In 2013, Crystal Dynamics was given the chance to re-imagine the iconic Tomb Raider, Lara Croft, in a new prequel game. We then got a remastered version of that game, including all DLC, entitled Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (ad), in early 2014.
Crystal Dynamics decided to make their game be both darker yet also more realistic than past iterations of the game. That seems to be an ongoing trend, as other series like Batman, Superman, James Bond, and even Power Rangers have gotten darker, realistic remakes.
As advancing technology has enabled for better graphics and a lot more detail in video games, this strategy of making a darker, grittier game was able to be realized in wondrous fashion. The game is downright gorgeous, from spectacular mountain top views, to the characters, and even to just the texture of water and rocks, it looks like a lot of work and love went into making this game a feast for the eyes.
The Lara Croft we are introduced to in the opening cinematic isn’t the polished Tomb Raider that faces anything with ease and makes jokes along the way. Instead, we see a real person just starting out on her first expedition. She is unproven, yet very dedicated and already quite boisterous in her opinions.
We see her clash with her group’s lead archaeologist over where to search for a hidden or lost civilization, getting support from some friends. The group eventually follows Lara’s plan to disastrous results. They become stranded on a seemingly inescapable island that is ruled by other survivors that are following a madman.
As the story progresses, Lara of course discovers the hidden civilization that she was searching for, and it plays a big role in the main story. While the story has some odd turns to it, and it ends up being slightly surreal, it does enable the game to mix traditional Tomb Raider game play into this new gritty world quite effectively and it really held my attention for the full 17 hours it took me to beat the game.
Besides amazing graphics and a gripping story, this game also has excellent mechanics to it. I would attempt to label this game by saying that it is a third-person shooter, puzzle solving, and role playing game hybrid. You follow Lara through the game from above and behind (the standard third person view), but the camera shifts based on angles. I found that the camera always was smooth, and it often was helpful in pointing me in the direction I needed to go. When firing weapons, the aim can be frustrating, but you only need to hit the left trigger again to have Lara aim and lock on to an enemy.
The game is open world, but you are restricted to regions. There is fast travel available. Lara typically is able to use a bow, pistol, shotgun, and rifle, along with a torch. Weapons can be upgraded by finding salvage. Skills can be upgraded through a point system. Upgrades can be done at campfires, which also unlock fast travel and auto-save the game.
I tried multiplayer and found it extremely lackluster. The aiming mechanics that don’t work so great in the story mode make for atrocious matches where lucky headshots rule. The melee attack takes forever to use and usually misses. Those graphics that looked so perfect in the story mode seem pixelated during online matches.
It takes forever to find a match. When you do find one, it will be several first time players against a few players that are at the level cap. Players often get dropped after rounds end, or in between matches. A few times I had the game just freeze and there was no way to get out of it other than to quite the game from the Xbox One dashboard and restart it.
The game modes themselves and the maps would be fine, if only the multiplayer worked in the first place. They also have added all these Hitman: Absolution branded weapons to multiplayer, which just seems odd, unfitting, and done in poor taste to me.
While the poor multiplayer experience does sour me on Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (ad) slightly, I realize that multiplayer is not the reason people play Tomb Raider. The main story mode in this game is fantastic, including graphics, gameplay, progression systems, puzzles, the camera, and the story itself. I found the whole thing gripping and was left wanting more.
I would highly recommend this game and am giving it an 8.5 out of 10. If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, you can get this game for free through Games with Gold for October 2015.