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Square Enix
Crystal Dynamics
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Release Date:
March 5, 2013

Lara Croft is an iconic video game character. However, that iconic stature doesn't come without a little wink and a sly grin. After all, Lara is one of the very first true mainstream sex symbols in the industry's history and admittedly, her physical attributes are more often lauded than the games in which she stars. As such, this is a character that has always been closer to a cartoon or a caricature. The difference with this reboot is that for the first time in her storied legacy, Ms. Croft finally appears as a realistic female, with realistic vulnerabilities and emotions. And that's what very nearly puts this title in elite company.

The graphics may not be the game's strongest suit, as we've seen better technical examples in the past. The character designs and animations are great but perhaps not stellar when compared to other offerings in similar genres, and the detailing isn't overly impressive. That being said, it's the entire package that stands out. It isn't just one little detail here and there; it's the fact that this environment is extremely well crafted and every aspect of your surroundings feels immersive. This is a fully cohesive visual presentation that is diverse and engaging, and you're always interested in exploring this extremely well created island. Appropriately intimidating, the island of Yamatai is indeed memorable.

The sound design excels in the realm of special effects and music, and many of the voice performances are well above average. Camilla Luddington is fantastic as Lara, too, by the way. Every crack from a firearm, every explosion, and every high-octane set piece vibrates and reverberates with professional crispness. There's a solid balancing between the effects and the score, and that soundtrack swells and diminishes to fit the on-screen action. Much like the visuals, the audio works to involve the player in every element of this adventure, which is no easy feat. Finally, the ambient effects during the slower portions of the game are much appreciated.

As you may already know, the Tomb Raider reboot is a prequel. It shows us how Lara became Lara, essentially, and you'll soon find that her initiation is the epitome of "trial by fire." At the beginning, Lara is more of the bookish sort. Although she is obviously a healthy and very fit young woman, her focus and skills tend to lie on the intellectual side of life. But when her ship sinks just off the coast of a dark, unknown island laden with dangerous legends come to life and freaky natives, Lara must learn how to survive. Fast. You may recall that scene where a man tries to force himself sexually on Lara (it was part of a controversial trailer), but that is done tastefully.