The Ninjabot

Tomb Raider Review

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm by Justin Cavender

Tomb Raider 1


We all remember the classic Tomb Raider games. Lara Croft was made up from a handful of pixels to showcase her big breasts, tank top, and shorts. Sure, she looked as sexy as possible (in those days), but I was never able to engage in the story or sympathize with her character on the slightest level. Crystal Dynamics has pushed Tomb Raider to the limits by giving Lara Croft depth, personality, and raw emotion, allowing the players to connect with her in a way like never before.

By now I’m sure you know this is an origin story, where a young Lara is on her first expedition in search of a hidden temple located on an island. Unfortunately, a shipwreck leaves Lara and her crew stranded and wounded on the island they were searching for. I would say for about the first hour you follow a series of scripted events, which allows you to get comfortable with the controls and your environment. It’s mostly for the sake of character development, but it really helps sell Lara’s transformation to the fearless woman we know her to be.

The presentation in Tomb Raider is top notch. The incredible graphics detailing everything from her facial expressions, cuts, blood, and dirty clothes enable us to connect with Lara on a deeper level. The voice acting by Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy), is excellent as well. There are times when she just feels so broken and tired, but keeps moving forward to survive. Players really get a taste of these emotions when Lara is forced to take a life. That line is crossed and there is no going back. There is regret at first, but before you know it, she’s killed a thousand bad guys and literally has bathed in blood. The island features many different environments including: mountains, beaches, caves, temples and derelict buildings. The island can feel open and large when you’re topside, but extremely claustrophobic when exploring caves or tombs. This is especially apparent when some creeper is after you or you wake up in chains with skinned bodies all around you. There is actually a decent amount gore in Tomb Raider, which kind of surprised me.

Tomb Raider 4

Tomb Raider also features some gruesome death scenes and there were times when I felt uncomfortable with how Lara’s death was portrayed. On one occasion, I was caught in a trap which hung Lara upside down. An enemy grabbed her by the hair and slit her throat. I could see the look of horror and death in her eyes. It was pretty disturbing. Another horrible death scene that stood out involved being impaled by a spear in the throat and out the top of my head. The animation has Lara grab the spear with both hands and chokes for a moment before dying. It’s horrible and I hope I never have to know what that feels like.

The controls are fairly intuitive and easily mastered. The d-pad allows weapon swapping in or out of combat feel seamless. Your weapons also feature secondary attacks and alternative ammunition. For example, your bow can be used with normal arrows or you can fire flaming arrows by pressing up on the d-pad. Press it twice and it will save that load-out to always fire whichever arrow you like best. Personally, I like shooting flame arrows because even if I miss my target, they might still catch fire from the burning environment. The secondary feature on the bow shoots an arrow connected to a rope, which can be used for climbing or pulling down heavy objects. Weapons may be upgraded which will vastly improve their performance. Upgrades can be completed by salvaging parts found in crates or looted off corpses.

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Combat might seem a little weird at first, but once you get the hang of dodging incoming attacks and keeping your head down, it’s smooth sailing from there. I will say the A.I. can be a bit silly sometimes, but your enemies try their hardest to keep you pinned down. Don’t give them an inch or they will fill it with fire and bullets. My only gripe with the combat is the use of quick time events. I can’t stand trying to watch amazing events unfold, only to die by pressing the wrong button.

Of course Tomb Raider wouldn’t be complete without fun puzzles for us to solve. The game features a “survival instincts” button which highlight objects of interest that you can interact with in some way. This means you are able to loot, shoot, climb, grab, or set fire to said objects. I would like to point out that most of the puzzles found on the island may be avoided during the story campaign. Of course you can go at your own pace and find all the treasure you like, but you may also return after the story is complete. It’s entirely up to you, fellow adventurer.

The game does feature a multiplayer mode, which is forgettable at best. It feels one-sided and the maps aren’t all that fun. I’ll probably never play the multiplayer mode again, and it has no affect on my review.

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Tomb Raider is an excellent game and I would recommend it to anyone that has a taste for adventure. Crystal Dynamics should feel proud of what they have accomplished in reinventing the franchise. Games like Uncharted and Far Cry 3 have set the bar pretty high for gamer’s expectations and replay value. The story is engaging from start to finish with moments of pure terror and excitement.  I look forward to Lara’s next adventure which can’t come soon enough.

Presentation: 9.5

Gameplay: 9

Replay Value: 8.5


This review was based on a retail version for PlayStation 3. Tomb Raider is available for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 and is rated M for Mature.

You can follow Justin on Twitter @Edgyarmo.

    • spacejock

      Fun game and the story kept me interested as well. I'm glad I got to go back to find all the hidden items. No pressure during the campaign.

    • Lisa

      Agreed, Tomb Raider was fantastic and I can't wait for Lara's next adventure.

    • fuzz

      The death animations for Lara made me cringe. One time a giant boulder feel on her head. Sad panda.

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