Full Review: Tomb Raider (2013, PC)

This game came for free with my Radeon graphics card, along with a free copy of BioShock Infinite, making it the best graphics card purchase I’ve ever made. Both games were still full priced at $60 at the time of purchase, so I received $120 worth of video games for free. I imagine there was some back-room deal with 2K Games and Square Enix. Regardless, Tomb Raider is an important game. Someone spoke up at the publisher or at the developer and said “We need to reboot the Tomb Raider series.” The result is fantastic, though heavily influenced by other games. We are up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider as of this writing, the third title since the reboot, and based on advertising, it seems the series is once again doing very well

What I like most about this title is it often seems it’s about 70% adventuring and 30% combat. Having played the direct sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, which felt like it was at least 60% combat, I’m glad the development team went the less violent route here. I’ve never been fond of violence in games. Sometimes, I’ll allow myself to overlook the violence ~ I think Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is fantastic, for example. But there is always a better way forward than putting a gun in the protagonist’s hand.

In Tomb Raider, we are exploring a wooded part of Japan. Lara is going on an expedition to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai, when the ship she’s on gets shipwrecked. Lara is suspicious that something supernatural is preventing her and her friends from leaving the island. It turns into an episode of Survivor. Spoiler warning right now, Lara successfully sends a distress signal that attracts an airplane, but as it comes into view, the plane is struck by lightning and crashes. She is later on a helicopter, and the helicopter crashes too. Her friends are dull people. Jonah is the only character that made it into the sequel. In this title, Jonah is Hispanic, in the sequel, he is of African descent. There’s also a computer geek, an egotistical archaeologist, a female mechanic, and a classmate of Lara’s who’s a native of Japan. The friends feel arbitrary.

This game is a graphical wonder late in the 360/PS3 era. It’s quite a lush forest you wind up in. The game is smart about load times. While you will walk through narrow passages with less complicated geometry, the game is secretly loading the next scene. Even when there’s an actual load time, the load is a second or two, and you’re back in the game. This was before high dynamic range, or camera focus, or neat effects like that. The smoke looks terrible, but you must remember this is from the previous generation of consoles.

The game is 70% adventuring. There are clever puzzles that involve weight distribution, using hanging objects as wrecking balls, and basic mechanical knowledge. If you’re stuck, you can click the right analog stick to view your “survival instincts,” which highlight important objects in the room, and places a beacon at the point you’re trying to reach. Lara is very frequently near death, but somehow manages to survive. A rickety bridge might collapse, and Lara will fall through, hit a couple trees, and land in a mudslide below.

The other 30% is combat. The game actually borrows from Splinter Cell a bit, with silent take-downs from behind. You also have a bow and arrows, and taking an enemy down with the bow is also silent. Aside from your bow, you have an assault rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill, third- person shooting. There was one firefight I thought was clever, but generally running and gunning isn’t fun. The sequel has too much combat. I’m just grateful combat isn’t too frequent here.

Tomb Raider is a series that’s twelve games strong, and I have all but the twelfth game. I got the bulk of the series through a Steam sale. I’d love to play the whole series if I had the time. Tomb Raider (2013) brings the series to modern game standards. In the first 48 hours of its release, Tomb Raider sold over a million copies. As of late 2017, including Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, a port of the game to modern consoles, the game has sold more than 11 million copies, making it the bestselling Tomb Raider game in history. I recommend this title. It’s a Hollywood-level action packed roller coaster ride. Just don’t forget the sequel is a lot of guns firing.

4/5

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