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[Video Game Review] Tomb Raider (2013)

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Game Summary: Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Publisher: Square Enix

Designer: Darrell Gallagher

Writer: Rhianna Pratchett

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Review: by Anthony

When the news and first images came out depicting a "dark and gritty" reboot to the Tomb Raider series, I was intrigued and ready to do backflips while dual wielding pistols and run through caves killing tigers like in previous Tomb Raider games.  The initial game art looked all too familiar, as though they had a copy of the next Uncharted game with a female lead. Lara was covered in mud and wounds and bandages, so it had the gritty part down but what about "dark"? I picked up the game on release, and the game starts out with your boat sinking in a terrible storm as you shipwreck on this island east of Japan. As I started to get into the flow of the game, my question of how dark this game would be was quickly answered.

What I Liked:

The game starts off with some quick time event button pressing as you escape the sinking ship, and if you mess up the timing for these sequences you’re quickly introduced to one of my favorite parts of this game, dying.  The deaths of Lara Croft are both gruesome and painful to watch, so much so that I played the game not wanting to die at all.  I didn’t want to die, not because I’d have to start over at the last checkpoint or end of cut scene  but because I didn’t want poor Lara to suffer some terribly violent Saw-like death.  There’s one part in the game where you’re parachuting into a forest, and you have to navigate left and right trying to avoid the broken tree branches along the way.  If you miss, Lara gets impaled by a tree branch through the torso.  There’s blood all on the tree limb sticking out of her back, and she screams in agony from the gruesome and vivid death.  The detailed deaths weren’t just saved for Lara in this game, though.  Getting a head shot with the bow and arrow yielded a sickening yet satisfying sound of the twang of the bow and the squish of the head shot, which leads me to the rest of the visuals and the audio.  The island the game takes place looks beautiful, but the enemy buildings are just…not.

Although the shooting and gun battles in this game are great, the RPG elements were not skimped on: exploration, upgradable skill charts, collecting items and challenges are all here waiting to be completed.

The game rewards fully exploring each area, and collecting all the collectible items, such as relics and letters, in the area will net you extra experience points that can be attributed to Lara’s 3 skill set trees: Survivor, Hunter, and Brawler.  In addition to experience points used to customize Lara’s skills, there are salvage points in the game.  Salvage points can be found in crates and looted from enemies and hunted prey, and they can be used to upgrade Lara’s weapons.

The game follows a rather direct linear path; however, you’re able to revisit areas, so certain buildings, paths, and tombs that could not previously be accessed can be fully explored once acquiring or upgrading an already owned tool or weapon.

The game’s soundtrack does a great job of setting the mood.  It knows when to be present and  full, like when you’re discovering a new area, but it also knows when to be absent, allowing you to take in Lara’s footsteps, the burning of her torch, and the sound of branches breaking when she’s walking through brush and exploring parts of the island for relics and tombs.

What I Didn’t Like:

The multiplayer was just terrible.  After I completed the single player, I wanted to play more.  I really wanted a “New Game +” or something along those lines where I could start a new game but keep all my weapons, items, and upgraded skills from the end.  Instead, I tried out a bit of multiplayer and was just turned off.  Some of the “dark and gritty” was purely unbelievable. I know you’re supposed to suspend disbelief. I mean this is a video game after all; however, when Lara gets shot or stabbed or impaled in a cutscene and is holding her wounded side but  crawls around in some blood infested pool of swamp island water, it’s like “come on, I know she has some kinda dysentery or something.”

You can purchase Tomb Raider from Amazon here:

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