excellent stealth and combat mechanics, - Controlling Laura feels smoother than most other games in the genre, -  Breathtaking visuals and incredibly varied environments, - Tons of upgrades that can be purchased as Laura "levels up" or salvages for loot, - Intense puzzle solving via tombs for the hardcore, - Strikes a great balance between main story content and optional content.

(-)Cons: - Meh multiplayer that PALES in comparison to the main story mode, - While the entire game is fun, it takes quite awhile for it to ramp up and become challenging.

Gameplay time: 15 hours or so

It takes a lot for a game to be as great as "Tomb Raider". A 3rd person action stealth adventure isn't exactly the rarest of game types nowadays, but making one work as well as "Tomb Raider" is a pretty amazing feat. With some of the best visuals and gameplay mechanics around, the game is a technical wonder to no end, almost "Uncharted" level, some would even argue that "Tomb Raider" IS better than "Uncharted". Portraying Laura's orgin story, the game is pretty much a reboot of the already popular series, meaning that it'll appeal to both fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. I myself am a newcomer, I've watched "Tomb Raider" films but I've never played a single game of it. As my first one, this reboot really gives me an awesome impression of what the franchise can offer.

Laura Croft is the famous tomb raider, known across the world. But not everything starts as it should be. Focusing on Laura in her early 20s, it shows how she got into the entire "tomb raiding" thing. She was on a ship to study the culture of the himiko on the Bahamas, along with a set of crew, included are a seasoned veteran and her friends. The ship gets wrecked by the storm, and the entire crew is stranded ashore. Laura is split from the entire crew, and seemingly captured. She wakes up in a cave, and immediately tries to escape. She soon finds out that she has been taken into custody in the island that she and her group had been searching for in the first place. With many things, her and her friends' lives at stake, Laura must search for a way so that she and her crew can return home safely, all whilst trying to uncover the secret of the sun goddess's tomb.

So it begins..

As mentioned earlier, this is my entry to the "Tomb Raider" franchise as far as games are concerned, this is my very first "Tomb Raider" game, and I'm lucky that it is so. I thought it'd be something similar to that akin of "Dishonored" , with a rather short campaign. Well "Tomb Raider" is a lot longer than it looks. Many times during the game I'd tell myself, "well I guess the game ends here", but right after the cutscene there's something new to do. For a triple A experience, you will be keeping yourself on edge for the entire lengthy campaign, which is a good 15 hours AT LEAST, and easily more if you're one to go for tomb puzzles and discovering relics.

The story also works really well here. Since this is mostly a tale about Laura and how she became the badass chick that she is considered nowadays, it was really intriguing to see how Laura grows as a character in this origin story. You see her go through many trails and situations that a normal young adult normally would, and you see her change as the game progresses. How she progressively gets tougher, braver, more resilient to pain, or how to handle certain situations seems nice, and you can relate to that, because you were there seeing through everything (seriously, try not to skip cutscenes for the first time, the story for this game is  really great).

Aim....shoot stuff. Rinse and repeat.

"Tomb Raider" actually has a lot of gameplay to it. Platforming and running around feels really fluid, the flow of movement is flawless. As an action/adventure/stealth hybrid, there are some really well done gameplay mechanics here. How you sneak around is key, because there are usually many enemies lurking around at once. Having Laura crouch behind trees, boxes or performing parkour to get to unnoticeable areas so that you can get the jump on your mechanics. Controlling Laura feels smooth here, and this gives you an easy way of freedom around your surroundings, which means a lot more than you think.

If you don't like the way of the sneak, then upfront combat is an option for all you battle-hungry bastards. Laura is but a mere young woman, thus having her die to enemy fire is more common than not. While most of the game has you battling small to medium group sized enemies at most (thus you'll find yourself having the jump on your enemies and dispatching them with ease), its the large groups that jump you late game which proves to be dangerous. Laura has lots of tools up her sleeve, ranging from the trusty bow (my favorite snipe and quickfire weapon), to pistols, rifles and even shotguns. She has a machete to smack someone across the face, but Laura will take a lot more damage from enemies up close, so that's more of a last resort move.

You'll be swarmed with things to do most of the time.

Despite being on an island throughout the entire game, your environments are varied. There are snowy mountains, tribe camps, temples, savaged ships and caves....your surroundings affect how you fight in combat. Taking cover behind a box or rusted plate costs you dearly if you don't make your move quickly. Enemy fire tears through most walls, so in the appropriate environment, you need different tactics. Huge wide spaces like caves or forests allow you to play the role of a predator, taking enemies out one by one with them knowing that you're lurking around somewhere. Lets not forget you're doing all this while looking fabulous too, since the game has some of the best graphics around (minus BF 3 on ultra). Super high settings can get Laura's hair to be animated PER STRAND OF HAIR.

As you explore the many different locations of the island, you'll discover landmarks or relics that will grant you some insight on the history of what's going on. They'll also grant Laura some XP, which can be used for upgrades. This very same XP is also received from taking down enemies. You'll also get salvage, both from spoils during battle or some gathering. Mostly though, you'll need salvage, which opens upgrades for your much needed weapons. These include zooms for better aiming, reduced recoil for better handling, or just better damage overall. You know the drill, however, its worth noting that getting your bows to fire flaming arrows at an enemy is just so satisfying overall.

Upgrading time.

The game wouldn't be called "Tomb Raider" without a little tomb raiding now, wouldn't it? Ever feel like you need a little puzzle in your game? Look no further for the optional tombs in "Tomb Raider" are here to seemingly crack open your thick headed skull. Most of the main game is easily streamed through with just battle tactics alone, but if you feel like you need a mental challenge, there are little "tombs" spread across the different locations of the island that you can tackle for some relics, XP and salvage. These are completely optional, and for good reason, they're HARD. 

These tombs take EVERYTHING you've learnt throughout the game until that point and expects you to use them all masterfully. Thankfully, the game tells you whether or not you have the required equipment needed to tackle said tomb, but even when you have all the equipment needed, you may find yourself scratching your head while inside the tomb, asking yourself , "What in the flying f**k am I missing?". However, as earlier mentioned these are thankfully optional, and if you intend to tackle these tombs, you'll be spending A LOT OF TIME on them, so much that its become a part of the core main experience. Do attempt these tombs, but only let last minute desperation drive you to use an FAQ (I used an FAQ during the 2nd tomb already).

Honestly, I never played much multiplayer.

Its good to note that the game has multiplayer, but its also worth to note that it really doesn't deserve your attention. I mean its good that there IS multiplayer, but its so vanilla (team deathmatch, free for all, a mode where you search for supplies)! The brilliant single player campaign far outshines the multiplayer so much that it might as well not have existed in the first place! As mentioned earlier, the game also feels too easy until a certain point in the game (probably the 60% mark). The AI isn't exactly smart, and until they relentlessly gang up on you like a pack of wolves jumping on a single deer, you're not going to have that much of a hard time clearing the game. 

"Tomb Raider" is an amazing game overall with so much to like. The entire main campaign is nothing short of awesome, outshining its multiplayer so much that it feels like its a burden. The game is worth more than its value SOLELY for the single player campaign alone, just because there's so much that's done so well. If you're looking for an "Uncharted" esque experience, there's no reason "Tomb Raider" shouldn't be on your list already.

 Here's a moe Laura Croft just for you!

Happy gaming!