Tomb Raider: Goodbye, Angelina; there’s a new Indiana Jane.. Payne.

The latest re-imagining of the beloved Tomb Raider fulfills all the promises of a sweepingly epic franchise. If you’ve played/defeated Far Cry 3, Uncharted 2, Darksiders II, and/or Assassin’s Creed III, this “reboot” may touch a little bit close to home. But, hey, hunting nature’s wildlife, searching for relics, solving certain puzzles, and taking on endless armored combatants are the expected forms of function for both Tomb Raider and the previously mentioned.

These games just wouldn’t have it any other way.

Luckily, this Tomb Raider incorporates a riveting horror element that dissevers Lara Croft’s latest venture from the swashbuckling island adventures of past. Some of the tombs you discover — and deaths you acquire — are flat out gruesome. Lara is no longer a Wonder Woman right off the bat, either; it takes hours of gameplay ’til this Dora is able to fully destroy the “sodom and gomorrah.” In other words, she doesn’t pull her first strap for a hot minute. At least the shipwrecked student — who’s still extremely hot by the way, don’t get it twisted — displays higher levels of susceptibility, troubling awareness, and inner turmoil than Mrs. Pitt’s Last Action Hero.

The game is more realistic, but somehow I became prettier. Weird.

Camilla Luddington‘s Lara breaks down the walls with a genuine vocal performance. Her blurbs are filled more with modest self-doubt and youthful curiosity. These emotions help make the search more fun, with our youthful protagonist unsure whether the damn job can get done; of course, by the time she’s ready to save the world, those doubts are smeared away. The evolution of Croft is something that can be appreciated throughout Crystal Dynamics lengthy adventure, lining up more games to come in the near future.

The original Tomb Raider — with all its frustrating climbing challenges and damn wolves — is perhaps the one title that significantly led to this writer getting hooked to any game not involving touchdowns, goals, dunks and homers. Tomb Raider sent off that feeling of self-empowerment and sense of adventure, which meant a lot when trails of exploration weren’t exactly present in my backyard. And, yet, while games of this era focus more so on the rabid burst of a pistol, the frequency of a sniper rifle, and the tweaking of a bow, Mother Nature and all her solitary dangers becomes the ultimate obstacle in Lara’s latest adventure.

Thank God for that, as there are already plenty of and perhaps too many shooters on the market.

But 3PS (third-person shooter) fans shouldn’t be discouraged, as there’s plenty of weapon customization and tense Max Paynesque gunfights for Lara to indulge. Though finding enough scrap to give your fighting self is one thing. Learning the discovered ropes of mountain-hiking, ice-climbing, and coastal survival is another — and that much more enthralling.

So long as you don’t use too much of Lara’s newly found “detective mode” ala Arkham City ala every other game that allows you to discover items and foes a lot easier with a touch of the bumper.

No more toasted strawberry croissants! You mean.. I.. no.. nooo.. NOOOO!!!.

The island Lara explores on her mission of both rescue and recovery is an impressive one, as touchingly horrific as the war tales of WW2 and Old Japan are told through recorded docs throughout. Land activity is also sparse. You’ll feel a lot more abandoned and haunted than any other place Lara’s frequented since 1996, unlike the high activity of say, Far Cry 3.

And, yes, you guessed it: the game is as emblazoned with QTE’s as it is with ancient Japanese scripture. Those quick-time events I so bashed in Metal Gear Rising are actually a challenge here — never have I died so many times in a game during QTE sequences — and deliver top quality cinematic presentation to what’s already the best Tomb Raider movie yet. Sure, you’ll sort of wish the final foe was a lot tougher and more significant to the spiritual haunts, the ending a lot longer, and more of the other survivor’s stories more flourished; but, this appears to be the problem with just about any game not, ahem, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, so allow me to drown in my own bloody puddle of muddled hypocrisy.

Despite the excuse for this new TR being “more about the journey,” the best game to hit systems early this new year will certainly leaves gamers with the urge to go back and find more maps, explore more tombs, cash in more treasure and maybe just relive the whole damn thing over again.

4.25 (out of 5) Bibles. Really on the fence between 4 and 4.5 because of the middling multiplayer option and rushed end. Other than that, the game is basically Action/Adventure perfection. The graphics are gorgeous, the score is creepy, and your sense of danger never goes away. The voice acting is pretty bad for all of those not named Lara. Customizing your abilities throughout the game is terrific. A must buy, especially for TR fans of old.

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