I picked up the Tomb Raider: Definitive Survivor Trilogy on the cheap this past Black Friday on Xbox and decided to give it a go on my Series X. The first in the series, Tomb Raider, was released in 2013. On the Series X, S, and PS5 Tomb Raider enjoys an FPS boost to 60 FPS and HDR support. On the Series X and the PS5, the resolution goes up to 4K. The Series X gets Dolby Vision, which is gorgeous. These fantastic upgrades right out of the box help an excellent game that released 8 years ago feel like a contemporary release. If you like third person shooters with a good dose of exploration, Tomb Raider is a must. If you played it back when it came out, it might be worth revisiting, especially on new consoles.
I played Tomb Raider when it originally came out and remembered being surprised by how murderous and lethal Lara becomes as you progress through the reboot. The body count is high. One thing that struck me as I was playing this time was how fresh the combat stays throughout the campaign. There might be auto-aim settings, but on a normal difficulty playthrough, they weren’t enabled. Aiming is not forgiving, but also not unwieldy, making combat encounters fair and intense. Instead of being able to hide behind cover perpetually, enemies will either destroy it or flush you out with explosives or molotovs. Enemies rush your position in numbers but never in a way that is unreasonable. They keep you on your toes, which is a good thing.
Exploration consists of two layers in Tomb Raider. The first being items sprinkled along as you progress through the main storyline. As you go through areas, you can find all sorts of ancient artifacts and journal entries. These do a good job of fleshing out the backstory and providing interesting historical context. The second layer is the challenge tombs. These areas involve a series of physical puzzles which must be solved to unlock the main artifact. The puzzles in Tomb Raider are fantastic and you could skip over most of them by not seeking out challenge tombs. Of course, if that’s the way you rolled, you’d miss out on many upgrade opportunities for Lara and her weapons.
Lara is underpowered in the beginning of the game. She has a basic bow and even lacks the ability to perform melee attacks. As you progress, you can apply meaningful upgrades to your weapons and Lara’s abilities. Lara needs these abilities as the combat gets more intense. Enemies you encounter by mid-game and beyond are heavily armored and are carrying shotguns and machine guns that will absolutely cut you down if you’re not careful.
Punctuating the overall combat are wave attack sequences and boss battles. These are done extremely well. I found myself frantically looking for cover and trying to blow up explosive barrels to hold enemies at bay. If an enemy made it through that initial line of defense, I’d quickly switch to my shotgun for close quarters combat, often having to dodge as they closed in. As you upgrade Lara’s abilities, she gains takedown skills and stun finishers. Nothing feels overused in Tomb Raider in terms of combat. I didn’t stick to one weapon or one type of attack. Because of the different enemy types and how they were attacking me, I would often utilize slightly different weapon combinations. My bow, assault rifle, shotgun, and pistol were all viable options, and their effectiveness changed as I upgraded them. For instance, I wasn’t a fan of the assault rifle early on, but as I upgraded it, I got a grenade launcher attachment and more lethal ammunition.
Tomb Raider has some of the best visual language you’ll find in this type of game. It’s an essential element to keeping the action moving while promoting a good amount of exploration. I can’t think of a moment in Tomb Raider where I didn’t know where to go. Exploration isn’t just handed to you either. I still needed to look for the tell-tale yet subtle white paint on ledges and walls letting me know they were climbable. I appreciate how exploration is blended into the overall experience of the game. It’s very much in your best interest to explore, and there are some common indicators that let you know to look in certain areas, but if you really want to poke around, you can always find some more items, without getting lit up by enemies. Once you clear a combat encounter, you can explore without always looking over your shoulder.
The story in Tomb Raider is good overall. There were a few moments where it felt like the characters were playing dumb in terms of major plot points. As the player, the answer seemed obvious, and a few times Lara was a little slow on the uptake, especially for an uber explorer. Tomb Raider effortlessly fuses grounded combat and exploration with supernatural elements. It’s admirable how the developers managed to make this happen without seeming cheesy or completely unbelievable. The marriage between realism and mysticism makes for a mysterious and exciting experience.
If have a PS5 or an Xbox Series S or X, I highly recommend giving the updated version of Tomb Raider a playthrough. It’s an outstanding game, and the performance and visual upgrades make it feel entirely fresh. Look for the 3 games together in the Tomb Raider: Definitive Survivor Trilogy. This includes all the DLC for the games.