Tomb Raider Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Tomb Raider Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Will To Survive

Reboots aren’t always the best things for longtime fans. Often, they end up as nothing more than re-skinned versions of outdated formulas. Other times, developers just can’t seem to bring the characters back to life in a believable or dynamic way. Most commonly, though, reboots are just sad attempts at resurrecting dead gaming franchises simply because the developers have run out of fresh ideas. Thankfully, Tomb Raider doesn’t suffer from any of these pitfalls.

Our tale of hardship and survival begins in the Dragon’s Triangle, a stretch of the Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Japan similar to the Bermuda Triangle, at the beginning of Lara Croft’s blossoming archeological career. The crew of a ship called the Endurance is in search of the mythical island of Yamatai, the ancient home of Himiko the Sun Queen.

In the opening sequence, the Endurance turns further East and deeper into the Triangle at the urging of the young and eager Lara. Depending on your perspective, this was either exceptionally brilliant or colossally ignorant on Lara’s part, because they do, in fact, find their fabled island. However, the Endurance (despite its ironic name) is quickly torn in two by an unnaturally violent storm, forcing the crew to abandon ship.

Tomb Raider Screenshot

After being knocked out cold by an unknown assailant, Lara awakes to find herself bound and hanging upside down in a bleak underground cave of some sort. The stage is set for one of the most spectacular and terrifying escape sequences that a gaming heroine has ever had to traverse. It’s frantic and blindsiding, and it brilliantly sets the tone of the game at a full sprint.

Emerging on the island, Lara finds herself on a cliff face, looking out on a bay full of wrecked ships with no idea of where to go or what to do. For just a split second, the player feels exactly how Lara must feel, lost and alone. Crystal Dynamics managed to create a moment here that cannot be ignored, forcing players to connect with the character on a basic level of uncertainty and fear.

Tomb Raider Screenshot

A shivering and hungry Lara finds shelter and starts a small fire, introducing a core gameplay element. While warming yourself around a campfire, you can assign skill points to one of three unique skill sets: survivalist, hunter, or brawler. Each skill set has three tiers that can only be unlocked once a certain amount of skills have been attained. The skills get progressively more powerful, and you’ll eventually acquire skills you’ll wish you’d had the entire game, like Cartography, which shows you the location of all the collectibles in the game on your map.

Lara can also upgrade her weapons with salvage she has found from around the island. Through salvage gathering, you can upgrade your weapons with accuracy, damage, and reload enhancements, as well as different projectile types for different situations. Believe me, you will need them all. This becomes decidedly important as the game progresses, ultimately leading to some serious hardware.

Tomb Raider Screenshot

For example, Lara’s signature bow works flawlessly and feels natural in the island environment. Even though I eventually found much more powerful weapons, I still went back to the bow because of its versatility and sheer awesomeness. You can make rope bridges with it to help traverse large canyons and cliff faces, upgrade it to shoot fire arrows, and ultimately (my favorite) upgrade to explosive arrows.

In terms of gameplay, Tomb Raider definitely seems to be a love letter to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, emulating the successful acrobatic-archaeologist formula that has been brought to life by Nathan Drake. To be fair, though, the original Tomb Raider series was an obvious inspiration for Uncharted, so inspiration comes full-circle here.

Still, Tomb Raider does an extraordinary job of separating itself from its counterpart by taking place in a living and breathing open world, with an entire island to explore. It is entirely possible to sprint through the storyline without getting bogged down by the many extras the game provides, which should take roughly eight to ten hours. But why would you? There are plenty of hidden tombs to locate and additional puzzles to solve, which are throwbacks to former Tomb Raider titles. There’s nothing like rushing to the aid of an injured companion, only to stumble upon a secret tomb and taking thirty minutes to explore its wonders. I’m sure that companion will be just fine for a little longer, right?

The additional tombs and optional areas have brought back an element that a lot of recent games have been shying away from: timing. This was prevalent in former Tomb Raider titles, where players were forced to time a jump just right to hit a moving platform or pull levers in a certain sequence and run for an unlocked door. In this title, there are a healthy amount of hair-pulling puzzles that take not just logical thinking and true problem-solving skills, but also adept player control and character skill mastery.

Another important gameplay mechanic here is Instinct Mode. This is designed to help you visualize Lara’s instincts, pointing you in the right direction or showing you where points of interest are on screen whenever activated. This can be invaluable when you get turned around, because Instinct Mode displays a directional marker pointing you toward your next objective or showing you points of interest in a puzzle you may have overlooked.

Whether swinging, using zip-lines, parachuting, or climbing steep cliff faces, it’s undeniable just how beautiful this game is. The environments are presented in a crisp and stunning manner; rolling jungles, ancient temples, ship-littered beachfronts, and World War II bunkers are all brought to life with extreme detail and painstaking realism. What emerges is an island with a character all its own, steeped in multiple eras of history which are represented by several architectural styles stacked on top of each other like layers of a cake. As you explore the island, you gain an understanding of the history that has transpired over the many tumultuous years. Additionally, the character models are insanely detailed and seem to continually evolve throughout the game with each gunshot, cut, scrape, and impalement suffered by the crew. In short, there is a lot to see.

Lending ambience to the already excellent visuals, the weather and environmental effects during gameplay are excellent additions. Sloshing around in an underground cave causes water droplets on the screen, wind effects in narrow canyons visibly blow debris through your path and obscure your vision, and blistering snow makes it difficult to maneuver and see atop steep mountains.

Tomb Raider Screenshot

Visual hiccups are few and far between, though there are a few bouts of screen tearing and the occasional animation skip. Overall, though, the game does an outstanding job of transitioning between cutscenes and gameplay. Honestly, if I hadn’t been looking for visual issues, I probably would not have noticed them due to the frantic onscreen action and dramatic events unfolding in front of my eyes.

Completing the package, the audio delivers on all fronts. The disheveled survivors are brought to life by a cast of brilliantly character-invested actors. Weapons sound as they should, and you can even hear the tension of your bowstring each time you draw it back. Add to that the sometimes somber and always intricate orchestral score and you have a Hollywood-level production value soundscape on your hands. The signature three-key piano tones will be playing in your head long after the credits roll on this one.

Tomb Raider delivers an evenly paced, action-packed, evolutionary tale that explains the genesis of one of gaming’s most beloved heroines. Along the way, we are treated to top-shelf visuals, a soundscape that rivals a Hollywood blockbuster, and gameplay that is both thoroughly engaging and aesthetically varied. It may not be perfect, but it delivers a must-play gaming experience for action adventure fans everywhere. Welcome back, Lara, you’ve been missed.

Visuals are top-notch. The remote island of Yamatai is gorgeous and chock full of eye candy. Character models are vividly detailed and progress throughout the game, evolving due to harsh conditions. 4.3 Control
You can’t always do what you want to do, but the control scheme and gameplay are excellent overall. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundscape of this game really shines. It’s a full package of excellent voice acting, believable sound effects, and an outstanding score. 4.5 Play Value
Crystal Dynamics crafts a game that modern action adventure fans will thoroughly enjoy, while still retaining a good helping of the original Tomb Raider flavor we remember. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Hunt or Be Hunted: Evade, outsmart, trick and kill the mysterious enemies that hunt you as prey.
  • Survival Action: Brutally attack and defend yourself as you fight to survive through visceral one-on-one melee combat.
  • Strategic Weapons: Gain an advantage in combat by finding an array of different melee and ranged weapons including a variety of guns, and the hunter’s ultimate weapon, the bow.
  • Creative Survival: React and adapt to the island by using only that which you can salvage from the environment like climbing axes, rope, and machetes that can be used to unlock new traversal and combat gameplay options.
  • Free Movement: Scramble up a vertical cliff wall, sprint and leap across a huge chasm, steer mid-air to land a misdirected jump: There is no one right way to traverse, survive, and explore the harsh environment of the island.
  • One Cohesive World: The diverse multi-region island is an open playground alive with creatures, weather, and natural events.
  • Origin Story: The new Tomb Raider concept reboots the franchise by exploring Lara Croft’s transformation into a hardened adventurer as you unravel the story behind the island’s mysterious past.

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