A venerable game franchise gets a much-needed and totally satisfying reboot with Crystal Dynamic’s new “Tomb Raider” (PC, PS3, X360; $59.99; rated M), a dizzying collision of genres and one of the year’s best games so far.
The new “Tomb Raider” is a true relaunch – an origin story that’s explicitly designed to reinvent Lara Croft as a viable video game heroine for a different age. The lethal and icy adventurer of games past has been replaced with a frightened but resolute teenager, shipwrecked at the dawn of her archeological career. The emphasis on storytelling and character pays immediate dividends.
Along with the scattered members of her research team, Lara must fend off the island’s natives – wolves, military cultists and ancient samurai. Lara starts with a makeshift bow, but soon upgrades to the usual armory – pistols, shotguns and the like. Lara is not yet the hardened warrior she will become. For instance, she throws up after her first kill. Clever camera work and cut scenes encourage the player to identify with Lara, not just admire her from a distance.
“Tomb Raider” combines elements of action adventure, rail shooter, role-playing game, platformer and survival horror. The designers have cherry-picked the best aspects of each genre and borrowed innovations from recent franchises like “Assassin’s Creed.”
The combat and platforming are better than ever. Quick-time events and limited role-playing elements, like crafting and inventory options, keep the texture varied. The game also adds new online multiplayer options.
On the down side, this is the first game in the franchise to get an “M” rating, recommended for players 17 and up. The game’s most thrilling elements have nothing to do with the gore and language, which are largely gratuitous. For families that abide by such ratings, this game won’t be an option for kids, and that’s a shame.
Still, “Tomb Raider” is a triumphant return for a classic franchise. Welcome back, Ms. Croft.