Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider: dirty Lara
Lara is having a rough day…

I played through Tomb Raider by accident. It’s a game about killing, climbing and grabbing ledges in the last second. I was never a big fan of the original series, but the recent Uncharted-like reboot intrigued me and for some reason it became dirt cheap quick, which I don’t understand because I think the game is great (spoiler!). Naturally that meant it was doomed to live a life of sad abandon in my game collection, until recently a monthly subscription of a popular bundle provider, who shall remain unnamed, teased me with the second game in the series. Ten hours later, I am writing this.

Tomb Raider: hanging around with corpses
…it’s ‘Ew!’…

The first thing that struck me about Tomb Raider is how good it still looks. The second thing was, how incredible dark and violent it is. Tomb Raider is Death Metal-lyrics the video game. I have seen more gore and skulls in ten hours of Tomb Raider than in 20+ years looking at Metal records. Where did all those corpses come from? When you mess up, Lara dies a most violent and often graphic death. I didn’t get stuck much in Tomb Raider, but even if it happened for a short time, probably at some stupid quick time event, it gets exhausting fast to see a young woman get shot in the eye or impaled through the neck, again and again. Not quite like I remember the game from the early 90s, but I really enjoyed the bloody shootouts.

Then there’s Lara herself, who goes from “Oh my god, I think that guy just tried to rape me!” to “I killed him to protect me and I liked it.” and then kills anyone she meets (a lot of people) on the island. What a great character arc!

Tomb Raider: Lara on splitting glas screen
…it’s dangerous…

Tomb Raider for me is what an AAA game should look like. Great spectacle with simple and polished game mechanics, walking the thin line of being accessible but not insulting your intelligence too much (it still is though). Sometimes it comes close to being more of an interactive movie than a game, and like most modern blockbuster movies it would have profited from its running time cut by at least 30 percent. Still, I was impressed by how they managed to make the game feel diverse and not as repetitive as the early Uncharted games or Alan Wake felt to me. Probably because the combat was much smoother and did not feel like a chore.

There is also a story, which is interesting enough until you realize its not going to be a clever ‘It looked like magic, but it was science all along!’ ending, but just the usual supernatural crap. It’s what I expected, but it’s still sad.

Tomb Raider: Lara gets dragged around by thungs
…she gets dragged around…

The game suffers the usual progression and crafting systems, which made the game too easy too fast, but I really enjoyed the weapon upgrading.

A detail I particularly liked, and which I would like to see more, is how Lara’s appearance through the game gets worse and worse. Her clothes get torn up, without it getting too uncomfortably sexist, and she collects cuts and bruises all along the way. Lara gets treated rough in the game.

I liked Tomb Raider. It was an exciting ride, which allowed me to kill a lot of confused bearded men, and sometimes even managed to tap into my fear of heights. It also allowed me to optionally raid some tombs. If you are into early Cannibal Corpse you should give it a try.

Tomb Raider: Lara bathing in a pool of blood
…and also this happened.

Info: Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and released in 2013. It’s fun and while its recent price of 19.99€ is fair, you can wait for one of its many sales and pick it up for just a couple of bucks.

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