This Ain't Your Daddy's Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider has had a long run (almost 20 years now) and even though it had changed and got better from one iteration to the next, it has always been pretty much the same. Not anymore! Sure, some of your favorite Tomb Raider elements exist , but only the best ones. All of the "big breasted Lara, bouncing around tombs" is gone. While this disappointed the hell out of Tomb Raider Fanboys, and had them screaming "foul". To the rest of us, who actually didn't care about it, it was a refreshing change.
Lara is a cut up, dirty, bloody Tomb Raider, like she is supposed to be, for the sake of realism. That old Lara was distracting, unrealistic and as a result the games to me, were never "stellar" or "game changing". Just the same old Lara, in a new game. This one however, really is a "game changer". The combat is better, the graphics are better, the story is better. Everything is just all around better, from every aspect. Even jumping is better. I mean, look at these images! This is a Lara ready to kick ass. At the same time though, she retains what make Lara, Lara. This pic is not from a cut scene, it is actual in game graphics! It's that nice looking.
The way this game controls is just "fluid." That's the only word for it. Maybe "seamless" would be appropriate too. That's how good it is. From the bow mechanics, to the squeezing through narrow rock passages, to jumping and barely catching a ledge then quickly having to hit E to pull yourself back onto the ledge. It just transitions from one form of control to another, depending on where you are, quite nicely. I found myself doing the "C'mon Lara, you can make it" thing quite a few times in this game. It was truly fun to play. There was an excessive amount of button mashing in my opinion for using certain objects and close up locked in combat was frustrating sometimes too (timing is everything!) but overall, after a few choice expletives I was back into raiding tombs.
There is a main quest line but there are many "side tombs" or side quests if you will that you can do. Not only that, but there are puzzles. Some areas will require some thinking to advance through. They are all mostly Physics based puzzles and don't take a long time to figure out, but add a nice element to the gamplay.
The AMD TressFX graphics capabilities are AMAZING. Hair has never looked this natural. It's quite natural and fluid compared to more chunky classic hair we are used to. If I were to rate my top 10 favorite games of the year right this second, it would place in the top 5 for sure. I literally could not find any fault with this game other than excessive key mashing in only "some" parts of the game. It was really an impressive, intense and fun game to play.
If you have ever found Tomb Raider games lacking in intensity, this one will change your opinion on that. It does retain some of the "casualness" of previous Tomb Raider games, but when then action gets going, it's edge of your seat, intense action. Sliding down rocks at high speed can be super fun!
The automatic camera angles and zooming also make these transitions, again, feel almost utterly seamless. As a matter of fact, any transition this game makes in controls, cut scenes, camera or action is quite fluid. You could even say it feels a little like an "on the rails" game at times. However, it is only very shortly on the rails and you are back on control.
For the sake of such smooth sequences you have to take control out of the player's hands, for a short time. Other than that, from one end to the other, this game is so well posihed. Take note game developers, this is how it's done!
The story progresses at a steady pace and never seems to let go except during puzzle solving. I won't get into the story except that you are on an island with no clear way to get off except solve the mystery of that island. To say any more might reveal spoilers. Other than that, the action, story and game progresses at a mosty exciting and steady pace.
If there is one thing that makes or breaks a game, it's progression for me and this game is no slouch in the progression dept. I finished it, loved it and look foward to more. That's good progression to the end. Never did I feel like this game was dead or boring at any point.