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Game Review

Shadow of the Tomb Raider brings us to the conclusion of the rebooted "How did Lara Croft become the Lara Croft we know?" trilogy of titles that gamemakers Eidos Montréal, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix set in motion back in 2013.

And this latest effort could easily be considered Lara at her best—but, in some ways, her worst, too.

The Keys to Adventure …

First things first: If you're still thinking of Lara Croft as that voluptuous tomb-raiding gal in short-shorts and a ponytail, you need an updated understanding of who this heroine has become. Yes, she's still a pretty twentysomething with an English accent, to be sure. But these days she's dramatically more realistic—and less comic book-y in how she's "drawn." And she dresses much more sensibly in spelunking outfits that cover her well and protect her from the sharp, slashing dangers of craggy rock faces, pummeling flood waters and razor-clawed beasties.

The camera's eye is less interested in Lara's curves than it is in depicting the breathtaking natural vistas and deadly dangers she must traverse. And this gaming world of sprawling jungles, dank tombs, Mayan stone puzzles and stormy plane crashes is indeed visually impressive.

Shadow tells its tale with Hollywood-style verve and panache. The game's ancient, environmental puzzles are intricate and complicated. And its new rappelling, wall-swinging and underwater game mechanics make the game's sneaking and fighting feel much more fluid. Likewise, death-defying leaps, ledge grabs and squeezes through claustrophobic crannies are evermore pulse-raising, too.

As for the narrative this time around, Lara's continuing her dad's last great, mysterious venture—one that concluded tragically with his death. This unfinished story takes her from Mexico to Peru as she explores jungle ruins and underground temples looking for powerful artifacts and trying to outwit the forces of a nefarious group known as Trinity.

… And Destruction …

It turns out that the ancient Mayan artifacts Lara's seeking aren't just some valuable bits of museum fodder, either. They're actually the dark, power-infused keys to global apocalypse, the tsunami-, earthquake- and volcano-riddled end of the world.

This is where Lara Croft's newest adventure turns in a darker and much bloodier direction than we've seen before in this franchise. As Lara grabs one key artifact, a malevolent Mayan godlike power begins manifesting its earthly influence through a string of natural disasters that kill, quite literally, thousands of people.

In one scene, Lara struggles to survive a tsunami and encounters a child dangling from a crumbling, fourth-story ledge screaming for help. While Lara dangles herself, we can only watch in helpless horror as the little boy soon plummets to his death. It's a realistic, emotionally wrenching moment. And we witness plenty more like it.

These hard-hitting sequences begin to corrupt Lara's mental and emotional state, impacting her anger in combat and her attitude toward others. And as our hero grows more grim, so does her world.

…And Blech!

Deadliness dealt by Lara's hand—via knives to a foe's chest, arrows to a baddy's head, and bullets blazing furiously from firearms—feels more prevalent, too. Death is also thrust upon innocents repeatedly, and we witness people being tortured, too.

When Lara herself goes down, she can be impaled with spikes and spears, or mauled in some other pretty gruesome ways. We see some gory mutilated corpses along the way. And there's a demonic goddess in the mix as well who's involved in what amounts to a human sacrifice.

Then there's the language we're battered with: Hero and thug alike spit f- and s-words, along with exclamations of "d--mit," "a--hole" and misuses of God's name.

The net result of all that M-rated content? A game that's otherwise enjoyably playable in many ways ends up being a big problem for younger fans of this franchise … as well as any adult players with a hankering for some old-fashioned puzzle-solving, chasm-leaping and alligator-blasting fun.

So even though she's not running around in barely there shorts and a ponytail anymore, Lara Croft's gaming exploits are still chockful of content players of any age won't be able to evade or avoid.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Publisher

Square Enix

Released

September 14, 2018

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

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