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GAMING REVIEW: Iconic 'Tomb Raider' returns better than ever
Title: Tomb Raider
Format: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: $49.99 – $59.99
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
The grade: A –
What is it?
A reboot of one of gaming’s most legendary franchises. The original “Tomb Raider” enthralled players when it was first released in 1996 and its subsequent sequels and two films have led to a popular series with one of gaming’s most beloved characters. In this modernized origin story, players witness Lara Croft grow from wide-eyed adventurer into full-blown, gun-toting, cave-spelunking butt kicker.
Classic yet modern. One of the most complicated things to pull off when rebooting a franchise is being true to the original but also giving a well respected series a modern feel. “Tomb Raider” manages to pull this off wonderfully. Everything that fans of the franchise love is here but done in a new way that’s more appropriate for today’s gamer. There are tombs to explore, bad guys to fight and puzzles to solve. But developer Crystal Dynamics keeps things fresh by subtly mixing up exactly how players choose to have Lara complete her tasks. You can charge in guns blazing. You can be stealthy. Or you can mix the two. The maps in the game are also skillfully connected, allowing for travel between areas and giving what could be a linear title a sandbox feel.
She’s a beauty. Lara Croft is one of gaming’s most recognizable icons and in this game, she’s just as eye catching as always, even if her signature curves have been toned down to make her look more Jennifer Garner than Christina Hendricks. But the real beauty in this title isn’t just Lara, it’s in the attention to detail the developers have given to the game. The game presentation is first rate and includes beautiful and varied environments and excellent voice acting from Camilla Luddington (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Californication”). Gamers will also appreciate “Tomb Raider’s” clever pacing. Crystal Dynamics knew just when to speed up the action and when to slow it down. This gives gamers time to catch their breath and explore.
Quick time events. Every now and then something will happen to Lara that will trigger a QTE. Maybe it’s a wolf jumping out unexpectedly or perhaps it’s running through an area and dodging hazardous falling objects. Whatever the peril, the QTEs in this game are a nuisance. They’re meant to add a different element to the action but don’t have any useful impact on the gameplay and do nothing but interrupt the game’s well-balanced pace. If you die failing to complete a QTE (and you will), players just keep trying again and again until learning the easy way to decipher QTE pattern correctly. Luckily, these events are infrequent.
Mediocre multiplayer. The multiplayer offering in “Tomb Raider” isn’t worth your time. It’s laggy, the targeting is wonky and it feels flat-out uninspired, as if it were tacked on at the last minute because every developer feels like they have to offer multiplayer nowadays. Thankfully this won’t affect your overall gameplay experience, but it’ll sure make you wonder where the developer could have better used their resources in the single-player campaign. Coop or DLC maybe?
I had a blast playing “Tomb Raider” and I loved having such an iconic gaming character back in my life. Whether I was in a shoot out, scaling walls or searching for loot, there was always something exciting to do in this game. Crystal Dynamics has provided a blue print for other developers on how to reboot a franchise. With “Tomb Raider,” Lara Croft has retaken her rightful place as the queen of the action adventure genre.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.