Western Herald – REVIEW: New “Tomb Raider” game melds addictive action gameplay with emotional character arc

REVIEW: New “Tomb Raider” game melds addictive action gameplay with emotional character arc

John Campbell
A&E Reporter

Some video game series’ don’t get sequels as often as the gaming community hopes. Fans have been clamoring for a new StarFox game since 2006 and a new Killer Instinct since 1996. Fans of the Tomb Raider series, however, will be pleased with the newest game in the series, simply titled “Tomb Raider.”

The Tomb Raider series began in 1996 with its original self-title game, introducing one of the first majorly influential female characters in video game history: Lara Croft. Since then, Lara Croft has become a sex symbol, and the movie adaptation with Angelina Jolie only emphasized that fact. But while Lara Croft was an influential video game character from the get-go, some believed that her personality needed to be expanded upon.

“Tomb Raider” is more like a prequel than a continuation, looking at the transition from Lara Croft the explorer to Lara Croft the survivor. The game starts with a crew, including Lara Croft, on a ship looking for the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, where the legendary shaman queen Himiko, or “Sun Queen,” is from.

The expedition goes sour when the ship gets lost in the “Dragon’s Triangle” (an area near Japan much like the “Bermuda Triangle” in the Atlantic) and gets torn apart by a storm. The survivors wind up on an unknown island and get captured. After escape, Lara Croft looks for the other survivors and tries to figure out how to get off the island.

The first third of the game is largely based on stealth and survival. These early parts of the game help players understand the emotions and character changes that Lara Croft goes through during the game. The game builds up to the moment when Lara Croft has to kill a man out of necessity, a multitude of emotions spilling out as she realizes what she has done and what she must do to survive.

After the first kill, “Tomb Raider” kicks into high gear, as survival depends on dispatching enemies left and right. When it comes to the story, the change in character from first kill to destroying everyone who gets in her path comes too quickly. When it comes to gameplay though, the shift makes perfect sense. The intensity of the final two-thirds of the game makes it that much more enjoyable.

During the game, players find five different tools and weapons to assist in survival, including an ax, a bow, a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun. Upgrades can be made to each of these items (and must be made to the ax in order to complete the game) by finding enough salvage.

During the quest, many relics, documents and other things can be found as well, starting challenges that can be completed during the quest, but can also be finished after beating the main storyline. Completing parts of these challenges, finding optional tombs, killing enemies and killing animals for salvage help players gain experience points used to give new skills to Lara Croft.

The optional tombs are very interesting puzzles, as the player must figure out how to get to the end and collect the treasure. Completing all the tombs is a challenge, but shouldn’t be too hard for most players. The first tomb is entered as part of the storyline.

British actress Camilla Luddington was chosen to take over the role of Lara Croft and does the motion capture work for the character. Luddington’s work is a big part of why the player is able to easily get emotionally attached to Lara Croft. The voice-over work of the entire cast is well done, but it’s Luddington’s work that steals the show.

The music of “Tomb Raider” is also incredible. Jason Graves, who has composed many works for video games including the Dead Space series, was chosen to compose for “Tomb Raider.” The music highlights the emotional struggle that Lara Croft has to face throughout the game. Special “horror” effects were created with a brand new instrument, and video footage of the instrument can be found in the extras section of the game.

The most disappointing part of the game, though, is the multiplayer element. While multiplayer is fun–especially since you can play as anyone on the crew of the ship or any of the enemies–there is just nothing that makes it stick out remarkably from other game franchises. Still fun, but mostly superfluous.

“Tomb Raider” gets an A – for it’s fun, adventurous gameplay, addicting music and the incredible talents of Luddington. “Tomb Raider” is available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows.

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