Tomb Raider
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-03-19 Xbox 360 Action/Adventure T (Teen) Crystal Dynamics / Square Enix

It's rare that a reboot of a classic franchise can meet or even exceed the expectations of skeptical franchise elitists, but with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix's Tomb Raider, we've been given an experience that not only gives the franchise some fresh new life, but a game that arguably performs better than most of the Tomb Raider games that inspired this reboot in the first place.

Tomb Raider follows an initially naive Lara Croft, green in her adventuring boots, as she searches for the lost city of Yamatai. Accompanied by a crew of other researchers, her surrogate father, and even her best friend, Lara finds herself literally thrown into an adventure as a vicious storm strands her crew on a far-from-deserted island.

Things go from bad to worse for Lara, who's separated from her group and left to survive through a variety of beautiful, if definitely menacing, locations. From a dense forest covered in fog to a rocky, icy cliff-side being battered by insane winds, Lara's journey not only reveals some gorgeous scenery, but also further deepens the mystery of the storms that have trapped so many souls on the island in the years and decades before our arrival.

Armed with an ever-increasing amount of toys, players can employ either stealth or run-and-gun tactics as they help Lara make her way through the 10-hour campaign. The bow, while not unheard of in an adventure game, is an incredibly satisfying tool, able of skewering enemies with great precision. Most actions reward Lara with experience points so that you can give her new skills, and it's incredibly satisfying taking that extra second or two to line up a head shot with the bow to ensure that you earn more points.

The character development in Tomb Raider is outstanding, in terms of Lara's own personal development and the fleshing out of her colleagues. The game's villain is psychotic and memorable, and the game's storyline is full of just enough twists and turns, while not turning into an M. Night film. There are so many skills and moves available for purchase throughout the game's campaign, from finishing moves that see Lara emptying a clip into an enemy's face to increased climbing speed, easier treasure hunting, and much more.

If you're interested in tracking down each individual piece of treasure, from lost documents and journal entries to relics left behind by former visitors to the island, you can expect the experience to grow by leaps and bounds.

There's simply a slew of stuff to find in Tomb Raider, but unfortunately, lots of it requires backtracking to find, since so many are locked until you've received tools throughout the storyline. There's a fast travel mechanic that allows you to once again access these treasure-filled areas, but some locations could desperately use more of these fast travel hubs to make things more convenient.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to Tomb Raider is the tomb system itself. The game's tombs are voluntary, few and far between, and really easy to complete - too easy, in many respects. Still, they're an interesting, albeit brief, diversion from the main game - I just wish there were more of them.

I've never been a fan of "just because" multiplayer, and that's unfortunately what Tomb Raider's multiplayer feels like. It comes with a few gameplay modes, a separate XP system, and the ability to play as plenty of the characters from the campaign, but the maps are fairly uninteresting and the gunplay feels a bit off. Even so, the multiplayer is only a small slice of what Tomb Raider has to offer, and is therefore easily ignored.

With the game's few shortcomings aside, Tomb Raider is still a superb action/adventure experience, with an incredibly engaging storyline that keeps you ever pushing towards the finish. It's not a game that only Tomb Raider franchise fans can enjoy, but rather a title that has a little bit of something for everyone (including multiplayer, if you're desperate for it). Hopefully, this is only the start of a new wave of Tomb Raider games in this same style, as this is one reboot that deserves all of the attention it's getting, and much more.