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Review

Tomb Raider Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: February 25, 2013
  • X360

Tomb Raider is an exhilarating action adventure that serves as a terrific origin story for the iconic Lara Croft.

When adventurer extraordinaire Lara Croft raided her first tomb back in 1996, she brought with her an exhilarating feeling of isolation and discovery. Over the years, Lara has continued to venture into parts unknown, taking dark turns and frequently tangling with the supernatural as the series evolved alongside the burgeoning third-person action adventure genre. The gameplay of this series reboot takes a few cues from a current titan of the genre--Nathan Drake and the Uncharted series--but don't let that familiarity put you off. This origin story is a terrific adventure that balances moments of quiet exploration with plenty of rip-roaring action to keep you enthralled from start to finish.

As Tomb Raider begins, Lara is more an academic than an adventurer. But when she's shipwrecked on an island full of ancient secrets and deadly cultists, she has little choice but to learn how to survive. Lara endures a great deal of punishment early in the game, and though no small amount of that anguish is physical, it's an unpleasant moment in which a man tries to force himself on her that's most harrowing. But as unpleasant as it is, it marks an important turning point in Lara's understanding of just how hard she has to fight to survive. Rather than crumbling under the weight of her physical and emotional struggles, she emerges from them a stronger person.

It's empowering to witness Lara's journey from the understandably fearful individual she is when she first arrives on the island to the justifiably confident survivor she becomes. Later in the game, when she has proven to the resident cultists that she's not the easily cowed person they mistook her for, she turns the psychological tables on them, letting loose battle cries to strike fear into their hearts. Aspects of the story that fall outside of Lara's character arc aren't as strong; there's a twist of sorts that occurs late in the game that you see coming hours ahead of time, for instance, and the central villain offers little in the way of nuance. But as an introduction to the legendary Lara Croft, Tomb Raider's tale is a success; she emerges as a strong, charismatic and human figure, and you're left eager to see what the future holds for her.

He'll never know what hit him.

Lara's origin story deserves an extraordinary setting, and the island where Tomb Raider takes place does not disappoint. Centuries ago, it was home to a kingdom called Yamatai. Many shrines, temples, statues and other remnants of that history remain, and often, you just want to take in these places, slowly advancing through the darkness, eager to discover what's just outside the light of your torch. The island is a beautiful place, but not every discovery is a pleasant one; Yamatai's dark history is vividly communicated in piles of bones and far more grisly things.

The ancient structures of Yamatai now coexist alongside bunkers built during World War II, the wreckage of planes brought down by the storms that surround the island, and the shantytowns and makeshift machinery of the island's current inhabitants. It's a fascinating hodgepodge of the beautiful and the utilitarian; the buildings are believably nestled in their rough natural surroundings, and appear appropriately weathered, damaged, and rusty. The island really feels like a place where people have lived and where great and terrible things have happened. It's a place with many facets; it has claustrophobic caverns and breathtaking vistas, and phenomena like gentle snowfalls, torrential downpours, and fierce, howling winds make it alternately seem like a tranquil place, and a brutal one.

Dramatic camera angles frequently enhance the sense of peril.

It's immediately clear that one thing the island is not is safe, so it's a good thing that Lara soon gets her hands on a bow. You acquaint yourself with using it by hunting animals; Lara doesn't have hunger levels you need to manage or any such thing, but the deer, rabbits, crabs and other creatures that call the island home make it feel much more alive. For reasons of their own, the cult that currently occupies the island doesn't exactly welcome you with open arms, so it's not long before you need to turn that bow (and, soon, a pistol, rifle, and shotgun) on humans. Combat is varied and suspenseful; some situations give you the opportunity to take a stealthy approach, sneaking up behind enemies to perform silent kills, or firing arrows into walls to distract them and picking them off from a distance with well-aimed arrows while their comrades aren't looking. During one particularly tense battle in a fog-shrouded forest, patrolling foes hunt you with flashlights; if you can manage to stay unseen, you can shift from prey to predator, using their cones of light to pinpoint their positions and eliminating them one by one.

Then, there are the all-out firefights. When your presence is known, enemies are smart and aggressive about flushing you out from cover with grenades and Molotovs, which forces you to keep moving and act boldly. Many enemies attack from a distance while others get in close, so you need to be constantly on your toes, switching between your weapons on the fly and evading foes who attack with melee weapons. Dodging and countering melee attacks is easy, but the savage animations of Lara's counters make eliminating those foes who make the mistake of getting too close to you consistently satisfying.

Lara eventually finds powerful new tools like a grenade launcher and fire arrows, and uses the salvage she constantly collects to improve her weapons, so combat offers more flexibility and becomes more intense as you progress through the game. Throughout it all, great sound design drives home the impact of your actions; delivering a shotgun blast into the face of a nearby enemy is made all the more powerful by the resounding report the gun lets loose, and the conversations you overhear between cultists create a feeling that they're not just enemies who spawn into the environment to hinder you, but are people with histories on the island and tasks to accomplish.

As great as the combat is, it's the quieter moments in Tomb Raider that are most affecting. The simple act of moving, of shimmying along ridges and climbing up craggy rock walls, is a pleasure, thanks to the excellent controls and the fantastic environments. Once in a while, Lara appears to get a bit of divine assistance and float through the air to successfully land a jump you botched the timing on, but with these rare exceptions aside, the controls let you experience a wonderfully physical and agile relationship with your surroundings.

Lara's been making desperate leaps and grabbing on to faraway ledges since her earliest game, but it's never felt quite as good as it does here. And just as Lara acquires new weapons over the course of the game, she also gets her hands on gear that makes her more a more versatile adventurer. Particularly nifty are the rope arrows and rope ascender, the former of which enables you to create rope bridges to certain areas (among other things), and the latter of which lets you rapidly zip up ropes from a lower position. This gear gives you more freedom, and makes Lara seem like a progressively more capable and confident explorer.

Don't look down! Just kidding; you don't have a choice!

The game is at its best when you're fully in control, when you feel directly connected to Lara as she runs and leaps and clambers. But when the game does take some of that control away from you, it usually does so with skill and assurance. A number of semi-interactive scripted moments require less from you as a player, moments when the building Lara is standing on starts to crumble in spectacular fashion, or when she's being swept down a perilous river. What these sequences lack in interactivity, they make up for in spectacle. There are a few missteps; the quick-time-event-focused final confrontation ends the game on a slightly underwhelming note, for instance. But for the most part, these moments bring Tomb Raider a lot of cinematic thrills. When it comes to jaw-dropping setpieces, Lara's adventure rivals those of Indiana Jones and Nathan Drake.

Lara is still an explorer at heart, and although there aren't vast open spaces to frolic in on the island, there are plenty of reasons to look around and venture off the beaten path. There are relics to find that offer clues to the island's history and journals that lend some insight into the experiences of the island's residents, past and present. Best of all are the numerous optional tombs you might happen upon during your journey. These chambers always consist of an environmental puzzle that you must solve, and these are generally just challenging enough to make you stop and think for a moment, but never drag down the pace of your adventure. Completing tombs earns you experience and sometimes parts you can use to improve your weapons, as well as maps that reveal the locations of the collectibles scattered around that part of the island. These tombs also function as character building through gameplay; as you guide Lara through these challenges to the rewards that await, it's easy to understand how she develops a taste for the tomb raiding and treasure hunting that will shape her future.

The multiplayer component is not the reason to play Tomb Raider.

In addition to the excellent campaign, there's an enjoyable but unremarkable competitive multiplayer component. There are four modes, all of which are pretty typical: a team deathmatch and a free for all, as well as two modes in which teams score points by completing basic objectives. It feels great to land a headshot on another player with a bow from across a map, or to activate a snare trap and then see another player heedlessly walk into it. But for the most part, it's standard fare, with the sorts of unlockable weapon upgrades and perks that are now par for the course.

But no matter; the single-player campaign here is the main attraction, and it is excellent. It doesn't try to rewrite the book on third-person action adventure games. But with its excellent controls, engaging heroine, thrilling combat, and fascinating setting, it doesn't need to. Lara may be covering some previously charted territory here, but Tomb Raider is so well-crafted, you won't mind at all.

The Good
Story believably builds Lara up from unsure academic to confident adventurer
Fascinating setting with a rich sense of history
Intense combat that offers a good deal of flexibility
Controls make physically overcoming the island's terrain a pleasure
Good assortment of tombs to raid, relics to collect, and puzzles to solve
The Bad
Forgettable multiplayer component
Outside of Lara's character arc, story is predictable
8.5
Great
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Discussion

2246 comments
geitenvla
geitenvla

Bought it yesterday and I'm four hours in. Best action adventure I've played in years!


Only downside so far: it's a little too easy.

allenella
allenella

I bought TR last week and finished it an hour back. IMHO, it is good game. Initially, I thought that regenerative health was bad, but I then realized that three or four hits was enough kill LC, which allowed to take more stealthier approach in finishing. My only gripe, the dodge and attack should be a little more polished. Head shot with an arrow was so damn satisfying, ;P

CleanPlayer
CleanPlayer

Anyone else think Roth and Lara's relationship was unintentionally creepy? Don't mean to cherry pick; but otherwise, the game was fulfilling like an awesome action movie. I'm glad they've rebooted the series in this direction like Uncharted, and I can not wait to explore and play the next one

hadlee73
hadlee73

Unfortunately (and strangely, as I am a massive Tomb Raider fan of old) this one just didn't do it for me. Its too much Uncharted, not enough Tomb Raider. I wonder how many fans of the original Tomb Raider can remember that the original was almost all about exploration and discovery, and shooting things only came into play when absolutely necessary (and other humans were a rarity because of the depths of the tombs). This one is very much a shoot-fest with only a small amount of exploration (and this is from someone who is going for a 100% completion rate while playing).

Demonjoe93
Demonjoe93

This game has survival themes to it, but there's regenerative health? Are you kidding? I rented this game and when I noticed that, I soon stopped playing.

LeviHarris
LeviHarris

Got it as part of the big sale this past week and it's a contender for my favorite game of 2013 so far. Really truly remarkable reeboot. 

AC-FAN-I-AM
AC-FAN-I-AM

It's truly an amazing game, I've been playing it recently and it's really incredible, it never gets boring because the game keeps giving you new gears and weapons to use. I'm not a fan of the old TR games but this one is awesome, even if you're not a TR fan, it's worth buying. 

Lightsout13
Lightsout13

I still remember the old Tomb Raider and I loved, wait to see how this new version turns out.

burnettaj
burnettaj

I thought this was a good game. Will look forward to others to come.

Damino92
Damino92

The perfect balance between uncharted and farcry3. Awesome game! Reminded me the very first time I played RE4. A truly unique gem in gaming, on of the best titles this generation has to offer.

DeadMemoie
DeadMemoie

DO NOT MISS THIS GAME!!!.... this is actually a game i'll call super fun , well they got everything right ...,its an uncharted ripoff but again it was the original tomb raider that started it all , i;ve played almost all those TR that came before and never finished any of them (that mean i didnt like them) , but this one is AWESOME , sometimes its a little repetitive , and for example puzzles are so simple and totally game is really easy , But hell , im stating again - THE FUN Factor of this game worth all that , good story , good graphics(X360) , good mechanics,the environment is polished and really good, sound is superb and ofcoz! The most BEAUTIFUL Lara Croft with the most reasonable cup size!!!!!!!! , totally liked it from top to bottom . A survivor is truly born (refers to how miss.croft turns to THE (BAD AZZ! ) Lara Croft ;) , ENjoy Solid 9/10 , (waiting for the next installment in the TR franchise)  

Paoksis
Paoksis

what is really but in this game,are the QTE...they are quite cinematic,but so lamely executed from a gameplay aspect that is getting tedious...i never died in this game in a gunfight,yet i lost 10 times a QTE event with airgliding...seriously?

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

Much better than Max Payne 3, this should have been a game Carl rated a bit higher.

karnage27
karnage27

Great game,great graphics,very enjoyable,if a little bit short

Vkain
Vkain

I have to say I'm enjoying this Tomb Raider game. I wasn't too enthused with the old adventures so the TR series wasn't one of my favorites but now it is. I don't know why they added multiplayer. Game developers need to realize that not every game that comes out needs to have a multiplayer feature just for the sake of having one, it makes no sense.

windylance
windylance

Terrific game definitely a solid 9.0,great graphic(PC) and nice gameplay .It's not always the same enemy or pattern to go on there's always surprise and some puzzle to keep you focused.Best game this year so far



Nahkamaa
Nahkamaa

I haven' played TR series since TR2. This last one is ok, nice graphics and story, but there's something important missing and it's still too linear for my taste. Average game imho...

miker00lz
miker00lz

Extremely boring game, didn't grab me at all. I tried.

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

oh and uncharted < tomb raider, drake lacks charisma, lara has all the charisma drake doesnt have

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

one of the best games ive played, since super mario bros for the nes

diogofonseca
diogofonseca

I'm so happy that Tomb Raider is back os its feet. I'm a huge fan of the TR series and couldn't stand another bad game.

This game has only one problem: I actually feel sorry for Lara sometimes. Poor little thing!

moyetee2
moyetee2

I played Tomb Raider & its way better then Uncharted

fajin36
fajin36

A very good game let down by an overemphasis on qte's and maybe a bit too much action. The puzzles are way too easy as well. 

But still, a very fine game overall. But we need some proper tombs, not these dull & uninspiring ones. Also, swimming underwater. I miss that.

xeis-net
xeis-net

Great game, pity they decided to include 15 multi player achievements, forced me to trade it back in while still valuable rather than re-play for the 100%.  I must be the last person in the world who does not want multi-player in my story based games.

chun-IDGAF-li
chun-IDGAF-li

I just got the game yesterday and i cant believe no1 has said anything about the GODDAMNED quick time events, I died like 10 times in the first hour of gameplay all because of those shitty quick time events, I cant believe that RE6 got mashed to death and got a 6 for the "quick time events lead to unnecessary deaths" but here no1 seems to care about it, WTF GAMESPOT! WE NEED A LIL CONSISTENCY HERE!

XPGRocky
XPGRocky

Quality Game, Just playing through it again with the help of TeamXPG ;)

vannacut
vannacut

well done, nice game, everyone must play...

TheHaughtyMoose
TheHaughtyMoose

I usually don't like reboot too much...but Tomb Raider is the best reboot game I ever played so far!

Scarshi
Scarshi

I've played every Tomb Raider game and this one is unlike any of them before, and that is a very good thing.

toffy666
toffy666

one of the best games i've ever played

pirate1802
pirate1802

@CleanPlayer lol I didnt feel like that. Roth even says lara is like the daughter he never had so.

jotazombie
jotazombie

@Damino92 RE4? really? for me that was one of the worst RE to that date, I really hope this TR has nothing to do with RE4

DeadMemoie
DeadMemoie

EDIT : Im not saying that this is a perfect game , coz its obviously not , but i think its one of the best  that current-Gen consoles can offer... :) :D

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

@diogofonseca That was the magic of it, she did some really stupid things at first, but after surviving she got tougher. At some point, I started believing she had what it took to save the day.

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

@xeis-net  I only played up to lvl 10 in multiplayer. It's incredibly bad and will make you think less of the game if you play it.

slimskelter
slimskelter

@chun-IDGAF-li I'm gonna agree with ya on that. I hate quick time events. I think it severely dumbs down games. Idk why they can't give us action buttons, and let us do the rest when the time comes to use them. I'll break out my old Simon Says if I want that type of bull$h!t. However, I think this game is good enough to where it isn't ruined by them. It's just an annoyance.

Kryptonbornson
Kryptonbornson

@chun-IDGAF-li QTEs aren't a bad thing, they are just a interactive cinematic. The story/character development of Lara I find is one of the best I can think of outside of RPGs and the cinematics progress her character. I hate long cinematics, so QTEs are the lesser of two evils. Therefore, Resident Evil 6 is no worse for it. Resident Evil 4 started that style of QTEs and I loved it then, especially since graphics were getting so good we wouldn't need full motion video for everything anymore.

Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

@chun-IDGAF-li Agreed.....if you're looking for consistency, you won't find it on Gamespot. Just watching the trailer of Tomb Raider and I knew this was a boring game, can't believe it got the score that it did when RE6 got 4.5. Don't take Gamespot reviews too seriously, it's just a matter of opinion. 

eman123
eman123

@jotazombie @Damino92 RE4 was one of the best games I've ever played. I welcome the comparison, because it did the same for me too.

Tomb Raider More Info

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  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PS3
    • PS4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Tomb Raider lets players experience an intense and gritty story of the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from frightened young woman to hardened survivor.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 4549 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Tomb Raider
    Developed by:
    Crystal Dynamics, Nixxes Software, United Front Games
    Published by:
    Feral Interactive, Square Enix
    Genres:
    Adventure, 2D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language