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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: 'Tomb Raider' - Nathan Drake Who?

Lara Croft is back and better than ever. Thanks to the fine folks over at Crystal Dynamics, both fans and newcomers to the Tomb Raider franchise now have something to truly cheer about.

With the new Tomb Raider officially beaten, I feel as if I can write a worthy review. I'm not going to lie, I've been working on a piece that tells the tale of young Lara Croft as she matures into a strong, independent woman. One that revolves around life's struggles and the necessity to adapt in order to survive.

Instead of boring with you that however, I'm just going to tell you about how incredibly badass the "new" Lara Croft really is.

I originally got my hands on Crystal Dynamic's Tomb Raider at last year's E3 (2012 in case you're reading this review several years from now). Every bit of skepticism I may have had at the time was immediately washed away when the new protagonist was shown in real-time, bow and all.

I was no longer watching a busty brunette bimbo prance around the screen, apparently searching tombs for treasure. Instead I was playing as a strong female protagonist who was not only learning how to survive herself, but how to keep her friends alive as well. Tomb Raider suddenly became less about how big Lara Croft's boobs are.

This time around the focus had been shifted to the game itself.

While the comparisons to the Uncharted series are plenty, its for good reason - Tomb Raider plays a lot like it. So much in fact that if you've played any of the Uncharted games you'll feel right at home. The only major difference is that Tomb Raider is set in a much more open world. It gives you the freedom to fast travel around the island, search lost tombs, find tons of collectibles, hunt animals, and my favorite thing of all... zip line constantly.

As you progress through the game you'll gain experience points for kills, collectible finds, harvesting plants, and skinning animals (to name a few ways). These experience points can then be traded in for skills along the lines of better accuracy, finishing moves, better hunting/scavenging, and so on. A lot of these skills are fairly critical to advance the story, making the exploration in the open world worth your time.

Not that it wouldn't be worth your time sans experience points, as the island is incredibly fun to uncover.

You'll also find salvage which can be used to upgrade your weapons. Yes, Lara Croft's main weapon is the bow and arrow, and while you gain access to guns at a later date, you'll most likely find yourself using the bow most often. The gameplay mechanics are so tight that headshots with the bow can be accomplished, which never, ever, gets old.

There's just something oddly satisfying about an arrow to the face of that douchebag enemy standing between you and your objective.

The story should take you a little over ten hours to complete (eleven and change for myself), and is engaging enough to play more than once. You also find and unlock new weapons and supplies throughout the story, giving it an evolutionary feel that I haven't seen in a long while.

It also helps that Tomb Raider is one of the best looking games out there right now. It's one of those games where you will find yourself stopping to simply take a look at scenery.

I'm not the guy that spoils a story, so you won't find any details in this review. All I'm going to say is that its absolutely worth your time and screams "Game of the Year" all over it.

Should you buy this game? Absolutely yes. Without a doubt. One of the few great games out there that feature a strong female lead character. And it's about fucking freaking time.

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