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This Definitive Action Adventure Masterpiece Just Hit Game Pass

‘Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’ is bloody perfect.

Lara Croft stares down a panther in a tree

How many times have you perished? In your life as a gamer, how many times have you tallied? Undoubtedly we’re talking massive numbers, a scale that eventually erodes demise into a forgettable, rote experience. Some genres play into this and make these slayings more meaningful (looking at you roguelikes) but for action adventure games a routine annhiliation is par for the course. So how do you make countless demises more memorable? If you’re working with a gaming icon, you make them as gruesome as possible.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition drops on Xbox Game Pass May 2, and with it comes the chance to experience (or revisit) one of the most intense, brutal action adventure games of any generation. A bold retelling of the Lara Croft origin story, Crystal Dynamics ditched the triangular ta-tas in favor of a grounded, gritty reboot.

Lara Croft is a household name for a reason. Yes, her eye-popping proportions were a focal point for the male-gaze dominated game culture of the 90s, but she always proved to be more than skin deep. The original Tomb Raider games included some groundbreaking 3D platforming as the industry transitioned into more powerful home consoles. Crystal Dynamics understood the need to have legit gameplay alongside a modern sensibility when it comes to redesigning a femme fatale. And one of the best ways to humanize Lara Croft was to put her through hell.

The new origin story at the heart of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition sees Lara heading out on her first adventure, only to have her plane crash land on an island as deadly as it is mysterious. There’s a huge cast of characters made up of Lara’s old friends and new frenemies, with an intricate tale of betrayal, fate, and revenge to unravel. Aesthetically, Lara’s journey is caked in mud and blood. Her initial escape from her captors and introduction to the islands dangers (and the games mechanics) sets a brutal, intense tone punctuated by some of the grisliest animations any main character has had to experience.

Lara’s many grisly scenes add a unique shock value throughout the game.

Crystal Dynamics

The effect is profound and lasting. There are a lot of ways for Lara to get knocked out and you don’t particularly want to witness them. It’s not all stick and no carrot, though. Lara can give as good as she gets and the combat is built around feeding you a steady stream of ways to become more lethal and effective. The skill tree is split into three parts, Hunter Skills, Brawler Skills, and Survivor Skills. Hunter and Brawler are what you’d expect. Hunter is all about sneaking and ranged attacks, Brawler is about close quarters combat and strong defense. The Survivor branch concerns itself with crafting and collecting, something you can expect to do a lot of in Tomb Raider.

Despite releasing in the peak period of 2010’s grind-n-craft obsession, Tomb Raider manages to strike a workable balance between what you find and what you need. Exploration has always been central to the series, and you’ll find plenty of secrets, puzzles, and collectibles this time around. The nice part is how organically it all happens. It’s rare to feel like you’re being sidetracked, instead the game constantly rolls out experience points, salvage (currency), and materials by stuffing them absolutely everywhere. Intuitive level design grabs your curiosity as you navigate treacherous caves and industrial ruins rather than signposting every possible path.

Tomb Raider delivers intricate levels full of compelling designs that are a pleasure to explore.

Crystal Dynamics

Lara can also use her “survival instincts” to help. This is your standard detective feature that temporarily slows time and highlights objects of interest in the environment. It also tags enemies to help you sneak your way around, especially in the early game when Lara is bringing a bow made out of tree limbs to every gunfight. While it makes things easier, it’s entirely optional so if you’re looking for a more hardcore experience, you can crank up the difficulty and turn it off.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition does justice to the series. It set up the new era of Tomb Raider, which led to multiple sequels after this game launched in 2013, and finally gave the Xbox platform access to something on par with Sony’s blockbuster Uncharted series. Sometimes all you need to do to breathe new life into a character is fall them over and over.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is available now on Xbox Game Pass. It’s also for sale on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

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