Being a long time fan of Tomb Raider, it took me a while to warm up to the idea of this title. It looked like just another lackluster reboot that has little to do with the base material. However, I tried to leave bias aside and play this title as is: a story-driven action adventure game. And I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
The central gameplay elements that influenced my level of enjoyment of past Tomb Raider titles were the tombs and puzzles. I can stomach bad controls and crappy story, as long as the levels and puzzles can hold and stimulate my mind. This is lacking in this new Tomb Raider title. Still, I enjoyed it very much, and here's why:
1. Fun story and set pieces. It's not the best story in the world, but it knows how to build up suspense and hook you with impressive set pieces and scenarios. This is block-buster grade storytelling, with all it's positives and negatives. The core cast are interesting enough, but there's little character development here. Lara herself is a bit more developed, naturally. She has a bit of an arc, but it's over too soon and she's unnaturally skilled and mentally tough after the mid point. Again, block-buster grade storytelling. Won't comment more on this, most of this stuff can be very subjective. I will say there's a marked improvement in storytelling in comparison to older Tomb Raider titles.
2. Rich atmosphere. Probably the thing that compelled me to replay the campaign three times was just how atmospheric it is. Everything from story to graphics to sound and music come together in a very cohesive whole that makes the moment to moment gameplay a joy. At times it feels like playing a video game adaptation of Lost, other times it feels like you're peeling away the layers of a horror story. It just works.
3. Amazing graphics and sound. It's a gorgeous game, no doubt about it. Everything from textures, lighting, shadows and character models looks amazing. I found especially impressive the presence of atmospheric effects (rain, hail, wind etc.) and particle emitters. Sound-wise, things are even better. Hook up your 5.1 surround system and enjoy one of the finest experiences you'll ever get in a video game. It's really that good. And the cast deserves special mention for its excellent voice work, especially Camilla Luddington as the leading lady I felt was excellent. I never thought someone could replace previous voice actress Keeley Hawes as Lara.
4. No bugs and excellent performance. The game has been bug free for the entirety of my time playing it. I enjoyed buttery-smooth performance even with AA and high detail settings. There were very few areas where frame-rates dipped under 40 fps, and I'm gaming on a GeForce GTX 650, which is a bit old and underpowered at this point. Tomb Raider also offers a lot of settings so you can tweak every detail level to your liking. It's clear Crystal Dynamics have created a very capable and scalable engine here.
5. Fun combat. As far as third-person action titles go, Tomb Raider is a good one. Enemy A.I. is predictable, which tilts things a bit towards the easy side. There are a few enemy types and plenty of upgradeable weapons to choose from. This franchise has always been known for bad combat, which always felt like more of a chore than a valid aspect of gameplay. Here, combat is well integrated into gameplay and fun. There's even a multiplayer mode that is all about the combat. I've had a bit of fun with it.
I also want to touch upon a few things that are not so great about this title.
1. Puzzles. This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the game. Puzzles are simplistic and rare. I do appreciate the use of environment and physics to solve them, but the complexity of past Tomb Raider titles is gone, which sucks.
2. Level design. Although some of the levels are open for exploration, there are just as many that are not. And even those that are open offer little incentive to explore. You can hunt for artifacts, which I guess can be a bit challenging and fun, but I'd argue more hidden tombs and locations would have added a lot to the quality and sense of exploration of this game.
3. Quick-time events. Seriously, there must be a better way to make a game cinematic and interactive at the same time.
4. Replay value. Since the story is so linear and levels mostly simple, replay value is low here. There's little incentive to try again, except for atmosphere and artifact hunting. Once you've played through once, the story will hold no surprises the second time around.
There you have it, all the pros and cons that hopefully will help you make a decision. If you ask me, this title is definitely worth picking up, specially since it features very often in Steam sales and stuff like that. For the price it sells for right now, it's definitely worth buying and playing.