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March 24, 2013
Tomb Raider - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
5/3/2013NamcoBandaiSquare-EnixCrystal Dynamics (sp)
Eidos Montreal (mp)
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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The new Lara Croft; hurt, exposed, cold, alone.
Ask any non-gamer to name some video game characters and behind Mario and Sonic it's likely you'll hear the name Lara Croft. After some wonderfully successful games at the turn of the century, the franchise also spawned two successful Angelina Jolie starring feature films. In recent times though the franchise suffered with some poorly received games, but a shift from original developers Core Design in the UK, to American developers Crystal Dynamics saw some improvements, and now, in 2013 the company is completely rebooting the franchise - and it's a bloody fine effort too.

This latest Tomb Raider tells the origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to the hardened survivor that she would become known as. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.

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Character detail is very impressive.
Tomb Raider is a third person action adventure game set with a much younger Lara Croft - hence the reboot. She's new to violence, new to weapons, new to almost everything which has allowed the developers, and scripwriter Rhianna Pratchett, to explore new themes - the consequences of choices, and the consequences of killing. As expected the game offers plenty of platforming styled action with Lara able to run, jump, climb, crouch and melee combat while the weapons are meaty with options including a bow and arrow (our favourite as they allow stealth kills - well, until you get fire or grenade tips) at least - shotguns, assault rifles and so on. Whatever you're doing Lara moves slickly and is responsive to your commands.

One aspect of the gameplay which may alarm longtime fans of this franchise is that the game has shifted away from the puzzle solving roots to a more action oriented focus. We don't see that as a terrible thing, indeed this game is probably going to earn a lot more fans then it will lose, but it would have been nice to see a few more puzzles then those primarily located within the tombs. These tombs can be totally bypassed while playing the game which is a shame as they offer the only true puzzle solving, but even then with only seven tombs on offer they don't make up as much of the game as we would have hoped, or expected.

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Lara finds a bow on a corpse in Tomb Raider (2013).
With a runtime of around 12-15 hours (depending on how much time you spend exploring the world and looking for treasures, diaries, GPS co-ordinates, weapon parts and so on) this is a decent game in terms of runtime. As you travel the world you will find Base Camps which is a location to save, and often hear some thoughts from Lara about the mission, but it's also the location to spend Skill Points to upgrade abilities, spend money collected to upgrade weapons or Fast Travel to previously visited locations (which is useful to find more items).

While the game isn't open-world like titles such as Far Cry 3 the actual locations are often wide enough that you don't feel being "tunneled" through locations. The range of locations in this game is also impressive, from lush forests, to frozen mountain tops, to small villages and caves this game has it all. There are also some scenes in this game which are moderately gruesome, with plenty of bodies and deceased littered around locations - but then again it is rated MA15+ for a reason; this isn't a game for children.

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This is one of the few puzzles in the game.
Unfortunately we do have a couple of minor niggles with this Tomb Raider reboot that hold it back from even higher scores. First of all we found the cover system somewhat patchy. Quite often you'll be moving towards cover, with enemies on the other side, but when you hit the circle button to duck into cover Lara often goes scooting around the side and becomes exposed to enemy fire. Also annoying was the fact that when crawling through caves or tunnels it's impossible to fire on enemies from this position, but rather have to break out of this cover into open air to fire on enemies. It seems a bit limiting. In the single player campaign the game is littered with items to find such as treasures, diaries, GPS positions and so on but in reality few of these, except the maps, have little value in the game other than providing you with XP to level up.

Finally while we got through most of the game unscathed, there were a couple of times when Lara got stuck in objects, the game crashed twice and at one point Lara went invisible. Certainly annoying but most of these were overcome with restarting at the last checkpoint which usually only places you a minute or two back. Still, hopefully these can be ironed out with a patch somewhere down the line.

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Locations in Tomb Raider (2013) are moody.
While it angered many at the initial announcement, or at least threw up some concerns, the multiplayer modes are certainly a welcome addition to this title. This aspect of the game was developed at another studios, Eidos Montreal, so there was nothing taken away from the single player campaign. This title comes with 4 game modes with support for 2-8 players per match. Two of the game modes, Free-For-All and Team Deathmatch are exactly what you would expect from them. There are two other game modes here that hold much more interest. The first is Cry for Help which sees player trying to turn on a series of radio towers while the second, and best mode in the game, is Rescue where you need to eliminate 20 survivors (ending them with a melee kill) in order to prevent them capturing 5 medical supplies.

It's also interesting to note that DLC is promised for Tomb Raider which will, apparently, be multiplayer focused. The first DLC is "Caves and Cliffs" and includes three new maps for a few dollars and I expect that future content will be similar with new maps and game modes for a small fee. It would be nice though if the developers added some more content - in particular tombs and puzzles, to the single player campaign too. Time will tell...

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Lara's athletic abilities impress.
Ultimately while multiplayer could easily add a few hours gameplay it's not the most developed we've ever seen, even as a secondary component to a game focused on the single player campaign, and we did experience some lag issues in quite a few matches we played, but overall this is a welcome addition to the franchise and one which we expect will be expanded in future Tomb Raider titles.

Using a modified in-house Crystal Engine, Tomb Raider really is a visual tour de force with an attention to detail rarely seen in video games. From the opening scenes on the ship you know this is something quite special indeed as Lara Croft struggles to save herself, through the waters as the ship breaks apart around her. Character models are wonderfully detailed and animated with a wide variety of moves on offer. The game is filled with many other gorgeous visual effects, from rain, to fire, to lighting and much more.

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Lara Croft sifting through some bones!
It's the cut-scenes though that push this game along and with the assistance of a dedicated cinematographer these cut scenes are not only well scripted, but look great with interesting locations, camera angles and more importantly structure to convey the story. The first time Lara kills and enemy this is shown perfectly in the cut-scenes. It's superb, emotional and powerful.

Another aspect of this game that is nigh on perfect is the audio. First of all, we simply have to mention the cracking sound effects for things like gunshots and explosions. They are simply superb with jaw-dropping clarity and bass levels while the surround sound channels get a frequent workout. Music has been composed by Jason Graves who is most well-known for scoring EA's Dead Space franchise, but has worked on a swag of video game titles. His work here in Tomb Raider is top notch with a lovely sweeping orchestral score setting the tone of each scene perfectly.

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Tomb Raider (2013) is visually stunning.
To ensure a complete reboot Keeley Hawes has not returned to voice Lara Croft, instead being voiced by Camilla Luddington (currently in Grey's Anatomy) and who also did motion capture for Lara during development. Needless to say, we were impressed by her work in this game, and indeed all the actors did a fine effort providing dialogue. Assisting this is the great screenplay which leaves few groanworthy moments.

Tomb Raider was a thoroughly enjoyable title that not only reboots the series, but takes it to new heights and along the way make it one of this generations most impressive titles. It's not quite up there with Sony's Uncharted franchise, but it's the closest we've seen to it from another developer this generation. Crystal Dynamics have given the gaming world a real gem that should be enjoyed by all. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSVisually one of the most impressive games, ever.
SOUNDAbsolutely cracking from start to finish - possibly best gun sound effects in a game ever.
GAMEPLAYThe shift to action over puzzle solving may disappoint slightly, but damn this is entertaining.
VALUEThe main game lasts over 10 hours, but much more if you want to explore and find everything while multiplayer adds value too.
OVERALLWithout a doubt this rebooted Tomb Raider is a cracker game. There are very few disappointments and, finally, we have a Tomb Raider game worthy of the accolades. Sensational, gripping, entertaining, essential.

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