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Review – Tomb Raider

14 April on Blogs, Reviews  

357c37a87bbfdb7d_999_large"A survivor is born", proclaims the daring slogan of the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is a record-holder in that category: after saturating players with yearly games, the Core team decided to "kill" her in the fourth installment, 1999's The Last Revelation. Another retrospective game (Chronicles, 2000) was released while the heroine was getting ready for her next-gen debut in Angel of Darkness (2003) for the PlayStation 2. The title brought several new mechanics and a darker, edgier Lara coming back from the ashes. But she quickly retreated into them, as a failure with critics and consumers alike. Eidos ended handing the franchise to Crystal Dynamics, which had proved themselves recreating the Legacy of Kain series. Another reboot later, Lara comes back in 2006's Legend, which received two sequels, including a remake of sorts, before getting reboot once again. That's three reboots in less than 15 years. This is the price Lara Croft paid for becoming a pop culture phenomenon overnight.

Lara ainda faz suas tradicionais acrobacias, mas agora com menor precisão e de forma mais orgânica como em Uncharted

Lara is still doing her acrobatics, but now with Uncharted's more organic feel

The new adventure tosses her cliché but celebrates origin: the plane crash that left her alone in the Himalayas for two weeks is gone - she is now a modern teenager, still orphaned by her aristocratic father, now a famous archeologist, and is helping her friend Samantha make a documentary in Japan. Not that you would know any of that: the game opens so suddenly you'd think someone misplaced the original opening movie for a trailer. We see Lara in an about-to-shipwreck boat... and in a few instants she is hanging in some sort of grotesque ritual. This narrative faux-pas has a heavy price: we are presented with a new character, whose famous past was erased, and yet we have no reason to sympathize or care about her - or the names that she calls for help, characters that are not properly presented at this time. It is clear they want to tell the story that defined her, an excellent idea... but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

O sofrimento gráfico passa dos limites, criando um misto cômico-desconfortável

The graphical nature of her suffering goes too far, creating an awkward unpleasant comic effect

The first few minutes of the game are spent seeing our heroine suffering with sadistic creativity that goes beyond being uncomfortable. It is clear the creators wanted to use the game to define the character, a worthy endeavor, but not necessarily successful. The angst of knowing who this girl being tortured is, as well as her motivation, is only aggravated by the exaggeration of her plight - it goes beyond empathy right into ridicule. Uncharted was wise in making Nathan Drake's bad luck into comic relief, because Tomb Raider's attempt at drama quickly degenerates due to lack of restraint. Eventually Lara finds a camcorder and we are presented the secondary characters on some early footage on the ship as flashbacks... but too little, too late: there are only two of these sequences, leaving the holes to be filled by letters that the player needs to hunt during gameplay. This element harkens back to the audiologs from System Shock 2, which were used masterfully in Bioshock and Dead Space - but here not only due they bring the game to a halt, but are written like they were supposed to be audio (which laughter, for instance) when are meant to be letters... and yet get the actor's voice over treatment. Like in Disney's Atlantis, secondary characters seem interesting and you want to see more of them - but this wish is never fulfilled. All these bizarre choices result in a messy plot that keeps the game from reaching its full potential.

As mecânicas de sobrevivência são interessantes e cativantes

Survival mechanics and plentiful and captivating

But if Tomb Raider fumbles the narrative, it more than compensates on the action. Crystal Dynamics wasn't afraid of copying Uncharted's formula, creating a healthy mix of fighting, platforming and exploration, each with its nuances that complement each other in a varied and fun adventure. Like in Naughty Dog's classic, these sequences are punctuated by unbelievable set pieces that are breathtaking. But the game's biggest strength is the design of the island setting: each part, dedicated to different themes, is a gigantic interactive playground - every one enormous and full of exciting gameplay opportunities. There are dozens of ways and methods to get from Point A to Point B, and Lara's surprising toolbox makes each a huge boon for the player, which will probably spend hours poking at every corner to complete a long list of hidden challenges. A multiplayer mode is included, reusing a lot of the mechanics, but plays second fiddle to the main adventure.

The same care taken in the creation of these elaborate maps can be seen in all audiovisual production - from the excellent dubbing and soundtrack to the amazing lighting, the island is brought to life, serving as the perfect environment for the unbelievable scenes of the young adventurer's travels.


We could use more of the secondary character's participation...

The game closes by repeating its slogan: “A survivor is born”. But like the rest of the adventure, Lara is shown surprisingly passive regarding the events unfolding in front of her, with her constant moaning of pain as she is destroyed by the harsh survival imposed by the island. It would be nice, except we never see the reconstructed Lara - the transformation is never shown, limited to one phrase uttered on the final video. Tomb Raider is a worthy purchase due to its excellent adventure and setting, but the narrative seems to take a back seat, relegating the character's reboot to a half of the process we were meant to see - and that could have made the title an instant classic. Lara is deconstructed, but never reconstructed into the heroine we expected to see. The pop icon of videogames deserved more.

Tech sheet
Tomb Raider
Plataforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.


  1. Rohith says:

    But wait Buying! I thought you want to actaully play your games and not watch them . As far as I can see, this is twice as linear as Uncharted (and still somehow has crappier graphics, but I guess that Sh*tbox development for you). Microsoft is protecting an inferior technology. Rob DyerVN:R_U [1.9.17_1161](from 4 votes)