Tomb Raider, the re-imagining of the First Lady of modern gaming, Lara Croft, is simply breathtaking.
The substantial plot takes you back to square one, so to speak: Lara’s first life or death adventure. One of Square Enix’ main focuses with rebooting the arguably tired series (but one with a still-relevant brand name ingrained in gamers’ collective minds) was to make Ms. Croft’s adventure as cinematic and harrowing as possible. And you will see, as the finely crafted tale unfolds, their emphasis on emotional impact truly does enhance the experience tenfold. This is NOT the cocksure Lara that the franchise was built around. This is a green Lara, an untested Lara. She’s scared, she’s crying, she’s bleeding… a lot, and if you don’t feel bad for her at some point in your playthrough, I’m pretty sure that’s a great indicator that you obviously do not have a soul.
But gotta hand it to Lara, she’s a trooper and she trudges ever-onward in an attempt to save not only the people that she cares about, but her own finely toned hide in the process. And speaking of “tone,” the feel of the game gives off a much more Rambo-meets-Cast Away vibe than the previous incarnations’ James Bond-meets-Indiana Jones, and it works beautifully. Yes, yes, people will argue that the tone shifts gears rather quickly when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, and they would be correct. But I understand why they did it. This is a video game, after all. Lara shift gears from sobbing over her first kill-or-be-killed scenario to literally remorselessly killing hundreds of enemies faster than you can say La Femme Nikita. But I’m sorry, it’s a “damned if ya’ do or damned if ya’ don’t” scenario. For example, focus on character development, and it becomes less of an action title. Or focus on action, and then it lacks meaningful plot. You can’t please everyone, I suppose.
Now the graphics are among the best that the current gen can offer, which is to be expected of any Square Enix project. But it’s when they shift focus away from the stealthy combat and give their grandiose Hollywood action setpieces the spotlight, that’s where this game gives the amazing Uncharted series a more than welcome run for it’s money. Seriously, I haven’t felt this gleefully lethal with a bow and arrow since Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on Nintendo 64. The biggest drawback of this game would have to be the online multi-player support. I mean, when the developers of the game officially come out and say that it wasn’t ready, and they probably should’ve just scrapped the whole idea… yeah, not a great sign.
But regardless of it’s minor drawbacks, THIS is unequivocally the Tomb Raider we’ve waited for since we first had Lara’s jarringly pixelated rack thrust into our collective faces way, way back long, long ago (i.e. 1996), and is the only time in the past ten years that I’ve honestly been able to say I’m excited to see where this series is headed next. Oh, and Lara’s infamous death scenes? F*ckin’ brutal! There must be nearly a hundred unique death animations, each more gruesome & depraved than the last! Without a doubt, Tomb Raider is literally the most fun you can possibly have viciously abusing a twenty-something-year-old girl this side of life imprisonment.