Expansive Overview: Tomb Raider

Before continuing, we recommend reading this – it will explain the intentions of the Expansive Overview and what it sets out to achieve.

Reboots are not always the best way to bring a game back to the public’s attention. In the case of Tomb Raider, there’s plenty of existing material out there and plenty of directions a story could be taken. Crystal Dynamics had a new vision for Lara Croft, however, and they were always going to see it through.

Did they make the right choice?

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: March 5th 2013
Format: Xbox 360/Playstation 3/PC
Version Tested: Xbox 360

This Lara Croft has a harder-edge than any previous interpretation. By far. That’s both good and bad in equal measure. Lara has been cast-off on a far away island and thrown right in at the deep end. Harsh conditions, mindless goons, unfamiliar territory and long-abandoned, decaying old tombs. While much of this will seem familiar, Crystal Dynamics have gone one step further and opted to explore Lara’s reaction to these perils and pitfalls. They’ve taken the heroine way back to her roots, humanised her and made her level with the audience in new, more engaging ways. Throughout the game, players will come to understand Lara’s motivations, aspirations and desires more than ever before.

However, while Rhianna Pratchett’s story is a good one, and this is as good a Tomb Raider adventure as we’ve ever experienced, I found difficulty investing myself in this rendition of Lara Croft. For starters, the voice-acting varies from thoughtful and natural, to randomized and completely overacted. It’s all over the place. Camilla Luddington says she didn’t know she was auditioning for the part when she went in, but listening to the over-emphasised grunting, groaning and shrieking throughout the opening sections, one has to wonder what she thought she was auditioning for. The rest of the voice cast equally blow hot and cold.

To add to that, Lara incessantly talks to herself. The dialogue has been implemented so that Lara can provide description to the player when surveying the environment. Sometimes that works well, especially when looking at the historical value of items, or investigating abandoned treasure troves deep underground, but when Lara is saying ‘Shhh, Shhhh’ to herself when trying to keep out of enemy ear-shot, or telling the player ‘It’s a cave’ when standing at the mouth of a cave, listening to her becomes pretty tedious.

Still, the game is solid. Lara gradually acquires more gadgets,  enabling her to move around different areas of the island. Items such as rope arrows, a hatchet to scale wales, stronger grips to pull heavy objects, upward pulleys and heavy-duty weaponry enable some interesting brain-teasers. The similarities to games such as Metroid and Arkham Asylum certainly can’t be denied.

Yet there is a larger reliance on QTE than I would like. Usually these sequences add some tension, but while their implementation certainly isn’t detrimental to the game, and won’t ruin the experience as it has in prior titles, there is more emphasis on them than I would have liked.


Another issue I have with Tomb Raider is how little is made of the survival element. In a way, a merge with Assassin’s Creed 3 mechanics and gameplay could have made for a better suited and interesting combination here.

At the beginning of the game, Lara has to kill a deer with her bow so she can eat by an open campfire. From this point, players might think to themselves that this is a common occurrence. It isn’t. In fact, it’s the last time such things are necessary. Having a stamina gauge, or seeing Lara lose health if she hasn’t eaten for a certain period of time, or had enough warmth or shelter in a 24 hour period could have detrimental, if not fatal effects on the character. This could certainly add more tension and atmosphere to the game. Unfortunately, however, the survival aspect is more about wading through set-pieces, as opposed to requiring the player to adapt to the environment. Don’t get me wrong, these set-pieces are fantastic, but I believe this game deserves more substance than that. It deserves better than to try and do the same as every other game out there.

All that said, Tomb Raider is still a great action/adventure. The cover mechanic and shooting system works very well and suits Lara. Whether it’s her stealth kills using the bow string, bringing a hatchet down on an enemies skull or smashing a rock from the ground against the side of their face. She can even dart out of the way of a death blow and counter with one of her own.

While Lara’s evolution into a trained killer, zoned into survival mode  isn’t as sudden and undeveloped as that of the protagonist of Far Cry 3, it takes one dramatic scene before Lara is as adept a killer as Ezio or Corvo. Better story pacing would have made the whole thing feel more natural.

The environments are in Tomb Raider are truly beautiful, even on consoles. The game regularly stutters and stammers when moving between loading screens on Xbox 360, especially when the action gets a bit crazy, but for the most part the game is fluid. It’s unfortunate the current-gen of systems can’t accommodate the TressFX effect seen on PC, but the game still looks mighty fine. 

Tomb Raider is definitely a middle-of-the-road game, sitting somewhere between current and next -gen systems. While you’re in awe of what you’re seeing, you know it could still look much better. The PC version is definiely a clearer indicator of how the game’s vision is intended.


As for the multiplayer, surprisingly, it can actually be quite entertaining. As a long term hook, however, I’m doubtful it will hold. Crystal Dynamics have done an amicable job embedding multiplayer in a legendary franchise.

As you might expect, this is the area of the game that will likely see the most expansion (the Cave and Cliff map pack has already been announced) but this feels more of a successful experiment rather than a mode that will change the face of multiplayer gaming, or even be among the all time greats. Its feel is very much like Uncharted, but with the added ability of setting traps for enemies and making them susceptible to gunfire. Ultimately, Tomb Raider’s multiplayer isn’t different or distinct enough to seperate itself from the rest, but it’s worth sinking a few hours into. At least so you can see the great work Crystal Dynamics have done and to gain a little perspective.

As for further expansion, I would imagine further areas of the island would be opened up, enabling Lara to raid larger and deeper tombs. The tombs are among the most creative areas of the game, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for Lara to use additional gadgets and gizmos to solve new puzzles and create fresh scenarios. In addition to all the map packs and gameplay modes sure to come for Tomb Raider’s multiplayer, it’s the single player that defines this experience, and it would be a shame for it to be left forgotten.

This Overview might seem overly critical, but Tomb Raider is a great game. I’d even go as far as to say it’s the best I’ve played in 2013. However, it could have been much more. It’s a great piece of work and a true labour of love, I just hope that future instalments move the franchise in different, more fresh directions, and don’t merely try to hop onto the latest trend.

Final Analysis

Tomb Raider is definitely worth your money. It is a fantastic adventure and has an epic story full of unexpected twists, turns and gripping action. Even the multiplayer works well. I just can’t help feeling it follows too many current trends and could have been bigger and better than that, especially as far as the survival element is concerned.

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,

Readers Comments (2)

  1. Hiya, just came across the site and say your review.

    To each its own, and I can respect and agree the most of the points you raised…such as the missing survival element, Lara talking to herself, but for you to say ” it’s the best I’ve played in 2013″ when taking into considerations its faults, leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

    This is one of those titles that carries the torch for everything wrong with modern video games and some of my close friends and other agree. Which is “holding your hand” too freaking much. Yes! Cool story, exploratory environment, wear n tear Lara, day and night scenery change and oh yes nice graphics. Now, let me ask you this, what happened to the Tttttttombs, the puzzles, Hp bar.

    I for one simply was put off by the game’s hand holding along the way,
    that it totally lost my interest leading me to stop playing it – Effectively immediately.There is no challenge what so ever in the game. It is soo easy from start onward, it doesn’t even get harder or even challenge the player. I didn’t enjoy the way I managed to Rambo my way through each chapter like a commando (on the highest difficulty settings)

    I have noticed something recently, Game developers seem to have run out of ideas, so they copy and paste from other titles, nothing wrong if implemented properly but then again one has to question their implementation(s) in the first place. This is in reference to a number of things such a regenerative Hp and stealth option.

    Question: Why does Lara have detective mode? is she batman (arkham asylum/assasin creed)?

    One thing I dislike in games is highlighted surroundings – glad its an option here, I stayed away from using it, I cant remember where I was but I mistakenly clicked on the stealth key, wow – the environment lite up like a christmas tree – I was astonished .. really!!!

    This game has been dumb down so far, I think developers are now desperate, they want to sell to their product to babies. There have been creative videos for a while now, of people running mock version what if original mario, doom, quake, … etc were launched today.

    I was watching some people play the game off streaming portals, and it was shocking how some approached the gameplay. For instance, walk around for about minute, hit the stealth key… walk about for another minute hit the stealth key… walk about for another 2 minutes hit the stealth key. It was as though majority of them had decided to turn their brain off. This is what developers have started to turn their consumers to – making them dumb and dumber. I can understand for the first stages as means for tutorial but all the way come on. You can never get lost or can never not solve that puzzle. The puzzles in the game are so cheap, they do not even seem challenging at all.

    Another example is the notifications prompts, I looked for an option in the menu, if I could turn it off but no luck. Other things I dislike it so much when playing games, and there is a notification telling you cannot proceed until you have an upgraded ** skill. I can understand for items/keys, but skills (Castlevania – Lord of Shadows, I am looking at you)? I mean what happened to, when in the event you see a platform/ledge/location, and you calculate you can reach it – practicing your personal best for the Olympics – run + jump routine/or whatever skill setup (for like 10-15 minutes) before you give up for later. Then down the line you acquire say running bots or whatever, then you immediately remember that section. In today’s games, you get to any location without the proper gear, you will be instantly notified to only come back with the right gear. Another notification menace – “Secret tomb nearby”!! – Now, how the hell is that a secret if you are telling me, only to go there and then you get another saying “Optional Tomb” . There I am thinking what the hell am I playing?

    So sad in this day and age, developers are out of ideas, they simply just imitate, instead of innovating new ideas. Seems like every new game/reboot wants to be either or the inclusion of the games below.

    1: Halo 2: Mass Effect 3: Call of duty 4: Metroid/Castlevania 5: Zelda 6: Uncharted 7: God of War

    • Hi there. Thank you for sharing that with us.

      I have to say, upon playing Bioshock Infinite, I feel much the same. At the time of writing, however, Tomb Raider was among the finest titles I’d played. Many of the glitches are frustrating, but there is a good narrative here, and on the whole, I enjoyed the game.

      Do I think Crystal Dynamics could have made the game better? Yes, much. I am also massively disappointed that they are choosing to focus on the multiplayer portion of the game, rather than expanding the single-player. Still, people can have fun with Tomb Raider and its one of the better Lara offerings in recent years.

      I do hope, however, that the next adventure will give me more. There’s just not enough here to justify a second playthrough.


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