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Published on April 2nd, 2015 | by Chris Scott

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Revisiting Tomb Raider: As Good As It Gets

I recently played The Order: 1886, Sony’s very pretty but very generic cinematic third person shooter. I liked it well enough, although not well enough to care about writing a review for it. After finishing it though, I was still in the mood for some third person shooter gameplay. This early part of the generation has not been kind to that style of play and I was left wondering what to play. Then it hit me, sitting on my Xbox One hard drive was a copy of Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition. What better game to get my third person fix on than with Critically Sane’s 2013 Game of the Year?

Obviously, by the fact that it won our site’s Game of the Year award, we think of the game pretty highly. It wasn’t my personal Game of the Year in 2013, that went to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, but it was my runner-up and a year ago, I had nothing but nice things to say about the game. After sitting through the Definitive Edition of it on Xbox One, my opinion of it has only grown stronger.

Tomb Raider is for all intents and purposes, a reboot of the classic franchise for a more modern audience. Lara has always been a strong character but the last Tomb Raider attempts to humanize her a bit more and give her character more depth. If I have any complaints about the game though, it is that her development is super accelerated, going from frail and scared to grizzled action-movie killer in a span of an hour. That first hour, while the transformation is happening, is fantastic but in the span of a 20 hour video game, it is super brief and maybe doesn’t carry the weight that the game wants you to think it does. Still, in terms of action-movie narrative, Tomb Raider mostly succeeds and it does so looking pretty damn phenomenal at the same time.

I remember thinking this when I originally played it, but Tomb Raider is a very pretty game. I’m not sure that the Definitive Edition looks markedly better than the original release but either way, the game and its cinematic stylings is something beautiful to look at.

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Narrative and visuals aside though, games come down to gameplay and Tomb Raider is tops in its class here. Between the smooth platforming to the precision shooting, I’m not sure any other game of this class even competes. And this strong control is put to great use in smartly designed levels. The platforming puzzles, while not hard, require every aspect of Lara’s acrobatic arsenal and the pseudo open-world nature of the levels allows for a better, more approachable player experience. And the combat is just aces. Coming through the game a second time, I have a much better appreciation for the combat encounters.

Since Tomb Raider came out I’ve played through some rather high profile action games that feature similar mechanics to that of Tomb Raider. Most notably, the aforementioned The Order: 1886 and it’s critical darling Sony sibling, The Last of Us. In both The Last of Us and The Order, I came away from combat often feeling frustrated and annoyed, like I just wasn’t getting it. Both games seemed to have a “right” way of approaching encounters and often times, I just wasn’t jiving with the right way. This obviously led to some frustrating runs as I would fail the sequences over and over again. I never felt this way in Tomb Raider.

Despite the encounters being similar in design, shooting arenas with ample cover to hide behind, there is a precision to the shooting and fluidity to the melee combat that just isn’t there in those other games. Lara isn’t a bullet sponge but neither are her enemies and being on that even playing field, makes the encounters seem tense but also fair. There is nothing I hated more in The Order: 1886 than facing off against a Shotgunner because they took triple the amount of hits that other enemies did and also carried a weapon that could quickly kill you. Tomb Raider has different types of enemies that require you to react differently but they were never frustrating to me. When I died in Tomb Raider, I never felt like the game was being unfair to me and this allowed for a better overall experience.

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Add in the exploration of the island and all the hidden collectibles, of which the game has a lot, and Tomb Raider was the ultimate action adventure game for me. Sure, I could have done with more actual tombs to raid, and I hope the sequel addresses this, but it’s hard to complain about the amount of content Tomb Raider has on deck for its players. It is a 15 to 20 hour game and all of it is of a high quality.

And it is saying something that a nearly 20 hour game has captured my attention enough for me to play through it twice in two years and 100% it both times. I don’t want to spend 20 hours on most games once, let alone twice. And 100%? I’m hardly ever compelled to do such a thing. Tomb Raider is just a great gaming experience, arguably one of the best from last gen and sadly the best such experience on new consoles as well. Rise of the Tomb Raider can’t get here fast enough.

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