Experience Lara like never before.
Since the original Tomb Raider in 1998, protagonist Lara Croft has turned into a global icon. Passing through multiple console generations, to even starting in her own films. Now, over fifteen years since the original, Square Enix have decided to reboot that franchise that made her famous. This isn't a typical reboot, as it focuses more on Lara's younger years. It's an origin story, showing us how Lara became the tomb raiding kick-ass chick we all know. It's a far more dark and gritty adventure. The mature rating provides a more serious and realistic approach. It's very gripping, and that's not something many games achieve.
The opening sequence has Lara and her crew shipwrecked on an ancient island, known as Yamatai. Lara is separated from her friends, leaving her to survive on her own two feet. To begin with, Lara awakes to find herself tied and hanging upside down. It's a very intense and disturbing opening. The first hour or so focuses on Lara's escape and how she adapts to the island. You begin by lighting a torch, slowly moving through dark enclosed caves. It's not long before a steady stroll turns into a frantic chase.Quick-time events pop up throughout, but they are well implemented. It adds to the intensity of Lara's escape, and keeps you on your toes. The whole opening sequence is a rush of adrenaline, with great orchestral score in the background.
Something that Square Enix have nailed is the presentation. It's immediate that your playing a quality game. The detail to the environments are impressive, and Lara looks great too. Her animations are very realistic looking, and she reacts to changes in the environment. Whether it's moving through a snowy blizzard, or shivering in cold rainy weather. She is very emotional at the start, and it's hard not to feel sorry for her. One moment in particular has her complaining she's hungry. This is the first time you kill in the game. Lara is soon forced to kill a deer, but then apologies for taking it's life. It's a very touchy moment, but seems odd when you begin to kill more without any regret.
The entire game takes place on Yamatai, which is immediately different to past Tomb Raider outings. Instead of separate levels, you will travel across the island, unlocking areas as you go. The environments are spacious and incredibly detailed. It makes exploring very enjoyable, and there's plenty of hidden collectibles to make it worth while. The most important collectible, though, is Salvage. This is used as in-game currency, which allows you to upgrade Lara's arsenal. Visiting a nearby campfire will bring up a well crafted skill tree system. From here, you can purchase upgrades for any weapons Lara has. There's plenty of upgrades to keep you busy, so there's always reason to return to a camp.
Platforming has always been a key ingredient to the series. It's not gone unnoticed here, but it's far more refined. There's plenty of climbing, leaping and swinging to do. Anyone who plays platformers will have no problem. As you progress,, the platforming becomes more interesting. New equipment is gradually given to you, allowing you to get around more creatively. For example, your Axe can be used to scale certain rock faces. It's also capable of breaking down locked doors. The one that really stands out, though, is the crossbow. Not only is it extremely accurate, it can be used in various ways. From shooting rope arrows to create zip-lines, pulling down blocked paths, and even dragging enemies off ledges. It's a fun addition that not only spices up platforming, but combat as well.
There's a nice variety of weapons for Lara's defence. Ranging from handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, to grenade launchers. The combat is rather basic, but has greatly improved. It feels fluid, and Lara cleverly positions herself behind cover. If enemies are present, Lara will automatically duck down behind objects. Doing so allows you to plan your approach. Do you go in with guns blazing, or quietly take them out with your trusty bow. Lara can also perform various finishing moves when up close and personal. An upgrade is needed, but there's many stylish and devastating ways to execute your foes.
Getting around the environment isn't always a breeze. The island does try to make Lara's time hell. The paths she takes don't always go according to plan. The environment will collapse at certain moments, sending Lara tumbling down a cliff or embankment. Moments like this are quick and frantic, requiring the player to stop Lara from hitting incoming obstacles. Lara can take a few hits, but any sharp debris will result in death. It's not very pleasant, and shows how gruesome it can be.
There are some well crafted puzzles in the game, but don't expect them too challenging. Only a few appear within the story, but this game focuses more on moving forward, rather then getting stuck on puzzles. Cleverly, Square Enix have added some puzzle-filled tombs to discover. These are optional, offering you the chance to discover them yourself. They might not be needed to advance the story, but are still worth checking out.
The story can take around 12-15 hours to complete. It's filled with many memorable moments, but that's not to be said for multiplayer. Yes, multiplayer has appeared for the first time in the series. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer the same joy as it's solo experience. It feels rather lackluster and just added for the sake of it.
The solo experience is what makes this reboot special. It captures emotion and thrills you don't experience everyday in video games. It's a great rival to the Uncharted series, and will remain one of the best platformers of all time.