Adding these almost-optional slices of extra platforming and adventuring also helps balance the blasting-to-jumping ratio, even if - bar the odd fire or physics-based puzzle - this neo Raider feels bare-bones when it comes to riddles and conundrums. And don't get us started on the actual tombs, which will no doubt be held up as the game's weakest suit... even Lara herself claims at one point to "hate" them. It might be intended as a humorous aside to an audience who doubtless know better, but it also seems apt considering the meagre crypt-related content.
That said, Tomb Raider is - somewhat surprisingly - supremely accomplished and eminently enjoyable as a shooter. In contrast to, say, the lumbering Marcus Fenix or Chris Redfield's awkward control mechanics, Lara is an unrestrained joy, scrambling for cover, hurling fistfuls of dirt in ugly scavenger mugs, plunging her climbing axe into thick skulls or sending a flaming lantern crashing atop them via a cheeky arrow. Combat shines most brightly circa halfway through the journey, where Lara still hasn't attained any heavy weapons and it's her stealthy approach, lithe grace and use of environmental attacks versus the brute force of the cultists that'll mesmerise. Later on, when she's packing more artillery than Rambo and the bullet sponges arrive in force, the subtle nuances are tossed - grenade-like - out of the window.
We end where we came in. Tomb Raider is an excellent game that, while paying tribute to Lara Croft's heritage, certainly feels like a new beginning - mechanically as well as thematically. It's visually dazzling, narratively affecting, dangerously near best-in-class when it comes to solid shooting, vertiginous platforming and ballsy set plays... and bodes fantastically for any future instalments. If, however, you're a long-time Raider who yearned for this reboot to push your grey matter to its logical limits with switches, inscrutable puzzles and sprawling cave networks... well, you might just want to dig out that dusty copy of Anniversary instead.
By Rob Taylor. We'll publish a separate verdict on the multiplayer after the game is released, once the public servers are up - in the meantime, you can read our hands-on and watch Log's talkthrough video, below.
Triumphant reimagining of a gaming icon
- Young Lara is convincing and affecting
- Dynamite set-pieces
- Decent puzzles, when they're there
- Narrative starts strongly, fades badly
- What, no tombs?