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.
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.
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.