Yes, as of last Tuesday (March 5th, 2013) the new imagining of Tomb Raider was released! The game was developed by Crystal Dynamics, and published by Square Enix, and honestly it’s probably the best Tomb Raider game released; aside from the lack of puzzles to solve.
Graphically the game is astonishing. The environments though not truly “open-world” have an open world feel to them, though there are obvious paths for you to walk upon and invisible barriers to stop you from going anywhere outside the allotted space. So needless to say you won’t be glitching up mountains like in Bethesda games, but they leave just enough room for exploration of various artifacts and things needed to upgrade weapons. Since, they focus on these small hub-like areas instead of a sprawling free-for-all environment the areas look damn near realistic, and almost next generation. I’ve been playing on Sony’s console, so I’m sure on the PC it looks even better. Despite the vast traversal options the game never feels clunky and the frame rate never drops.
The game sounds great as well. The weapons sound realistic whether its the small whistle from the bow string or the loud explosion of fire coming into contact with a natural gas line. Since the island is tropical you will hear a lot of nature related sounds like birds and wolves, which you can actually come into contact with. The voice acting is pretty solid for most of the characters, pulling you deeper into the fiction. The best voice acting is of course Lara Croft; played by Camilla Luddington. Camilla gives a solid performance of the re-imagined Lara Croft. Hell, she may be Lara Croft in disguise as a voice actor.
This new Tomb Raider also implements some pretty amazing mechanics that makes it feel more like a survival game, rather than a third person cover shooter; though at its core that’s exactly what this game is. The most exciting mechanic they use is a reaction based Lara. When you come into an area or approach enemies she automatically draws her equipped weapon. So now you know there are enemies in the vicinity what else will she do? Well, when you approach a low wall, bush, tree, or well just about anything that’s worth hiding behind she will automatically go into cover. The cover doesn’t feel still, like games where you would snap into cover, but rather more natural as you move from object to object. They’ve also included a feature called “survival instinct,” which works a lot like Batman’s Detective Vision in the recent Arkham games. The primary use for it is to see objects you can interact with, animals you can hunt, or enemies in the nearby area. However, after some upgrade points, it becomes very handy in finding the hidden treasures of the island! (The collectibles are actually worth collecting, because it fills in more of the fiction of the island!)
The upgrade tree is similar to Farcry 3 with three different trees to fill out. The skills aren’t to the extreme that the one’s in Farcry are, nor are they about the stealth kills, but they upgrades do make some considerable upgrades to Lara’s survival and combat abilities. The weapon upgrades are different and interesting enough for you to care to do them. They add things like better accuracy, more damage, fire arrows, and silences (just to name a small amount). You’re not able to upgrade everything out of the gate, but rather as you become more intune with survival and you find gun parts that will enable the next set of upgrades. You’ll also need salvage (a sort of upgrade currency in the game) to make the weapon upgrades, but don’t fret salvage is everywhere.
The AI is far from intelligent, but they are extremely aggressive, normally attacking in groups allowing for some to attempt to flank you while others are spraying bullets and throwing sticks of dynamite. However, most of them aren’t very hard to kill until later in the game where a little more planning and strategy is beneficial due to the various enemy types, including armored enemies.
With all of that said, we get to the best part of the game… THE STORY! The story takes place on Lara’s first expedition to find a hidden (almost Atlantis-like) island, where she hopes to find answers to the worship and culture of the ‘Sun Queen.’ However, Lara believes they must head into the Dragon’s Triangle to find the island. The Dragon’s Triangle makes the Bermuda Triangle look like a bedtime story for little kids. Nonetheless, they head straight into the storm ridden and dangerous area in search of an adventure, however, the adventure finds Lara as they shipwreck on an island with a constantly changing climate that stops all who try to leave the island.
You’ll play as Lara as she goes from being an ‘innocent’ shipwrecked girl in search of her team as she faces the many dangers of the forested island with her instincts leading the way. Though, this story is one action and over coming, as well as, a story of loss and confusion. Lara will have to survive and overcome everything if she plans to help even just one of her friends last on an island overtaken by a group of bandits who’ve been stranded on the island for years, an island who has a great amount predatory animals, and many old dangerous and explosive (and wrecked) buildings. Oh and there’s a group of over-sized and very powerful enemies protecting a sacred chamber.
Honestly, I can’t see this game just simply being a prequel story. I feel like this game has great potential for a reboot of the series. With all the resources Crystal and Square dumped into this game I’m sure we’ll atleast see a trilogy out of this new and improved Tomb Raider. Hell, as long as they keep just about everything that made this game amazing and add some more puzzles I’m sold!