Through the course of the game, Lara goes from being a desperate and frightened victim to a fierce and relentless survivor. She is almost helpless at the beginning, despite the training she has. She is emotionally unprepared to deal with the situation she finds herself in. By the end, she has proven to herself that she can do what needs to be done. The things that really sell this transformation are the deliberate pace and the very clever use of action scenes to sell the story and character. By the end of the game, you absolutely buy Lara Croft as a battle-hardened veteran. The fact that the gameplay is incredible certainly helps.
So, the game is good, but the reason it gets the Part-Time Gamer Seal of Approval is the pacing. This game does a great job of letting you play it at your own pace. If you want to sit down and rush through the campaign during a long weekend, you certainly can do that. If you would like to slowly explore each area and see everything the game offers, you can do that, too. The action is broken up into small sections that do encourage you to keep moving, but allow you to stop and come back later. The save system is also very generous. Every time you pick up a collectable or finish an objective, the game autosaves. Also, every level has a few save points that you can go back to as often as you like. This makes the game incredibly easy to set aside for a few days if you need.
The analogy that I kept thinking of when playing this game was Die Hard. At almost every turn, you are reminded of how fragile Lara is. She gets hurt and you can tell that it is incredibly difficult to keep going, but she doesn’t stop. By the end, she is beaten, battered, and fried barely standing, but she is also triumphant. (Spoiler: when you beat the game, Lara survives.) This game does a great job of rewarding players with a great story and compelling character, but the star of the show is the gameplay.
The gameplay is so good. I enjoyed the frantic pace of some of the firefights, but, more often than not, you can approach combat slowly and carefully take out the enemies one-by-one with luck and stealth. What I love is that if you get spotted, the head-on assaults are fun, too. The game plays out like this. Explore. See a guy or three. Sneak up on them and try to take them out stealthily. If you get noticed, shoot them. Repeat.
This is one of those games that works really well for the people who enjoy the story and can’t wait to see what happens to the characters. For those people who couldn’t care less, the gameplay is good enough to warrant a playthrough, as well. This game is absolutely worth your time and can fit easily into almost any schedule.