Raiding tombs optional in new ‘Tomb Raider’

GameReviewLara Croft is back and grittier than ever in her brand new origin story. “Tomb Raider,” developed by Crystal Dynamics, tells how a budding archeologist becomes a survivor and legend.

Fresh out of school, Lara Croft is part of an archeological expedition in search of Yamatai, an ancient Japanese kingdom. However, her ship sinks in a massive storm. Lara and most of her crew wash ashore of a mysterious island filled with dangerous wildlife and people out to kill any outsider. Separated from her companions for most of the game, Lara must survive alone, solve the mysteries of the island and find a way for everyone to escape — all without getting killed by the islanders.

The game controls are relatively easy, but the game starts the player on a trial-by-fire intro. In the beginning, Lara is hanging upside-down after being captured by the islanders for the first time after the wreck. The player must get her down, sneak her through the cavern, use quick time events to escape a pursuer twice, solve a puzzle to blow up a wall, maneuver through a platform-style section where the cavern is falling apart, scramble up a steep incline, use quick time events to avoid falling boulders, and finally break free as the opening to the outside collapses.

If you’re clever and don’t die once or twice, this intro should only take about the first seven to 10 minutes of actual game play. Most of the game isn’t quite that intense, but it is fairly close.

When Lara first discovers weapons, the game doesn’t actually teach you to how to use them.  Quickly disappearing text on the right side of the screen explains how to aim and fire if you’re lucky enough to catch it. Once she has multiple weapons, the game doesn’t teach you how to switch. You have to hope the hint pops up after you’ve died and the game reloads.

I’ll save you all the headaches and say this: D-pad.

The game isn’t bogged down by meters and bars on the screen. Health is measured by blood splatter on the screen, and once the screen turns black and white, you know you’re almost dead. Just avoid fire and run around in circles, and health will automatically regenerate. That’s right, no more health packs.

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The tombs are extra features in this game, only to be explored if you feel like it. The puzzles to solve the tombs are woefully easy by comparison to older “Tomb Raider” games, but since this Lara is just starting out, perhaps game developers weren’t as concerned with them.

The quick time events, in-game events where players must press a series of indicated buttons in order to advance, are excessive; players can’t go too far without a random event popping up to frustrate or confuse them. If you fail, Lara will likely be skewered to death. It seems to be a favorite way of killing her in this game.

At some point, Lara will be swept away by a river. Players will hate this river. Lara will be impaled a minimum of three to four times before players figure out which way to aim and when.

By the end of the game though, Lara mostly becomes the Croft we all know she’s supposed to be. When she finally duel-wields pistols, players know Lara’s back for sure.

Despite all the frustrations, the story is well developed and quite addicting. It’s worth a play, and whatever game comes next in this reboot can only grow from it — unless, of course, they add more quick time events.

Game: Tomb Raider

Maker: Crystal Dynamics

Release Date: March 5, 2013

Platform: PS3, XBOX 360, PC