by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
A fresh face
Lara Croft wasn’t always the action packed adventurer that we’ve come to know and love. This reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise sends us back to those days when she was a young inexperienced woman on her first archaeological expedition. She begins aboard a ship known as the Endurance as part of a team led by a celebrity archaeologist, Dr James Whitman on the trail of the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Lara suggest that they begin looking around the Dragon’s Triangle, and despite the protestations of the famed archaeologist, they head in that direction.
Unfortunately, a freak storm appears out of nowhere and the ship is ripped apart and leaves the crew stranded on a tropical island. The surviving crew has been split up and Lara attempts to find them. The crew is not alone on the island though, and Lara is captured. She manages to escape and meets up with her friend Samantha and a mysterious stranger. Tired, she falls asleep, only to wake up to find the stranger and Sam have disappeared. Lara then meets up with some of the other crew members and sets off to search for Sam, but the island holds some secrets and it is up to Lara to begin her apprenticeship.
A well told story
The wonderfully presented story gives an indication why the island is now sparsely inhabited. The story is told in a variety of mediums – there are cut-scenes during gameplay that push the story as it progresses, there is a video camera backstory, showing events on board the ship, leading up to the point that the Endurance is wrecked by the storm, and there are journals from various authors as well as artefacts that Lara finds scattered around the island that inform her of the history of the island. The story progresses in a way that you want to know what happens next, just like a good movie. And the narrative of the game certainly makes it feel like one big cinematic experience.
Lara begins the game as a stereotypical vulnerable, somewhat naïve and innocent young lady. And although she is somewhat guided through the game by her friends, she definitely becomes more empowered as her journey progresses. Indeed, the first time she has to kill someone, it feels like a confronting experience for her, but she soon learns that it is a case of ‘kill or be killed’.
Freedom of the island
Tomb Raider contains some very open environments. There is, of course a fairly linear main plotline directed by Lara’s ‘survival instinct’, a mode that turns your vision black and white, with the objectives identified in a yellow-gold outline or as a diamond icon showing a particular location. I found that I hardly needed the function for the main story missions, but I occasionally had to check it when I went searching off the main track. It certainly pays to search the locations off the main tracks thoroughly, as special crates containing salvage parts can help to improve your weapons and other gear you are carrying.
You will also come across artefacts that help in two ways – gaining XP, and as mentioned previously help to give an account of the history of the island and its inhabitants. Although the relics and journals found through the island are important to the story, it is the parts and the XP that are important for the gameplay as they can be used to upgrade your weapons, gear and skills.
Not just a shooter
Lara is back to her best, in an athletic sense. She runs, leaps over large gaps, jumps up on ledges, shimmies around corners, ascends mountainsides with her pick, tightrope walks across narrow ledges and even slides down wires with the help of her bow or climbing axe. And she will have to use all her skills if she is to solve the puzzles that uncover the secrets to the island.
Visually stunning, great controls and a great story
Some of the quick time events can be frustrating