Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Review: Tomb Raider (PS3)

Tomb Raider's origins date back to the original Playstation. The world was a much different place back in 1996: the Internet was in its infancy stages, the economy was booming, war was the last thing on anyone's mind and nobody had ever heard of Britney Spears.  After eighteen years, the series still maintains a presence in the video game world.

While the track record for the series over the past five or six years has been arguably dismal, the newest iteration of the series is not only the best game in the series, it's one of the best adventure games to come along in a long time. Tomb Raider provides a great and lengthy single player campaign even if it comes at the cost of a mediocre multiplayer experience.

The latest Tomb Raider game can be thought of as a reboot of the series as it tells the origins of Lara Croft's story. Lara's character takes on the role of a young academic in search of adventure. During a voyage with fellow academics to search for ancient kingdom called Yamatei, the group becomes shipwrecked due to poor weather. The game's story focuses heavily on Lara's journey from a scared survivor to the bad ass we all know and love. Also sharing the spotlight with Lara are her fellow crew mates some of whom are at odds with Lara throughout the entire story. There were often times when I would ask myself "does this person really have Lara's best interests at hand?" as the story unfolded.

The island your crew is shipwrecked on is full of life and history. Temple ruins, monuments and statues are present on the island. The island also served as an area of strategic importance for the Japanese during World War II.

As Lara makes her way across the island she comes across old relics which contain journals and writings which offer a glimpse into the island's long history. More than once after picking up and reading a relic I asked myself "Where the hell am I?" What all this represents doesn't become fully clear until you get to the later parts of the game's story.  The locals that inhabit the island appear to be part of some mystical cult that does not take kindly to outsiders. Lara's main objective is to get herself and her pals off the island.

At Lara's disposal are numerous weapons and tactics. Lara can use bows, guns and hand-to-hand combat to kill enemies. How you decide to approach enemies is mostly up to you. While there are times where you cannot avoid an all-out fire fight  there are times where you can choose stealth.

What makes Tomb Raider so terrific is the excellent combat system. Taking on large groups of enemies is not only fun, but never gets old. The enemy AI is extremely smart and they do not let you stay in cover too long as they try to box you in and flush you out with grenades.  Throughout the game Lara collects skill points and "salvage" material which can be used to upgrade her combat abilities. You'll want to max out these elements as it will make your life easier when you are battling more and more enemies.

In between fire fights  most of Lara's time is spent running around the environments, rock climbing, zip lining  and jumping across ledges. These mechanics are extremely solid and with "Survival Instinct" Lara always knows where to go next.

The story clocks in around 10-12 hours which is fairly long and a pretty good length by today's standards. The game is definitely worth a second play through as there are plenty of relics to pick-up.

In addition to the amazing campaign, the game features a less than stellar competitive online multiplayer mode. Honestly, even if the game didn't have its online competitive modes, it wouldn't be difficult to recommend. The online play feels rather standard and only features a handful of modes that don't really do anything different from a lot of other online games out there. There are four online modes in total, two of which are objective based, while the other two are your standard team deathmatch and free for all modes. The gameplay itself doesn't feel as polished as the campaign. In the campaign you can simply run up to the piece of cover and have Lara take cover. In the online play, this doesn't happen. It's simple things like this that make the online play feel like it's almost a completely different game.

I remember seeing Tomb Raider back at E3 last June. As I sat and watched the demo, I remember being cautiously optimistic as to what the game could offer. This reboot of the series not only surpassed my expectations, but it is easily one of the best games I have played in a long time. If you're like me and love story driven games that offer a great gaming experience then Tomb Raider is definitely for you.

- Siddharth Masand

The Good:
- Excellent campaign
- Combat system feels great and never gets old
- Great presentation and visuals
- Survival Instinct is incredibly helpful at times

The Bad:
- Medicore online play

Score: 9.0 / 10