6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Casino Royale of Tomb Raider games,
This review is from: Tomb Raider (PS3) (Video Game)
I've played every Tomb Raider game to date and enjoyed most of them. The first three were very good puzzle, action, adventure games with great visuals and epic music. The fourth one was the absolute pinnacle of PS1 games (if you just forget MGS existed of course). The fifth continued the brilliance. Thus, if we compare these games to the Bond films, these were the Connery ones. Unfortunately, then we move to PS2 and have George Lazenby. We don't talk about that game (you know the one). Then we have the trilogy of Legend, Anniversary and Underworld. All of which I thought were fun games to play, but had little substance, kind of like Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan.
So now they've decided to go right back to the beginning, make it grittier, make Lara less experienced, and generally reinvent a series. It's difficult not to see the parallels with Casino Royale.
While I was excited about the game, I was still hesitant. She had a bow, and not her trademark double pistols. There didn't seem to be the wide lonely vistas of previous games. But still, Tomb Raider.
The first thing you're going to notice is that big red 18 on the front. This makes probably the biggest departure from previous games. There is a lot of gore. Lara can die in any number of gruesome ways, and Lara can kill in any number of equally gruesome ways. There is a lot more swearing in it than in any other TR game. And it is a creepy game; definitely not one for the kids.
So. We start off being shipwrecked and after getting out of a cave, you have to learn to survive. You find a bow and kill a few animals with it. It's a nice mechanic and easy to use. You can control the pull back the bow string, and it has real consequences. Until I got the hang of it (read: before I knew I could do this) my arrows just kept bouncing off the deers and frightening them away. I feel safe saying that by the end of the game, this bow is the best weapon. I just loved using it. Later, Lara finds a pistol and kills her first human being. This is a pivotal moment. She's in a fight for her life and you control her through an interactive cutscene. There's a short scene afterwards where she laments the fact she just murdered a person. It feels right. And you feel these are the steps she's taken to become the woman we see in the first game.
Now this brings me onto the interactive cutscenes. These don't always gel with me. I don't like to watch a film while being shown which buttons to press and when, but thankfully, they're not too numerous. What I do like however is something similar. Quite often, you'll be walking through a house and suddenly it explodes, and you have to run through it desperately looking for where to jump. No hints are given, you have to use you instincts, or sometimes just blindly jump because you can't go anywhere else. These moments are intense and I loved them. One time, I was falling down some rapids and kept making the wrong move and ended up speared through the neck. Frustrating, but the good kind.
As to combat, it just works. I don't think I've ever had combat be this user friendly (though I don't play that many games so I could easily have missed some others like this). Each button on the D-pad corresponds to a different weapon, so switching between the machine gun for long range, and the shotgun for pointblank shots is quick and easy. Also, with the case of the bow, you can have three different functions: normal arrow, flaming arrow, and rope arrow. Pressing up on the D-pad again once you've got your bow out will ignite the tip; and you can use either R1 or R2 to fire, where R1 just fires a normal arrow, and R2 attaches rope to it. Then when you get close to an enemy, you can make melee attacks with the triangle button. There's absolutely no need to cycle through menus to get your desired weapon. It's awesome.
Weapons and skills do need to be upgraded though. You do this by earning skill points (not entirely sure how, but I still managed to gain them), and you can spend them on different skills depending on what you want to be able to do. The same with upgrading weapons, you pick up salvage along the way and you can use this to change things about your weapons by spending salvage points. All of this is really easy and you'll eventually be wanting to collect enough salvage to get the brilliant explosive tipped arrows.
The story is very good, lots of mystery, betrayal, insane villain. It basically seems like what Lost should have been what with the mysterious island populated by crazy natives who can't get off the island because of strange circumstances. The story is an origin story, so Lara is green, but she grows throughout the game, from being upset about killing someone, to shouting at her victims about how she's going to kill them during fights. But it is only at the very end when she gets her double pistols and you use them precisely once, but it feels like she is now the Lara Croft we all know and love.
The graphics are amazing, and the level of detail gone into it is insane. Lara gets beaten and scratched as you play, and it's just a macabre kind of joy you get just looking at her scars or torn clothing and how it's changed since you began and how they haven't just kept her pristine throughout. It is often said Lara is a female Indiana Jones, but I would add that there is more than a little John Mclane in her too.
If anything lets the game down it is its length. Though a couple of times I did think it was about to end just before it showed me there was more to come. The ending fight was a bit anticlimactic and you fought an Oni, a demonic lackey of the real supernatural villain, but not the villain itself. The human villain was dispatched through interactive cutscenes and was quickly over. The biggest letdown though was that the act of tomb raiding seemed to be relegated to a side quest. Most of the tombs you enter can be skipped and are little more than 'secrets'; it feels like they only put these in to justify the name, despite it never bothering them before. But these things did not make the game any less fun to play.
Although I've only completed it the once, the game does appear to have high replay ability. More so than any other games in the series to date. There are many collectibles, such as relics or diary entries to find which give you more insight into the island. There are tombs to raid, and statues to find, and weapons to upgrade, and skills to learn. There's also a multiplayer facility (another first), which I haven't, nor do I intend to play, but it's a nice addition for those who are interested. You can also unlock various special features such as behind the scenes videos, character art and models. It seems to be a game that you can't play just the once.
All in all, a fantastic game, with great graphics, awesome combat, decent puzzles, and good story.