RUMOURS of Lara Croft's demise have clearly been exaggerated. The feisty lass with a penchant for adventure has returned.
However, don't expect this game to feel exactly the same as the previous iterations. Instead, get ready for a reinvented Lara with less emphasis on mere physical assets and much more character.
What we have here is the kind of Lara that critics of the series have been longing for. The new improved Ms Croft is intelligent, frail, full of surprises and not merely a "voluptuous vehicle" aimed at grabbing the attention of superficial pubescent gamers.
The game begins with Lara being shipwrecked on a remote island. From this cliched start all sorts of interesting developments unfold.
Naturally the island Lara is stranded on is no normal atoll, but is instead teaming with vicious fauna, supernatural secrets and a rather hostile group of locals who have formed a bizarre cult.
On top of this the place was a base during the Second World War and had been the home of an ancient civilisation with some mysterious habits.
All in all, this is a great, albeit dangerous, place for a curious anthropologist like Lara.
Tomb Raider's plot is interesting, but not the game's best feature.
Instead, the combat and exploration by themselves take centre stage. Lara has an excellent array of weapons, and her bow is just a joy to use.
Not only does it reward skill, the longer you target an enemy the more likely you'll hit them, but the weapon is fast and stealthy.
There are also grenade launchers, machetes and other guns, and each is necessary depending on the foe you are facing.
You will find items on the island that help you augment these weapons too, as there are plenty of upgrades and rewards for those prepared to search more diligently.
The enemies in the game are smart too, as they use Molotov cocktails to flush you out from behind cover and will close for melee if you keep on taking shots and then retreating.
In this way combat is constantly varied and engaging.
You can't simply snipe away at foes forever from a distance and expect to get away with it.
The different environments add to this and some of massive leaps Lara has to make, as she launches herself off cliffs or other similar obstacles, will have your heart firmly in your mouth.
The game is in one word, breathtaking.
The jungle environments you get to explore are lush and incredibly detailed and the lighting effects combine with the superb character animation to make this one of the best looking games on the 360 this year.
It is amazing so deep into the console's life cycle to see games that are still pushing the boundaries when it comes to such delicious eye candy.
Tomb Raider also employs some impressive camera angles and slow motion animation to heighten the tension, as things unfold.
It is a delight to play and easily the best game to feature Ms Croft.
Format: PS3 / Xbox 360
PC Rating: MA15+
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