Hey guys! Since this is my first game review, I'm going to give you the run down on what I'll be looking at when I review games. I've been watching and reading IGN reviews for years now, and I've always liked their criteria. I'll be reviewing 3 major categories: Presentation, Story, and Gameplay. This(as well as anything else I post) is my opinion. If you disagree, let me know! I'd be more than happy to hear what you think!
From the very outset of this game your eyes are treated to gorgeous visuals. I played through this game on the Xbox 360 and was still shocked at how polished and crisp the visuals were. The world is so wonderfully realized, that it sucks you in almost immediately. Lara's animations are among some of the best I've seen since the Uncharted series. It's apparent throughout the game that Crystal Dynamics learned from what Uncharted did, and in my opinion topped it. One of the most alluring aspects of this game is how it grounds itself in reality. Sure, a lot of the set pieces and story elements are far fetched, but the game is grounded in a brutal, gritty world. So, I was able to suspend my disbelief without a problem. Along with amazing animations, the character of Lara Croft is an absolute powerhouse in this game. Gone are the days of a big breasted, gone toting sex symbol. This is an origin story for Lara and this game creates a character that you genuinely feel for. She's intelligent, afraid, and completely vulnerable, and I think that's one of the biggest reasons this game succeeds. For once a game has given us an action hero that isn't impervious to everything. Throughout the course of the game she takes an absolute beating, and it shows. Her character progressively gets bruised, scratched, and even scarred. By the end of the game you can tell what she's been through just by looking at her, and that's an achievement. The voice acting is also top notch thanks to a great performance by Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft. The rest of the cast is also does a good job, but it was her performance that stood out to me. When you play Tomb Raider, you're treated to an insanely polished open world game with tremendous attention to detail. The game world will suck you in like few games can. Amazing presentation from start to finish.
This is where it gets a little tricky for me. I'm hugely opposed to spoilers, so, I'm going to do my best to explain how I feel about the story without giving anything huge away. Like I stated before, this is an origin story. This game finds Lara before she became the fearless tomb raider we know her as. The game kicks off with Lara and her colleagues aboard a ship sailing in search of the lost island of Yamatai. As they approach the island, an incredible storm crashes their ship against the rocks, forcing them to abandon the ship and each other. Stranded on this mystical island, you must find your friends and do what you can to get off the island. That's all I'm going to say about the story of the game, because I feel like it needs to be experienced to be told. I thought the story was fantastic in this game. Watching Lara transform from harmless adventurer to hardened survivalist is a thrilling yet emotional experience. Some of you smarter players out there might be able to see where the story is going early on, but I don't think this is a bad thing. Simple stories are usually the best in my opinion, and this story barely stumbles at all. One main criticism that other reviews have had towards the story of this game(that I don't necessarily agree with) is the evolution of Lara's character. One moment she can barely fire a gun and then the next she's a cold blooded killer. In the game she is forced to adapt very quickly, and while this may be a bit jarring for you, I feel the game justified it quite nicely. Lara quickly realizes that it's kill or be killed on this island, and she intends to survive. The story also deals some great fan service for those who are veteran players of the franchise. I highly enjoyed this story and I really cared about what was going to happen to all of the characters, especially Lara.
When I played through Tomb Raider for the first time, I beat it in two days. This isn't because the game is short. It's because this game is So. Much. Fun. I could not put this game down. I played for 12 hours straight the first time I picked up the controller. I thought my Xbox was going to explode I'd been playing so long. Everything you do in this game, whether it be: platforming, shooting, hunting, collecting, raiding tombs, or just exploring, is ridiculously compelling. The game rewards you for exploring by letting you upgrade your weapons and abilities. This is the area where I believe this game outshines Uncharted. In the Uncharted games, you go through linear level after linear level with barely any exploring and absolutely no character progression. Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love those games, but Tomb Raider takes what was amazing with those games and adds a depth that they just don't have. The sense of progression is perfectly paced through the game, and by the end, you feel completely empowered. I had so much fun fighting the bad guys, I'm hoping they release some sort of horde mode DLC, cause I'll be the first to buy it. I haven't played a game that felt this good on the sticks in a long time. Everything felt just right while using the controller. I haven't had a chance to play this game on PC yet, so I'm not sure what this game feels like using a mouse and keyboard, but honestly, it was so nice with the game pad I'll probably just use a controller when I play the PC version. After you complete the story, the game allows you to keep playing. You're free to scrounge for any collectibles you missed or raid any tombs that you haven't. I haven't had this much pure fun playing a game in a very long time. It's a genuine joy to play.
As you can probably tell, I adored this game. Crystal Dynamics has breathed new life into a franchise that needed it the most. There are so many interesting directions they can go with this new Lara, and I can't wait to see what they're planning next. This is by far my favorite game that's been released so far this year, and is a definite early contender for game of the year. The only thing that kept this game from a perfect score, was the extremely bland multiplayer. It's unoriginal in pretty much every way, and I think they could have taken the time they spent making a really bad competitive mode, and given us a really solid, enjoyable, cooperative mode. That aside, this game is near flawless. I implore you to check out this game. Even if you're not a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise, I'm convinced this game will make you one.