4 stars = Outstanding
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Pros: An original take on familiar gameplay elements; top-notch presentation; compelling origin story of Lara Croft.
Cons: Multiplayer is as uninspired as it is unnecessary.
The "Tomb Raider" series has been synonymous with the adventure genre since its days on the original PlayStation, but now the developers at Crystal Dynamics attempt to advance the series by starting at the beginning to show how Lara Croft became the legendary explorer that she is.
Shipwrecked and forced to fend for herself, the young Croft has lost her crew, her courage and all hope. Will she realize what she is destined to become, or will her potential be wasted trying to survive on an unforgiving island?
This question of heroism is the central theme of this reboot. We learn how Croft became the confident and experienced adventurer she is known as over the series' 17-year run.
All reboots should be this good.
"Tomb Raider" is a gaming masterpiece. The most successful elements from games such as "Arkham City" and "Super Metroid" are applied to a rich, original environment. But this isn't just a mashup of old tricks. Crystal Dynamics has been able to borrow what makes adventure games work, and then take that to a new level.
At its heart it is a third-person action-adventure game. Weapons can be upgraded by collecting salvage throughout the island, and platforming is a huge part of the puzzles and exploration. The game doesn't skimp on controls and shooting either. "Tomb Raider" is a tight and polished game from start to finish.
The world feels open but it's not overwhelming, and Croft is kept on a focused path. Compared to a game such as "Far Cry 3," which is similar to the sandbox genre, "Tomb Raider" makes sure your priority is to save your crew without constricting you to a linear path.
With gameplay being the best introduced this year, the game's presentation is just as stellar. The soundtrack and the voice work -- not to mention the game's overall sound quality -- create a cinematic experience. Actress Camilla Luddington's performance as the voice of Croft grows and evolves with each hurdle she overcomes.
Competitive multiplayer was added, but its poor mechanics and uninspired structure fail to match the quality of the main story. There is plenty of replay value, thanks to the single-player mode, even if the multiplayer goes completely ignored.
"Tomb Raider" is a rare gem. It blends those two essential elements of compelling storytelling and addicting gameplay that keep the controller firmly in your hands. This is a must-play for longtime fans of the series, as well as tomb raiding novices.moviereviews
Max Parker blogs about interactive games at http://communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/arts-entertainment-living/the-game-guy/