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Game Review

If you hear the name Lara Croft and still think of an overly busty, pistol-packing, short-shorts-loving cartoon, you're behind the times. Today's tomb-raiding British beauty has changed a lot in the two decades that've expired since she crept into her first crypt.

A couple of years ago, Lara and her adventures were rebooted, and she's become a more realistically rendered female action hero with all the wall-climbing, pinnacle-leaping adventure skills that Indiana Jones only wishes he had. And in some ways those character-driven, high-def, cinematically intensive changes make this one of the very best adventure games.

In other ways, though, well ...

Questing and Hanging

Whereas 2013's Tomb Raider had Lara accidentally stranded on a dangerous isle, this adventure finds Ms. Croft setting off on her first official spelunking and artifact-seeking quest. She's looking for the Divine Source. Her archeologist father was ruined, humiliated and eventually took his own life while in a decades-long (fruitless) search for that alleged immortality-granting artifact and the lost city it resides in.

If Lara can follow through on her dad's research, not only might she explain some supernatural things she witnessed while lost on that Island of Yamatai, but she might also be able to restore her beloved father's reputation. But, of course, there's an über-powerful, very wealthy ancient sect called Trinity—think Assassin's Creed's Knights of the Templar—that just so happens to be seeking that powerful artifact, too. And those baddies are willing to kill and destroy anything and anyone to get it.

As that storyline unfolds, we're given a bit more background on this new version of Lara Croft and what makes her tick. But, frankly, it's really all about setting up some good reasons for this ever-nimble, effervescent explorer to be dangling from rocky cliff faces in Syria and axing her way along frigid shears of ice in Siberia. And it allows the game to uncork some very imaginative sequences in vast, environmentally gorgeous locales.

Lara finds and upgrades useful tools—ice axes, wire-spool grapples, rope-arrows and the like—that allow her to go where no man nor woman has gone before. And the cool part of that tool collection is how the game demands that you use them in quick succession to keep Lara going as she leaps, dangles, slides and crashes her way from icy crag to rusty guy-wire, some thousand feet up on a mountain peak.

Lara's frantic (what-next?) acrobatic challenges have definitely been dialed up here to heart-thumping effect. And the environmental puzzles are amped up, too, primarily appearing in a series of side quests and cave-crawling "challenge tombs" that treat Lara to bonus upgrades if she (you) can figure out their enigmatic intricacies.

If that sky-high triple-flip action and crypt conundrum-cooking were all that Lara had to deal with, Rise of the Tomb Raider would have been a very fun, perhaps T-rated puzzle-solver. But it's not. So here's why this game got an M:

Treasure or Torture?

First of all, let's address the violent baddies Lara faces off with. These are morally contemptible sorts who spill lots of gore in cutscenes and in the heat of action. One villain, for instance, is immersed in a twisted religious zeal as he walks around with what appears to be a self-imposed stigmata. And he gouges out the eyes of a minion he's displeased with.

On the animal foe front, a bear will gobble up Lara's head like a breath mint if he's not dealt with properly. For that matter, young Ms. Croft is physically abused in one manner or another throughout the game. And even though she's definitely someone with beyond-average abilities, the pummeling and bloodying of a "pretty young thing" like her feels miserably uncomfortable. (It certainly should feel that way.)

Rise of the Tomb Raider also pushes Lara into a whole new category of grisly. Hey, Lara's always been a gal ready to grab a gun when necessary. But here she's forced by circumstances to hone and fine-tune her blood-letting weaponry skills—with the abovementioned ice ax to various knives, pistols, rifles and sharpshooters—effectively turning her into, by game's end, a one-woman army. Wave after wave of human and supernatural foes storm her way, and through long segments of play, gamers must splatter the goo of literally hundreds of enemies.

And the death-dealing isn't just from a distance. The game rewards a stealth kill where Lara slips up on a foe and snaps his neck with her bow or drives an ax blade into his exposed temple or jugular. Truly, you may sometimes want to silence the foulmouthed baddies you meet (spouting f-words and more), but, really, is this the way to do it?

Considering that our Ms. Croft is painted as the ethical and moral hero of the game, it's disquieting to see the literal dump truck loads of corpses she leaves behind.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

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