PS3 Reviews: Tomb Raider Review

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Tomb Raider Review

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Replay Value:



Online Gameplay:



Overall Rating:       8.9




Square Enix


Crystal Dynamics

Number Of Players:




Release Date:

March 5, 2013

Lara Croft is an iconic video game character. However, that iconic stature doesn't come without a little wink and a sly grin. After all, Lara is one of the very first true mainstream sex symbols in the industry's history and admittedly, her physical attributes are more often lauded than the games in which she stars. As such, this is a character that has always been closer to a cartoon or a caricature. The difference with this reboot is that for the first time in her storied legacy, Ms. Croft finally appears as a realistic female, with realistic vulnerabilities and emotions. And that's what very nearly puts this title in elite company.

The graphics may not be the game's strongest suit, as we've seen better technical examples in the past. The character designs and animations are great but perhaps not stellar when compared to other offerings in similar genres, and the detailing isn't overly impressive. That being said, it's the entire package that stands out. It isn't just one little detail here and there; it's the fact that this environment is extremely well crafted and every aspect of your surroundings feels immersive. This is a fully cohesive visual presentation that is diverse and engaging, and you're always interested in exploring this extremely well created island. Appropriately intimidating, the island of Yamatai is indeed memorable.

The sound design excels in the realm of special effects and music, and many of the voice performances are well above average. Camilla Luddington is fantastic as Lara, too, by the way. Every crack from a firearm, every explosion, and every high-octane set piece vibrates and reverberates with professional crispness. There's a solid balancing between the effects and the score, and that soundtrack swells and diminishes to fit the on-screen action. Much like the visuals, the audio works to involve the player in every element of this adventure, which is no easy feat. Finally, the ambient effects during the slower portions of the game are much appreciated.

As you may already know, the Tomb Raider reboot is a prequel. It shows us how Lara became Lara, essentially, and you'll soon find that her initiation is the epitome of "trial by fire." At the beginning, Lara is more of the bookish sort. Although she is obviously a healthy and very fit young woman, her focus and skills tend to lie on the intellectual side of life. But when her ship sinks just off the coast of a dark, unknown island laden with dangerous legends come to life and freaky natives, Lara must learn how to survive. Fast. You may recall that scene where a man tries to force himself sexually on Lara (it was part of a controversial trailer), but that is done tastefully.

This is about survival. This is about putting a woman in a ridiculously dangerous situation and expecting her to somehow adapt on the fly. The best part about this is that, much like Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, the protagonist here isn't a superhero. Perhaps she's stronger and more agile than most women, but she's still human. This is what makes this adventure so appealing on so many levels, because although the developers don't quite explore this fragility aspect enough, it does shine through. And that leaves us on the edge of our seat. Personally, I rarely feel this sense of responsibility when controlling a character; i.e., if she dies, you kinda feel it in your gut. That means the designers did something right.

Here, I'd like to bring up something unexpected; what may be perceived as an odd movie reference. But I compare this transformation of Lara to what I saw in some of the females in the horror film, "The Descent." Much like Lara, they are young, healthy and fit, but they are not accustomed to survival. In order to survive, they must actually become animal-like and embrace a kill-or-be-killed mentality. It's a frightening and often uncomfortable transition, and that's precisely what I saw in Tomb Raider. Towards the end, when Lara is screaming and doling out large amounts of pain, you realize she has become...something else.

The control is solid and reliable and the combat is well-constructed and even intoxicating. You may also have questions about the hunting you've seen in previews; it's not all that well developed but at least that wildlife adds to the dynamic nature of the environment. Hunting can also be entertaining and acts as a prelude to the faster-paced fighting later on. You'll learn how to use a bow initially and then you'll graduate to handguns, rifles and shotguns. There are even some cool stealth sections that allow Lara to sneak about and perform stealth kills from the shadows. Best of all, the pacing and variety is just about right: As soon as you start to get your fill of one section, another very different gameplay section arises.

To top it all off, Lara becomes a well-rounded combatant. She is capable with her weapons (which she can switch between on the fly) but she can also handle herself when a foe gets too close. And by the time Lara gains access to special arrows and super weapons like rocket launchers, she will have morphed into an absolute fighting machine. Then you factor in some of the platforming and environmental aspects in the gameplay, and you've got a continually involving adventure that keeps you riveted throughout. So for the most part, this is a fantastic game that hits all the right notes; if it weren't for a few small problems, I'd say this is easily a 9+ game. But let me be clear as to why it falls just shy.

Firstly, the multiplayer is just plain lackluster. It works fine but the four modes are nothing special and in general, it feels more tacked on than anything. Whenever this happens, I wonder why the developers even added the option; I'm aware that everyone thinks online multiplayer is a necessity these days, but it really isn't. Secondly, as I mentioned briefly above, more could've been done with this story. It really does portray Lara in a light that most women would appreciate and even applaud, but the writers don't take it far enough. Thirdly and lastly, I miss the heavier focus on puzzles, which have always been a major part of this franchise. I would've preferred to see Lara's obviously capable mind get tested more often.

I also think the transformation for this character happens too quickly and too easily. Still, I have to accept that this might be necessary; the campaign is plenty long enough to be satisfying and let's face it, this is an action/adventure game at its core. Hence, an in-depth and highly intelligent script might be pushing it. You could lose your target audience. Besides, you're always so captivated by what's going on that you often want to keep playing, even if it's at the expense of a more fleshed-out plot. Character development is a tricky thing and despite my reservations here, it's obvious that this is a big step in the right direction. I doubt any would deny that.

Tomb Raider is a triumph in many respects. It's exactly what this franchise needed: A modern-day wake-up call that revamps an outdated character and gives us a role model of whom this industry can be proud. Our pride - however misplaced it may have been before - no longer resides in Lara Croft's chest. The setting is excellent, the character's transformation is emotional and effective, the control and combat is rock solid, and the pacing and variety is top-notch. They could've done more with the ideas they present and the multiplayer is lacking but beyond that, this one is a can't-miss for all serious gamers out there.

The Good: Great, gripping environment. Top-notch effects and good voice performances. Responsive, reliable control. Excellent pacing and variety. Immersion is almost unparalleled. Lara Croft's very human revamp is refreshing and praise-worthy.

The Bad: Multiplayer doesn't do anything special. More could've been done with the intriguing storyline.

The Ugly: "No 'ugly' here, besides some of the nasty brutes Lara must face."

3/5/2013 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (29 posts)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 @ 10:24:46 PM

Great review , pretty much represent what i think of the game so far ( did nt tried mp but i m sure you re right about it ) .

My only gripe is that there is way too much ammo .Takes a lot away from the survival feel of the game .It make me want to play even more The last of us that s for sure ( praying for ammo not being all over the place in it ) .

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013 @ 11:10:40 PM

Don't do MP so that sounds awesome, was hoping it would be well done, can't wait to play it.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013 @ 11:40:30 PM

Sounds great! Can't wait to sink my teeth into it (though I do actually have to wait unfortunately). This and Remember Me should give me some good digital female thrills. I know hardcore fans are going to have a problem with fewer and easier puzzling but I for one just got tired of hunting for switch handles and such. I've got an appetite for this new Lara that only she can satiate.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 12:19:09 AM

Man, this looks/sounds awesome, being a fan of the Uncharted games, this game should be a no brainer.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 1:04:49 AM

Although we won't fall out over a .1 in the score, I do believe it deserves a 9. Go on, just this once change it to a 9, go on man. Sure the MP might bring it down a bit but lets face it, no body's buying it for the MP, I know you have to take it into account but it shouldn't impact the score too much. (Not that .1 is too much)

As for the story, I'm rather enjoying it myself and as much as she frail at the beginning, when I'm playing these games I want to become a badass and kickass but that's personal preference.

To sum it up, good review but we're being a bit petty not pushing it into the 9's.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 1:54:21 AM

8.9 is actually slightly above the metascore of this title and very few has rated it higher, so I don't think the fans should have anything to complain about.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 11:12:44 AM

It isn't petty. I believe the entire game is just a slightly missed opportunity.

And besides, I have taken to reserving my 9+ scores for the absolute elite titles. I'm tired of making the 10-point scale seem like a 5-point scale, in that anything that scores to 1-5 is all equally atrocious, nothing under an 8 is worth playing, etc.

It's so ridiculously skewed; a topic many gamers have talked about before.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 4:10:45 PM

In my personal opinion, I would rate games 1-10 in .5 increment, but I have no problem how it is already.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 5:33:39 AM

Hmmm... Better than I feared! Sweet, I might actually get this game after all.

But, "The graphics may not be the game's strongest suit" - really? Judging from the videos in the article it looks really good? But then again most games do in a small window.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 8:29:22 AM

I was slightly confused as they were praised highly in other reviews, but oh well I don't care much about graphics unless it's an exclusive.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 9:14:08 AM

Why don't you do that?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 12:07:01 PM

Why don't I care much about graphics you mean?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 2:55:44 PM

Yes, unless it's an exclusive? Why the separation, why not care in one category and care in another? And why not care, generally speaking? It's part of the package, isn't it?

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/6/2013 2:57:51 PM

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 6:15:15 PM

Well as a first party game an exclusive should generally push the limits of the machine, graphics included.

That said, they matter but aren't all that important to me because I find that once you've tucked yourself into a game that you enjoy the flashy and pretty aspects melt away within about 20 minutes and you're enjoying the gameplay/characters/story more than the visuals. Take DmC, not much on graphics but what a ride!

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Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 12:54:02 AM

Ah I see. Yes a game can still be highly enjoyable even without flashy graphics, no doubt about that. But if that same game *also* looked great I'd always call that an advantage.

But it also very much depends on the kind of game, in my opinion. In this kind of game here I'd say the graphics are (one of) the main attractions. It's like Uncharted - you kinda play it to see the graphics. I feel this game is much the same.

While in games like Fallout, well there I don't really care much about dynamic lighting and natural shadows and all that stuff at all cause the main attractions of those games are on an entirely different level. Still... I'd say they matters. :)

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/7/2013 12:55:08 AM

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 5:50:27 AM

great mindless action game, beautiful vistas, big set pieces, and a half decent story and half decent characters.
only problem is thats not what the game was suppose to be!
this was suppose to be a reboot showing how lara got her name, how she became the tomb raider we know and love!
the gameplay was suppose to be VERY different from the past TR games!
and it is, for the first 20 minutes!
then it turns into your typical mindless action game!
crystal, if i wanted a uncharted wannabee i would of bought uncharted!
wish developers would get that through their thick skulls!

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 8:31:54 AM

So the very first adventure where Lara goes from bookworm to skilled and hardened survivalist isn't how she got her name and became the tomb raider we know and love?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 8:53:56 AM

not when the first 20 minutes of the game plays as it should, but the rest of the game is the same old same old weve been getting for what, 15 years now!?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 10:44:43 AM

I get what blank line is saying. Its been addressed in a lot of reviews too. It appears she went from "bookworm" to survivalist instantly with no lead up to it. She instantly was a hardcore, gun wielding, billy BA!

Alot of fans wanted a deeper experience with the lead up to her adventures, they wanted the back story. So I see what hes saying.

Problem is its really hard to develop that way and out out a game like they did. I could imagine its difficult anyways. Its time consuming, budget gets higher and so on... they had a vision and stuck with it. They tried to make it work in the confines of the games basis, and although its pointed out as a disspointment at times, I think they did well. I havnt played it, but reviews and videos have convinced me its a good game.

Last edited by bigrailer19 on 3/6/2013 10:46:17 AM

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 12:13:19 PM

Well I don't have it so I can't say either but I'd venture to guess that's the way things are always going to feel when you compress a big personal change into the timeframe of an action adventure, you work up from nothing to basic weapons to handguns to bigger arms and that (as a gameplay element) is representative of the change happening while the story shows her getting more comfortable with these things. If anybody has been paying attention that's just how things are, you don't have six months to show the change so you do what you can.

I don't think it would be an attractive game if you had to go through her whole history either, just the story that made her tough will do thank you.

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Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 7:49:49 AM

the pacing is far too fast.
you kill one guy and instantly all of a sudden shes running around killing people like shes been doing it for 30 years!
the weapon unlocks is far to fast too, you unlock all the weapons so quickly you go through the majority of the game wishing you had a new weapon because you have just become sick of the others.
gear is given out at a much better slower rate, and so is weapon mods like the explosive arrows.
the gear could use a bit more exploration too, you upgrade your axe once and thats it its done.
pacing is the biggest problem with the game, the whole point of this was to show how lara became lara.
she did not kill 1 person, then become the 20 year experienced expert we know and love!

the combat does not help that either, there are WAY too many enemies to kill.
it just makes it feel even more out of place.
they should of made it your scrambling around stealthfully taking out enemies, or at least confine the action.
when your a scared little bookworm who is leaping accross flaming buildings, dodging machiene gun fire, dodging grenades, and taking out enemies rushing towards you all at the same time its a bit much.
drake can do that because hes been doing this sh*t for years!
lara USE to be able to do that for the same reason.
but were suppose to believe she landed on this island, a scared girl who has never killed anyone, who has never been put in a situation HALF like this!
and all of a sudden, out of zero experience what so ever, shes become a flaming building leaping, machine gun dodging, rambo action hero?
give me a break!
one thing that is really spoiling almost every game these days, believe ability!
if they had it that theres 4 enemies in each area, and you had to take them out stealth fully, or at least had to stumble around, cover shoot, action but constrained action, id be fine.
it would of been the game it should of been, and the game everyone was expecting!
but they dident, they have you kill 1 person then they cut and paste the combat out of the previous tomb raider games!
it just does not suit!

another thing i HATE about allot of games this gen, and this is a BIG culprit of it, is the invisible plate trigger.
you walk up to a area and theres 3 enemies, you kill said 3 enemies and no one else will show up till you hit said invisible plate.
then when you do, boom 500 enemies spawn 2 inches from your face!
one particular level comes to memory, when you get the grenade attachment your showed you can use it to destroy certain objects, you blow out a wall and accross the alley is 2 enemies.
kill them, and nothing happens.
no enemies will spawn till you jump down into the alley way, once you do 100 enemies spawn and so does 2 guys behind fixed machine guns and dice you up instantly.
the second the cut scene ends you have to quickly scramble to cover, and even IF you make it in time 2 enemies end up right next to you with molotov cocktails.
these are the scenarios a scared bookworm is going to be able to get herself out of?
give me a break!

the no enemies spawning till you hit the invisible plate gets REALLY frustrating in any game, but especially in this because you die so easily!
if i had a nickel for every time i died hightailing it away from 100 million enemies that just spawned in this, id be the richest thing alive!
10 fold!

another thing spoiling the game, is the WHOLE point of tomb raider.
heres a hint, its in both words of the title.
the whole point of the game is you raid tombs, you find very valuable rare items by solving puzzles and exploring really cool dark places.
1st problem the tombs are quite rare, if i remember right theres only 7 in the game.
2nd there by FAR from cool!
every entrance is the same with the same convoluted slow crouch through a dark cave, gets REALLY annoying and repetetive!
then when you finally get to the tomb, they are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO easy!
and short!
lift this pulley which will carry this bottle to this spinning this dial which will swing around a pole, jump onto this platform, and use the pole to swing accross.
then use your bow to spin this pole catching the bottle which will spin around another pole.
congratulations, your a genius you have solved another puzzle!
wow, that was so hard, and oh so long!
come on, i think we can solve something a little harder, and something a bit longer and larger than that!

i was REALLY worried that this would just be another uncharted game, that it would forget the roots of the franchise.
and it has!
not saying its a bad game, not by a LONG shot!
in fact id say in some areas its better than uncharted!
BUT at the end of the day this is a TOMB RAIDER game, not a uncharted game!
its point, its purpose is to be THE best tomb raider game ever made!
and sadly its not, not by a long shot!
the past few tomb raider games may of been rushed, buggy and repetitive, but at least at heart, when you got to the soul of them, they were VERY much still tomb raider games!
sadly, i cant say the same for this.
this is a fantastic uncharted game, but a poor tomb raider game.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 7:24:48 AM

I love this game It's quite addicting. Great review Ben

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 9:32:17 AM

Nice review Ben! I have been playing only 30 min and the atmosphere is amazing. This is going to be a lot of fun. Cannot wait until tonight!

Platinum Hunters - There are MP trophies that a huge grind.

Last edited by CrusaderForever on 3/6/2013 9:36:26 AM

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 10:03:22 AM

Your review is spot on Ben. I had a feeling this game would bring TR back to where it belongs & my gut was right. I couldn't put it down last night. I only wish they would've gone the Dishonered route & skipped the MP. It would've been a big bold statement for the rest of the industry

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 4:15:29 PM

Question, Do you need play the older tomb raider games to follow this game for the story?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 5:19:35 PM

No way.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 9:47:45 PM

Ben, I think you should revisit the question of whether or not you need to seperate the reviews of the SP/MP in a game. I could not care less about the MP in any game so when I see that part of the game dragging down a review score it really ticks me off.

With that said, I cannot wait to pick this one up and play the campaign. A question, about how long is the campaign? Good review also.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 12:00:57 AM

The single-player and multiplayer are part of the same production. They both must be evaluated in turn, regardless of your personal opinions.

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Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 7:07:19 AM

I just want a game where it is not about the character, but about the exploration of an ancient place. That was what the original Tomb Raider was about. It was not about Lara Croft.

But this game will do just nicely. Will try it out when I find it in the bargain bin!

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