Publishers Square Enix recently stated that the new Tomb Raider reboot was a sales disappointment as it had “only” sold 3.4 million physical copies in one month. Not counting any sales on Steam or PSN in this age of digital distribution, it still sold 3.4 million copies. It’s a good job that report didn’t come out on this April Fool’s Day, as it would have perfectly fit the day’s tone of ridiculousness.
So, at the risk that Crystal Dynamics might not get a chance to make a sequel, here’s ten reasons why you should stop what you’re doing and go and buy this game right now:
1) It’s beautiful
Seriously. From the flock of seagulls flying over a moonlit shipwreck, to the snowy top of a mountain research base, it will frequently take your breath away. Character design is delicious and the signature sweeping vistas are scenic masterpieces.
2) You’re not playing as Angelina Jolie
Lara Croft became a bloated, bulletproof pair of boobs in tiny shorts. This Lara, brought to life by Rhianna Pratchett in word and Camilla Luddington in voice, is vulnerable, tenacious and compelling. The player grows with her and fights with her, watching as the innocent girl becomes chiselled into the character we know, until she changes into the very thing that her enemies fear. It’s a visible, emotive transformation that has you shouting threats along with her.
3) It channels the best of Dead Space
The first one, that is. Not only are there some great moments of feeling utterly trapped and surrounded by vicious killers, but the soundtrack also heightens the tension with the same discordant creeping strings that worked so well in Dead Space. A great game for headphones.
4) The writing and story are great
A captivating story that combines ancient mystery with the extreme survival of wreck survivors, there’s a constant compelling push to the finish. Lara’s lines are touchingly natural, giving real weight behind her struggles to comprehend the violence around her.
5) The bow will become your best friend
There are guns and grenades and all kinds of murder tools, and yet you’ll always feel compelled to resort back to such a silent, deadly weapon. Stalking multiple enemies through a forest, bow in hand, is a visceral pleasure.
6) It outdoes Uncharted
Uncharted borrowed from Tomb Raider, and this reboot returns the favour, except the levels are wider, the combat better, the thrills more urgent. Uncharted 2 may still be perfect in regards of set pieces and supporting characters, but Lara has the more interesting game.
7) It feels like a next-gen game
The detail is amazing. Not just in the fidelity of the graphics, but the level of animation is jaw-dropping. Lara will run her hand along walls, stumble over rocks, and scamper up disintegrating stairs. Enemies react brutally and die horribly, all while the game engine stays as solid as a rock. This would all justify the expenditure on a next-gen console, and yet we’ve got it for (apparently) outdated hardware.
8) The soundtrack is awesome
Maybe not as a stand-alone collection of music, but in context Jason Graves’ soundtrack provides the perfect mix of tender piano themes and grating metal clanks. The music is intrinsically linked to the action, beautifully scoring your journey.
9) It does being-trapped-on-a-mysterious-island better than Lost
…and Far Cry 3, for that matter. It may not truly be open-world, but the linearity is masked in wide levels with tons of secrets to discover. Tombs are tucked away, a mixture of old architecture and more recent research chambers. More tombs, larger and more complicated, would have been welcome. The island itself plays a starring role in the proceedings, its secrets gradually becoming painfully clear right up to the end.
10) There may still be too much combat, but it feels great
It’s definitely a requirement of modern gaming, and Tomb Raider games have always had a problem with combat-heavy sections, but it’s never felt this good. The guns are weighty and effective, the melee combat desperate and vicious, but its the bow that’s the star of the show. Lara’s ability with firearms increases with her confidence, echoing the narrative development of the character. A useful dodge/counter attack also underlines how her agility is her main weapon.
I finished Tomb Raider tonight and am still reeling from the final act’s power and intensity. Easily one of the best third-person action adventure games of this – or any – generation, not having a sequel because of poor business management on Square Enix’s part would be a terrible shame. Here’s hoping common sense wins over the unrealistic numbers and the amazing team at Crystal Dynamics has the opportunity to tell us another chapter in young Lara’s story.