We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PC games software Reviews
15,512 Reviews

Tomb Raider review

£29 (PC), £39 (Xbox 360/PS3)

Manufacturer: Square Enix

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

Lara Croft: year zero

If in doubt, reboot. This seems to be the mantra of the games industry lately, and usually entails making franchises grittier and darker too. The adventures of Lara Croft are no exception, with this new Tomb Raider starring a younger, less objectified Lara experiencing all manner of horror as she learns to survive, adventure and pilfer relics.

This new Tomb Raider is a rather different affair from the intricate puzzle-dungeons and platforming the series is known for. Shamelessly taking cues from rival Indiana Jones-aping series Uncharted, much of the game is a heavily-scripted blend of cinematics, quick-time events and jumping to colour-coded, predetermined as the environment explodes, crumbles and collapses around the ever-screaming, ever-falling Lara. It's spectacular to behold, but intermittently exhausting and preposterous - logic and physics are thrown to the winds, and every other five minutes, this hitherto adventure-free teenager miraculously survives a fall that would kill an elephant.

The game also has an unfortunate tendency to switch between interactive and cinematic without warning, so at times you might be trying to move a character who's actually controlling herself, or failing to react to a threat that you could have sworn was happening in a cutscene. Tomb Raider's certainly dramatic, but if the developers wanted to make a movie that badly perhaps they should have made one.

Outside of scripted mania and irritating quick-time events, the game improves enormously. Choose to ignore the persistent objective arrow and there are some impressively huge and gorgeous environments to explore, strewn with satisfyingly hard-to-reach items and secrets. It's here that the game most evokes the series whose name it takes, as Lara uses navigational logic, a few gadgets and not a little derring-do to make her way to apparently inaccessible places.

It's a refreshingly interactive and unpatronising break from the constant falling and rollercoaster-riding of the storyline, and a real shame that it's not the backbone of the game. Especially entertaining are the optional secret tombs, a handful of deathtrap dungeons hidden away and containing grand-scale puzzles with big rewards. There's not enough of these and they're all too easily missed - and without them, there's no tomb raiding whatsoever.

Tomb Raider

Taking extra prominence instead is regular gunplay - there's more shooting than this series has ever had before. It's actually very well-done, offering multiple angles of approach and a choice between stealth (of a sort) and all-out fury, plus a few combos and finishing moves if you want to get up close and personal. The bodycount's a little jarring given the storyline shows us the first time Lara ever kills a man and how badly it apparently affects her, but then videogames have long seen their heroes turn from reluctant self-defence to brazen psychopathy.

As for the much bally-hooed story, this origin tale of how a frightened young girl stranded on a hostile island full of cultists and mercenaries became the confident, indefatigable Lara Croft of legend, well... It succeeds at removing Lara from the lad's mag culture which has dogged her for decades, re-establishing her as a more believable character in both demeanor and physique. Her oddly frozen face, a creepy amalgam of Jennifer Lawrence and a blow-up doll, undoes some of the good work there, but never mind.

Significantly less successful is the backstory of the island - something to do with cultists and a sun god - and Lara's contingent of friends and colleagues, also stranded on the island. We're expected to care for them immediately, with next to nothing done to earn this, but they come across as irritating stereotypes who steal focus and time from the adventuring.

Fortunately, it's that adventuring the game lives or dies on. It dilutes it far too much with scripting and ludicrous cutscenes, but resist that where you can and this new Tomb Raider's definitely onto something. The search for parts and resources to upgrade Lara's weapons is satisfying too, as her slim arsenal evolves rather than expands. That 2013 gaming vogue, the bow and arrow, performs a welcome duty here, able to both perform stealth kills and solve environmental puzzles with the aid of fire and rope.

Indeed, Tomb Raider does a fine job of gradually introducing multiple elements and abilities necessary to navigate the levels and solve conundrums. That stuff feels like it should be the game's heart and soul - it's a shame the game itself disagrees.

Tomb Raider Expert Verdict »
Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. PC system requirements: OS:Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Vista,7,8 (32bit/64bit) Processor:Dual core CPU: AMD Athlon64 X2 2.1 Ghz (4050+), Intel Core2 Duo 1.86 Ghz (E6300) Memory:2 GB RAM Graphics:DirectX 9 graphics card with 512Mb Video RAM: AMD Radeon HD 2600 XT, nVidia 8600 DirectX®:9.0c Hard Drive:12 GB HD space
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

Tomb Raider is uneven, too obsessed with trying to be a movie and to copy its great rival Uncharted at the expense of, well, tomb raiding, but underneath the bluster it definitely contains a modernised take on the adventuring the series is known for.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld review

    Tomb Raider: Underworld

    Tomb Raider: Underworld brings Lara Croft back in a bid to halt the series' descent into video game irrelevance.

  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light review

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

    The Guardian of Light game lets Lara Croft do what she does best: kick ass, collect treasure and decipher brain-bending puzzles.

  • Tomb Raider: Legend

    Tomb Raider: Legend

    It says a lot for the enduring appeal of Lara Croft that any Tomb Raider release is awaited with eager anticipation, despite there not having been a really good release for years.

  • Shadow Guardian for iPhone and iPad review

    Shadow Guardian for iPhone and iPad

    Run, jump, climb, shoot and duck for cover. With Shadow Guardian by Gameloft, the iPhone and iPad finally get a vibrant, full, swashbuckling-fun action-adventure game.

  • The Sims 3: World Adventures review

    The Sims 3: World Adventures

    The Sims 3: World Adventures gives your Sim the ability to travel to real-world locales such as China, Egypt and France.


IDG UK Sites

Android One vs Android Silver vs Google Nexus: What is the difference?

IDG UK Sites

Apple updates MacBook Pro line-up: Price cuts & spec boosts for 6 MacBook Pro models

IDG UK Sites

Long live the internet fridge: the Internet of Things is coming

IDG UK Sites

How Prometheus' colourist Juan Ignacio Cabrera gave a tense, edgy feel to Chosen