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Review

Tomb Raider Review

  • First Released
    released
  • Reviewed Mar 13, 2013
  • PS3

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.

Optional tombs on the island offer quiet moments of environmental puzzle solving.

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.

There are a few techniques you can use to get the upper hand on your enemies.

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.

Lara shows more vulnerability and humanity than most video game heroes.

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.

Multiplayer? Check.

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.

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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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31 comments
ViskiJack
ViskiJack

I really loved this game it felt like Tomb Raider but with that Uncharted blookbuster feel.It's did for Lara Croft what  Batman Arkham Asylum did for Batman.Watch for the sequel it's going to be if not the top game of that year than maybe in the top 3.

radiax13
radiax13

if i would buy a game right now to my ps3 what game should i buy?

i like big (with a big history) action/adventure or shooters games

funkerocriollo
funkerocriollo

it would be a better game without those nagging QTE

big86boss
big86boss

After playing games like resident evil 6, i had given up hope on expecting anything good, when it comes to major genre overhauls to the classic games ive loved for so long. Though i met this game with much anticipation, much like metal gear rising as well, it was mostly negative anticipation. That being said, once i played this game, much like metal gear rising again, it completely convinced me that genre overhauling in games can be done right, and reboot isnt exclusively a dirty word. very very impressed. more of an action game than traditional TR titles for sure, but maintained enough of the desirable elements from the originals. Ive been a TR fan since the beginning, besides that i tend to greet ANY reboots with initial skepticism. I was made a fool by this title. I truly havent been so enamored in a game since the late 90's when zelda ocarina of time came out, which ironically enough i actually saw this game as TR meets zelda in a lot of instances. its been a great first quarter this year for games, TR tops the list for me, its on my top 5 best games of this generation list easily. fantastic game all around. i gave it a 9. I just hope capcom is taking some notes from the likes of this masterpiece when it comes to making big changes in gameplay to games like RE. This is how its done.

ErickPS4
ErickPS4

This is a great generic action game, not a Tomb Raider game. Square Enix should deliver the franchise to another producer that bring us a sexy Lara again and exploration.

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

Lack of T rex and other cool enemies keeps this from getting a 9. i really love how they made this game more violent. The old Tomb raider games could of used some gore.

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

Tomb Raiders deception...err I mean Uncharted Tomb Raider.  Ahh hell, its Tomb Drake.  I miss some of the old elements and I'm not at all upset its crafted after the best adeventure series in the last 10 years - you know the one.  really glad to see this rebooted.  Carolyn Petit, there are numbers in the alphabet other than 8.5...there is 8, 9, 9.5, 7.5....you get my drift.  8.5 is like your hammer - you use it on every problem!.

"Carolyn we'd like you to review Tomb Raider"  Carolyn "8.5...er wait what?  sure i'll get to it this weekend"

ElektroKID
ElektroKID

Very nice gameplay and to much fun.

phillipecasa
phillipecasa

Comecei a jogar ontem, só fiz a primeira fase, a primeira impressão é de que visualmente o jogo tá lindo demais, mas a parte que requer itneligência tá boba, só vi um puzzle, mesmo assim cheio de dicas pra ser resolvido em 10 segundos. Essa primeira fase tem uma razoável área de exploração da ilha, achei um pouco menos linear do que os TRs antigos, joguei no estilo Tr que curto, não terminei a fase enquanto não achei todas as coisas que tinham pra ser achadas. Nesse ponto, muito ruim (péssimo mesmo) o lance do salvamento automático, fica inviável jogar um jogo de exploração dessa forma, sem a gente poder guardar pontos estratégicos pra poder voltar atrás no jogo, um porre essa meleca, pra mim o grande defeito do game. Essa primeira fase não tem combate, Lara só é atacada por lobos, então lembra ainda os TRs antigos, não sei se isso vai mudar depois, mas parece que sim pelos comentários que li aqui e em outros lugares, isso me preocupa, pois TR Legend começou lindo, cheio de desafios, mas depois caiu numa chatice insuportável de combates e corridas de moto, espero que esse novo TR não caia nesse mesmo problema, pois a exploração e os puzzles precisam conduzir o jogo, e não os combates. Pra essa primeira fase, dou nota 9, pois mesmo sendo uma fase fácil (normalmente as primeiras fases dos jogos são mais fáceis mesmo), tem bastante exploração e quase nenhum combate, o arco é focado apenas na sobrivência da Lara na mata, ou seja, lidando com animais, com gráficos maravilhosos, som de alta qualidade, uma Lara linda demais e muito realista, sem contar que os controles estão muito bons de mexer, só não gostei do "quadrado" agora ser o botão de ação pra pegar objetos, preferia quando era o triângulo, já tava acostumado.

GoranZipy
GoranZipy

Have no idea why everybody is upset by the multilayer its way way better then any CoD game and I am having a blast with it.

Great game well worth the 60$

GoranZipy
GoranZipy

I've Watched The Pulse advert for over 1000 times and I still cant figure out what is it for and i could not care less.

noxstorm
noxstorm

Got the game yesterday .. Played for about 7 hours

Overall the game is cool .. Graphics , sound acting , action and adventures are very good

But

I think it is far from Lara's biography .. I felt like playing a good game but not Tomb Raider as known from previous games ..

Moreover for the first part which i player till now i feel that the enviroment is over messy .. Over loaded with graphical details which will cause dizziness for long session players

The game is worth playing .. Highly recommended .. My score is 8 due to the lack chalenging combats till now

NovahJCMP
NovahJCMP

It is a good game in my opinion. Got the game and played a few hours yesterday and I love it. I think they did well developing the game and don't know if possible but I look forward to possible sequels with the same style. I recommend this game

GoranZipy
GoranZipy

Thank you for giving a review for the PS3 version as well, with actual PS3 game footage in it.

Batmanreborn
Batmanreborn

Just got this game yesterday...And it is great......I love the style of gameplay and the graphics.....This is a must play game....

knixxx
knixxx

I'm loving this game. Need to play it on hard though for the proper challenge. Tomb raiding is ok, but nothing special. Graphics, game play, voice acting, controls/mechanics, story all top notch. I gave it a 9.0 and could be talked into a 9.5. Very on par with UC3...

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Hmmmmmmmmmmm!  Still not convinced! :/

It looks like a good game yeah, but i'd rather they just launched it as a new IP and left the Tomb Raider trademark out of it.  The franchise was one of my all time favorites, re-launching it from a new angle wasn't necessary in my personal opinion, it was great as it was.

They've made a nice job of it at least.. Bonus points for that.

vivalatour
vivalatour

I sure was hoping that the new DLC will be for  single player in-game too ! too much content is offered to multiplayer all the time ! GREAT JOB GUYS ! I DO LIKE THIS GAME !

thekazumalord
thekazumalord

@ErickPS4  A sexy lara? are you saying you want a torpedo breasted moron of a girl with skin tight clothing like the past Tomb Raider games instead of one like this where Lara is shown to be a human being with realistic proportions and normal clothing? Talk about having bad priorities.. i'm all for more exploration in future Tomb Raider titles , but i liked the fact that Lara was made to be a real women instead of a walking pair of  breasts like all the past games. I'll stick with a flawed but realistic Lara Croft from this new Tomb Raider over the shallow one from her past games thank you very much.

big86boss
big86boss

@ErickPS4 I don't agree with you, but i can absolutely understand where you're coming from. I feel the exact same way about RE6 when 9/10 other people loved it. Reboots are rough for us enthusiasts who hold dear to the classic titles in a series that are still clearly better. I thought it was good, but not the best. I still hold TR2 in the highest regard. I do however agree with the exploration, felt too linear for an open world game at times, and the tombs were SERIOUSLY lacking.

NovahJCMP
NovahJCMP

Also no offense to the Gamespot team and reviewers but it does seem that your reviews and game scoring is a lot stricter? I understand because its compared to other games around and that are coming out and you can't give all games a 9/10 I guess.

ErickPS4
ErickPS4

@thekazumalord @ErickPS4 Yes, exactly that I want. If you want reality go play GTA.

Tomb Raider More Info

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  • First Released
    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 Rating4603 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Tomb Raider
    Developed by:
    Crystal Dynamics, Nixxes Software, United Front Games
    Published by:
    Feral Interactive, Square Enix
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action, 2D
    Theme(s):
    Modern
    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